Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens.
Some questions to ponder for the 2018-19 Montreal Canadiens…
[Canadiens Day: Looking back | Breakthrough | Under Pressure]
1. Who is going to score the goals?
As we wrote about earlier on Canadiens day, their success or failure this season will largely depend on what Carey Price is able to do in net. The reason they are going to be so dependent on goaltender — or one of the main reasons? They are probably not going to score a lot of goals.
The Canadiens finished the 2017-18 season as one of the worst offensive teams in the league and really did not do much of anything to address that over the summer.
Their biggest offseason acquisition was Max Domi and that came at the expense of Alex Galchenyuk whose goal total this past season exceeded Domi’s total from the previous two years combined. Other than that this is mostly the same roster, minus a few minor tweaks, that could not score goals this past season.
Max Pacioretty should have a better season than he did in 2017-18, but given his contract situation it seems possibly, if not likely, that he will not finish the season with the team.
[Related: Expect huge year from Max Pacioretty no matter where he plays]
Jonathan Drouin was expected to be a major core player after being acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, and while his performance was mostly okay and similar to what he did with the Lightning, he did not take a big step forward and did not match the hype that came along with his arrival. There is still another level that he can get to, and at age 23 he should be ready to enter his peak seasons in the NHL. A breakthrough season from him would definitely be helpful.
Beyond that, though, it seems likely that goal-scoring is going to be a major weakness for this team.
2. What will Shea Weber be able to give them?
The P.K. Subban-for-Shea Weber trade is already setting up to be a disaster for the Canadiens. It’s not that Weber is bad, it’s just that he’s not quite as impactful as Subban currently is. He is also older, has a worse contract, and is starting to reach a point in his career where he may be starting to break down physically. After being limited to just 26 games this past season, the veteran defenseman will not be ready for the start of the regular season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. This, obviously, is bad news for the Canadiens.
When he is healthy Weber can still be a really good player, and he is just one year removed from finishing sixth in the Norris Trophy voting. The concern, though, is that he is now entering his age 33 season, is coming off an injury-shortened campaign and will be starting this season on the shelf.
He is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, but they need him to be healthy, playing at a high level to be competitive.
3. Will Marc Bergevin be the general manager after the season?
The reality with the Canadiens is this: They have not been out of the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2014-15 season and they have missed the playoffs entirely in two of the past three seasons. During that stretch players have changed, the head coach has changed, while the only thing that has remained a constant is the general manager, the person responsible for assembling the talent on the roster.
It stands to reason that if things do not get drastically better in the very near future that, too, could end up changing.
While the Canadiens experienced some success in the early parts of the Marc Bergevin era, the past few years have been highlighted by questionable (and bad) roster decisions and a lot of disappointment. There is an argument to be made that his tenure with the team has made the franchise worse than it was when he took over six years ago.
The long-term future of the team is riding entirely on some of the big decisions that Bergevin has made and will have to make in the coming months, including but not limited to…
- How the Jonathan Drouin acquisition pans out.
- The fact the team is now built around two players (Price and Weber) over the age of 30 that will account for more than $18 million in salary cap space through the end of the 2026 season.
- The Alex Galchenyuk-for-Max Domi trade.
- What they are able to get out of a potential Max Pacioretty trade.
Those are a lot of big decisions that are going to end up determining not only the long-term success of the Canadiens on the ice, but also the future of their general manager.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.