Rabid Habs

The Forum: What Are We Missing?

Your Montreal Canadiens season starts today! Which is good news since the pre-season pretty much saw us talk every potential detail to death. Or did we? This week for The Forum we asked our contributors which little-discussed detail they think will actually have a big impact on the Habs 2017-2018 season?

 

Robert Brown (@TheStandardBob) – We have four lines that can actually score. I didn’t like the days when we had the Andreas Martinses and the Dwight Kings of the world filling out our lineup. Instead, we replaced that with players who can score. The Hudon-Plekanec-Lehkonen line has proven that they can create offense while playing a strong defensive game. The Galchenyuk-Danault-Shaw line was a force to be reckoned with against Ottawa and our first line of Pacioretty-Drouin-Gallagher is phenomenal. I don’t know much about the Byron-JDLR-Hemsky line, nonetheless, having a 22-goal scorer on our 4th line is a good indicator that we have some depth on forward.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – Claude Julien. Not that he hasn’t been talked about at all in the pre-season, but considering just how much emphasis we all put on Michel Therrien’s perceived shortcomings during his second tenure as your Montreal Canadiens head coach, you’d have to expect the Habs should be much improved under Claude Julien, no?

Within the Rabid Habs team I don’t think there was a single contributor who came to Therrien’s defence in the end, and even in the Habs fan and media community at large there were very few MT advocates when the axe finally fell last season. The fact that Claude Julien’s arrival seems to have done little to change expectations (whatever they may be) for the coming season tells me we’re either missing out on this big detail in our assessment of the Canadiens season to come, or we were greatly inflating Therrien’s incompetence/overall effect on the team to begin with.

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – Maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but a quick look at the Habs CapFriendly gives me hope for a player who has fallen out of favor rather quickly.

When Montreal jumped out to the best start in franchise history two years ago, one player was playing for his next contract, and got it a lot sooner than he probably should have.

After getting his two-year deal, he basically went missing. Of course, I’m talking bout Tomas Plekanec.

Now we’re in a similar spot. Our turtlenecked wonder is looking for another contract. With good linemates and a fresh start, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where Plekanec has a bounce back year of sorts (40 points? He had 28 last year). With Lehkonen and Hudon flanking him, there’s no excuse for him to put up mediocre numbers this year without looking internally.

What is difficult to imagine is Bergevin whipping out the check book before Halloween, or at all. He’s learned his lesson there. If Plekanec’s agent calls, he probably sends it to voicemail. Maybe this is what Plekanec needs at this stage in his career. He was never a guarantee to make the NHL, and for most of his career, he fought for roster space. There were a few years where Montreal had no one to play centre, so maybe he got a little complacent. Now with an uncertain future and guys like McCarron, de la Rose, Danault, and eventually Poehling fighting for the three centre spots under Drouin.

Maybe what 35 year-old Plekanec needs is a reason to stay hungry, and maybe Montreal reaps the benefits of that hunger this season.

Sean O’Neill (@TheONeiilFactor) – Those who are generally optimistic about the Habs’ chances this year like to point out that Montreal won the Atlantic Division last year and has claimed the division title three times in the past five seasons. Fair enough. But the sad reality is that the Northeast/Atlantic is no longer the cakewalk it once was – Toronto is on the rise, Tampa should rebound, and Buffalo and Florida have some real nice pieces if they can ever get their shit together. I still think Montreal makes the playoffs and contends for a division crown, but you could argue they’ve taken half-a-step backwards in a rapidly improving division.

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – I’m echoing Sean. We’ve beaten the roster and it’s deficiencies/competencies to death. It’s the teams coming up – Toronto, Buffalo, Boston that will erode the Habs standings just enough to pull them down into the jockeying quagmire. Consider that if the Habs lose just 1 point every 20 games to the competition, it’s a dip small enough not to be noticed (or cared about) but over 80 games results in being in a very tight race for playoff positioning. It’s enough to maybe force some of the older guys to play in games 78-82 when instead they could be resting for the playoffs. Small details indeed.

Also, the Habs have started the previous 2 seasons on white-hot winning streaks. Two seasons ago the season went to hell despite the record-breaking start, and last year ended with a resounding thud. Not sure where I’m going with this strand, but I think another 9-0 or 10-0 start is not in the cards, which means there will be a much smaller cushion to lean on. Will that result in a sharper or more fatigued team over 82 games? I’m not so sure.

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