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2013-14 Montreal Canadiens Ready to Prove Last Year Wasn't a Fluke

Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of his hockey season.  Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page.  Today we take a look at the 2013-14 Montreal Canadiens.


Last Season

Michel Therrien made it very clear in his preseason press conferences that the shortened season was going to produce a lot of surprises. This was a very logical conclusion considering the fact that teams who started slowly would not have nearly as much time to recover, while teams who were quick out of the gates would have less time to even out. He also stated that the Montreal Canadiens intended to be one of those surprises.

Considering the fact most viewed the 2013 as the first in a long rebuilding process for the team, success would certainly go hand in hand with surprise; even the most optimistic analysts considered the team to be a fringe playoff squad. A large group seemed to think that the Canadiens would fare no better than the previous campaign, in which they finished a dismal 15th in the Conference. But surprise, they would. Holding the Eastern Conference lead for large portions of the season the Canadiens would end up settling for second place after a number of late dramatic inter-divisional games saw them take the Northeast Division. It was a complete turnaround for an organization who were in shambles not a year earlier, and one that has called for plenty of hope on the forecast.

It would be very difficult, not to mention inaccurate, to pin the aforementioned 2013 success for the Montreal Canadiens on one factor. This in itself is a clear statement as to why the team is much further in their development than previously thought. To begin with, the season brought a complete and positive shift in organizational mentality. The club’s slogan, which now decorates the hallowed facilities within the Bell Centre was “No Excuses”. They were more than just words, as the club from top to bottom seemed to embrace the new mantra and put forth their best efforts.

It started at the top with Marc Bergevin, who put his stamp on his team almost instantly. The willingness to sit Scott Gomez for an entire season prior to the NHL changing compliance buyout rules was incredibly bold. As was his high stakes game of “chicken” with franchise player P.K Subban that led to a very reasonable bridge contract which has become an often used reference within the league. Furthermore, all of Bergevin’s acquisitions seemed to be impactful. Brandon Prust, Michael Ryder and Francis Bouillon all lived up to what was expected of them and more as members of the Canadiens.

Meanwhile, Michel Therrien was doing an exceptional job of managing the players that Bergevin had provided him. Prior to the season there had been a lot of worry about Therrien living up to the negative aspects of his reputation, but it became clear from the very start that he had outgrown those shortcomings. Despite some quirky coaching decisions, for example keeping 5 on 5 lines together on the powerplay, Therrien was able to deliver on his vision of the team being amongst the 2013 surprises.

While Therrien received a lot of negative press prior to stepping behind the bench in Montreal, one positive heavily covered was his ability to develop young players, of which the Canadiens had many. In fact, under Therrien’s guidance, it was the youngsters who were the biggest key to the team’s 2013 success. Brendan Gallagher was the most pleasant surprise of the entire season, forcing himself on to the team and then just about anywhere else he desired on the playing surface. Alex Galchenyuk looked every bit like his highly promising scouting reports and showed consistent signs of learning on the job. Meanwhile, on the blueline PK Subban was a revelation, scoring his way to the Norris Trophy and legitimizing himself as one of the top defenders in the game.


 Off Season

After a hectic 2013 campaign the Canadiens and their management seemed to take a breath during the offseason. That is to say they did very little to improve the team, especially when compared to the aggressive acquisitions made by the rest of the Atlantic Division. However they weren’t completely immobile, and the moves they made certainly add intrigue to their 2013-14 season.

First and foremost is Daniel Briere, the essential one-for-one replacement for the departed Michael Ryder. While the Frenchmen is certainly past his best days he should fit in nicely with the Canadiens. Another big part of the Habs agenda this summer was adding toughness, just as it was to some degree last season. This time it meant the acquisitions of George Parros, Nick Tarnasky and Douglas Murray. None of these acquisitions will provide anything ground-breaking, but will add to a solid bank of depth and toughness the Canadiens have already accrued.



While the Canadiens played exceptionally last season it was surprising that they weren’t really firing on all cylinders. Carey Price, for one, didn’t have a stellar year. While he was excellent for the first three months, he seemed to slump in April and into the playoffs.   Before the season an-off year from Price would have seemed like a sure sign that they wouldn’t have made the playoffs. However, the Habs were still able to get very favourable results. Meanwhile, David Desharnais, at times considered the team’s number one centre, preformed nowhere near his 60 point 2011-12 season. If both of these players have bounce back years the team could be dangerous.

Almost the entire defensive corps is due for a new contract after this season is up, with the only exception being Josh Gorges. The Canadiens will be hoping that the performances of certain players under this degree of pressure illustrates clearly who the team should keep long-term. If everything goes well the Habs could field one of the better defensive corps in the league, even without Alexei Emelin for the first couple months of the season.

As is the case with the rest of his defensive crew, PK Subban is also entering a contract year. After recently resigning a bridge deal considered universally a bargain the same will not be said about his next deal. Coming off a Norris Trophy winning season the pressure is going to be on Subban like never before. How he deals with this prior to getting an expansive raise is crucial to his development. This next season will truly prove whether Subban is among the league’s best.

One cannot preview the Canadiens defence without looking at Andrei Markov.  Markov may have slowed due to multiple knee surgeries in recent years, but one simply needs to look at the Canadiens record since 2005 with Markov in the lineup, and their record with him out of the lineup to see his value to the team.  Markov’s presence is the difference between a winning percentage in the upper echelons of the NHL, or being a team at the bottom of the league (such as when he missed most of the 2011-12 season).


Player to Watch

The fact that he was not in significant consideration for the Calder Trophy makes it easy to forget Alex Galchenyuk had only one less point than teammate and Calder nominee Brendan Gallagher. Prorated, Galchenyuk put up 15 goals and 46 points while proving himself to have plenty of promise. His playmaking is already noted and demonstrated, now it is time for Galchenyuk to exhibit his scoring ability. He took only 79 shots in 2013, a number that should inflate in 2013-14 along with his goalscoring totals. Expect 50 plus points from the young Hab and at least 20 goals. No sophomore slump to be seen here.


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Main photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc


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