Marc Bergevin (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Guest Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Summer is the time of the year where NHL teams try to improve themselves for the upcoming season. We are now coming to the end of July, and very few changes are yet to come, if any for the Canadiens. Some will qualify the work of Marc Bergevin this summer as a failure, nothing new in Montreal, so let’s review that together.

The list of players that have left the Canadiens is as follows:

  • Alex Radulov, who signed with the Dallas Stars for five years at an average annual value (AAV) of $6.25M.
  • Andrei Markov, not re-signed as of writing this article, and it’s hard to believe that he will be back.
  • Alexei Emelin, lost to Vegas in expansion draft, later trade for a third round pick to Nashville.
  • Nathan Beaulieu, traded to Buffalo for a third round pick (Scott Walford.)
  • Brian Flynn, signed with Dallas for one year at $700K AAV,
  • Nikita Nesterov, acquired for Jonathan Racine and a sixth round pick in 2017, signed in KHL with CSKA Moskva.
  • Dwight King, acquired at the trade deadline for a fourth round pick, was not re-signed.
  • Steve Ott, acquired at the trade deadline for a sixth round pick in 2018, retired.
  • Michel Therrien, the Habs coach was fired the 14th of February, and replaced by Claude Julien after a sequence where the Canadiens had collected only two wins over the past nine games.
  • David Desharnais, traded for Brandon Davidson.
  • Greg Pateryn, part of the trade that brought Jordie Benn.
  • Sven Andrighetto, traded for Andreas Martinsen.

The additions to the team include:

  • Jonathan Drouin, traded for prospect Mikhail Sergachev.
  • Karl Alzner, signed on the free agent market for five years at $4.625 M AAV.
  • Jakub Jerabek, signed from the KHL prior the free agent market to an entry-level contract.
  • Ales Hemsky, signed on the free agent market one year at $1 M.
  • David Schlemko, traded for a fifth round pick with Vegas,
  • And, as mentioned above, Jordie Benn, Brandon Davidson and Andreas Martinsen.

It is not hard to believe that Charles Hudon and Jacob de la Rose will be able to jump into the big leagues from the start of the season. In my opinion, it is good news for Habs fans who are always asking room for the young-bloods.

Are the Habs weaker than last year? In my opinion, no. I think they are slightly better. Maybe the Canadiens didn’t get a big player via trades or the free agent market, but we must take into the account the progression of the young players.

I will be looking at what we should expect from the Canadiens in the upcoming season. This will include everything from the needed offensive help, to how the team is looking on the back end.

Offense

On the first line, the Habs will have Drouin rather than Radulov, who I believe will be used on the right wing. Looking at the numbers, both had around the same amount of points last season. It would have been doubtful that Radulov would have significantly increased his point production from last season to next. It would have been great to have both Radulov and Drouin, but Alex decided to join the Stars instead.

On the other hand, Drouin is only 22-years-old and has only scratched the surface of his potential. Plus, he will probably take the seat of Markov on the power play, where he will be able to feed the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, and Shea Weber.

The other players who might join Drouin on the first line, could be Pacioretty, and Phillip Danault. Danault, 24, is starting to break out from a late development due to injuries. His 40-point season was not an accident, and should continue his progression. Being a hard-working, two-way center, he could be a good fit for Drouin and Pacioretty.

On the second line, you could see a combination of Galchenyuk, Arturri Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher. These players are still young and still progressing. Lehkonen, 22, saw his production peaking up by the end of the season, putting up 11 points in his last 12 games.

I would not be surprised to see Lehkonen break the 20-goal mark. He is a solid two-way player, and very responsible defensively. He might be a better fit at center than Galchenyuk, who is struggling in the circle.

Galchenyuk had a tremendous season debut, managing almost a point-per-game before getting injured. He will start his sixth season in the NHL, but he is still young. I believe he will become the great player he is supposed to be in the upcoming season. Additionally, he might be tried at center again, due to the Canadiens lack of depth at that position.

Gallagher had two frustrating seasons due to injuries. Things were seemingly starting to get back on track, and maybe a full summer break will help him to get back in the 20-goal area.

The third line will be a bit more intriguing. I foresee a combination of Charles Hudon, Tomas Plekanec and Hemsky. Hemsky has been a steady 0.5 point-per-game in the last few seasons. Some fans think he is a weak replacement for Radulov, but it would be a mistake to think that is the exchange.

As for Plekanec, he has been a mentor for Lehkonen with his point production, and may play the same role for Hudon. Additionally, Plekanec might be able to pump up his production playing alongside a quality player like Hemsky.

In my opinion, the fourth line may cause a bit of a headache. It could be a combination of De la Rose, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron. De la Rose, 22, is eligible for waivers if he doesn’t stay with the Canadiens. However, there is not much to worry about him on the fourth line, as he’s responsible defensively.

The speedy forward, Byron, would be back where he belongs. It is doubtful that Byron will repeat his production from last season, but the versatile player can placed on any line.

As for Shaw, like Byron, he can play up and down the lineup. Shaw shouldn’t be taking as much penalties as he did last season, considering that he was a lot more disciplined under Julien than Therrien. 

Defense

On the first pair, I think many will be surprised to to discover a wild card, Jakub Jerabek.

To understand what he can bring to the equation, a good comparison might be Nikita Zaitsev from the Toronto Maple Leafs. When Zaitsev was with the CSKA Moskva the year before, he tallied 26 points in 46 games, equivalent to 37 points in the NHL.

Jerabek was playing for a weaker KHL team, Vityaz Podolsk, where he earned 34 points in 59 games, equivalent to 38 points in the NHL. The Canadiens pro scouts must believe that Jerabek can contribute much like Zaitsev did last season.

On the second pair, another new acquisition, Karl Alzner will be the perfect fit with Jeff Petry. There’s no doubt in my mind that Alzner will be a more stable defenseman than Alexei Emelin was. Alzner will not be as much physical as Emelin, but he won’t be caught  out of position as often.

The third, and bearded, pair, David Schlemko and Jordie Benn will a very good third duo. Julien won’t be afraid to put them on the ice, as both make very few mistakes, and are able to make a good first pass. Although we shouldn’t expect much from these guys on the offensive front, sthey will get their fair share of points.

On the top of all this, do I need to add that the defence will be supported by Carey Price?

So, which lineup will you choose?

2016-17

Forwards
Pacioretty – Danault – Radulov
Galchenyuk – Shaw – Byron
Lekhonen – Plekanec – Gallagher
King – Ott – Mitchell

Extras: Martinsen, Flynn, King

Defense
Markov – Weber
Emelin – Petry
Beaulieu – Benn

Extras: Davidson, Nesterov

2017-18

Forwards
Pacioretty – Danault – Drouin
Galchenyuk – Lekhonen – Gallagher
Hudon – Plekanec – Hemsky
De La Rose – Shaw – Byron

Extras: Martinsen, Mitchell

Defense
Jerabek – Weber
Alzner – Petry
Schlemko – Benn

Extra: Davidson

  • Fred Arshoff

    I still feel Mike M will make the HABS they need a big body forward and he offers that nad can play center or wing. Also je has been working out this sumer with Mitchell so will show up at camp in excellent shape.