by Corey Desormeaux , Managing Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Carey Price, P.K. Subban (Photo by: Darryl Dyck / Canadian Press)

OTTAWA, ON. — The last time the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup was in 1993. Since then, Habs fans have seen a whole lot of mediocrity. Mediocrity can be frustrating for everyone that is emotionally invested into the team, especially a team with such a rich history of winning.

Despite this, fans stuck around like they always do, throughout the mid-to-late nineties and into the new millennium. And now, there’s a different vibe associated with the Montreal Canadiens. The team has turned the corner into a winning culture. The Montreal Canadiens are exciting for the first time in a long time and here’s why…

Winning Mentality

Fans and players always want to win. But there’s a big difference between wanting to win and expecting to win. Wanting to win insinuates that you don’t necessarily believe in the tools you have, where as expecting to win means you believe in the tools at your disposable to get the job done.

Since Marc Bergevin became General Manager of the Canadiens in May of 2012, he has preached character. I wrote about it throughout the playoffs. The NHL season can be grueling both physically and emotionally. Good character players can ease the emotional strain of a season and set the tone for work ethic.

The modern-era has brought us new ways to connect with our team, including 24CH, the popular show that gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at the Montreal Canadiens throughout the season. The show is just one indication that the team has a unique make-up of character players from the silent to overly vocal leaders.

The Canadiens have a winning mentality. They expect it, and for the first time in several years, the fans can as well and should be pleased that over the past three seasons, the Canadiens have won their division twice and had a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s time to take it to the next level and hopefully the 2015-16 season is it.

The Core

The Montreal Canadiens have a fantastic core of young players that understand the culture of the modern Habs and the history of the Canadiens past. They’re full of talent. Carey Price is regarded as the best goalie in the world and both Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban are amongst the best in the league at their respective positions.

These three, along with Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, Lars Eller, Nathan Beaulieu and others lay a very strong, young foundation to lead the Canadiens for years to come. Many of these core players are on extremely reasonable contracts, including Pacioretty, Price, Galchenyuk, Gallagher and Beaulieu. Many argue, myself included, that the Canadiens brass need to take advantage of some of their top players being on reasonable contracts and pursue a few more pieces to push their roster to an elite level.

Regardless, with an average age of 28 years old, the core of the Montreal Canadiens is intact and will continue to grow with one another, hopefully into a championship team.

New Additions

The Montreal Canadiens didn’t make the “big splash” some were hoping for this offseason but that doesn’t mean Marc Bergevin and his team didn’t make some key moves.

Marc Bergevin worked the trade market acquiring Zack Kassian, locked up unrestricted free agents such as Jeff Petry and Alexander Semin and re-signed several restricted free agents, including Jarred Tinordi, Christian Thomas, Galchenyuk and Beaulieu.

Bergevin didn’t commit to any of the Habs’ restricted free agents long-term, with the most term handed out being two years. Galchenyuk’s contract will be watched closely as many are comparing it to Subban’s bridge deal that allowed Subban to earn quite the pay day.

On the unrestricted front, Bergevin awarded Jeff Petry with a six year deal and acquired additional defensive depth signing Mark Barberio who will likely compete for the 6th/7th defenceman spot and Joel Hanley and Ryan Johnston, both likely to play in St. John’s. The Canadiens GM also re-signed Torrey Mitchell, a hometown boy with good defensive and faceoffs skills known to be a great teammate and decided to take an extremely low-risk chance on Alexander Semin on a one-year deal, the sniper looking to bounce back from an unsuccessful 2014-15 campaign.

Marc Bergevin traded fan favourite Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks for Zack Kassian and a fifth round pick. The trade is a solid one for Montreal with Prust heading into the last season of his contract and acquiring a young forward with size and skill who will be a restricted free agent at the end of next season.

The Canadiens have done a good job of retaining their current assets and acquiring new ones without giving up, well…much. Fans should be pleased with the work of their general manager.

Prospects

Building a team through the draft is the ultimate goal. It provides your organization the opportunity to select certain types of players, breed them into the player they are envisioning and entrench them into the culture of the team. Trevor Timmons and his colleagues have done a great job of keeping the Montreal Canadiens’ pool of prospects relevant. Right before the draft I summarized each of the Habs’ first round picks from the past decade. You can now add Noah Juulsen to that list, a well-rounded defenceman currently fighting for a roster spot on the Canadian World Junior Team. Jarred Tinordi, Mike McCarron and Nikita Scherbak are some other first round picks fans can be excited about.

Outside of the first round, the Habs have managed to find some gems, look no further than Brendan Gallagher. Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon, Martin Reway, Artturi Lehkonen, Lukas Vejdemo and Darren Dietz are just some of the players Habs fans can look forward to seeing in years to come. 

Final Thoughts

For the first time in years, the Montreal Canadiens are on the right path. Management has a vision of building through the draft, entrenching a culture built on good character, retaining strong assets, acquiring pieces of need for minimal cost and managing the cap effectively (ie. trades for Sergei Gonchar, Bryan Allen, etc).

If the Habs can maintain and build upon what I’ve outlined above they will be exciting for years to come.

~~~

What makes this team exciting to you? Please vote in our All Habs poll of the week and leave a comment below.

What makes you most excited about the Montreal Canadiens?

  • Core: Price, Pacioretty, Subban (52%, 362 Votes)
  • Young guns: Galchenyuk, Gallagher, De la Rose, Beaulieu (20%, 141 Votes)
  • Rookies: Scherbak, McCarron, Carr, Hudon, Andrighetto (20%, 141 Votes)
  • New additions: Kassian, Semin, Barberio (5%, 36 Votes)
  • Prospects: Reway, Lehkonen, Juulsen, Fucale (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Coaching staff: Therrien, Lefebvre (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 692

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  • Bart

    There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. And, contrary to many pundits’ assertions, I believe they possess the scoring depth to succeed. However, while structure is important, structure and system rigidly applied becomes stifling, and robs this potential contender of its creatiivity. This team will not win a cup with MT at the helm, or as long as he insists on forcing square pegs into round holes. His misuse/abuse of talent is the biggest obstacle to ultimate success.

    • Corey Desormeaux

      Thanks Bart for your feedback, while I agree with some of what you said, the team has had success with MT at the helm. Whether he can take them to the next level is yet to be seen.

      • yoshii47

        Do you think that Price stole 6 games for the habs last year. By that I mean that if he weren’t in nets they would have lost…. The Sens were 11 pts behind them at the end of the regular season. If Cary doesn’t steal those 6 games we don’t make the playoffs. It’s not MT and his stupid system that got the habs into the playoffs…it was Cary.MT is lucky he’s got Price. We also very lucky with injuries so just about everything worked for MT. He might not be so lucky and then we’ll see eh.

        • Corey Desormeaux

          Price stole many games last year. My statement however, remains true. The Habs have had success under Therrien. Winning the division twice in three years and a visit to the conference final. Saying Carey Price is the sole reason for that is unrealistic. I’m not saying Therrien deserves as much credit as Price does but he’s been a factor in developing key players like Subban and Pacioretty.

          • Tyhudg

            I agree. Hating on Therrien is just fans looking at greener pastures, much like they did when Martin was fired. The fact is that very little will change with a coaching change, infact, I would argue that the team would suffer a major regression much like Edmonton did when they transitioned from Kreuger to Eakins. The Habs are not a deep team. They are not stacked with scoring threats like some of the other power houses in the league, and therein lies the difference. The Habs have a pedestrian group of forwards, and until that changes, I don’t expect Therrien to change how he coaches the game. And I, for one, am fine with that.

          • Corey Desormeaux

            I think the Habs are pretty deep. There are a lot of players in the AHL waiting, ready for their chance to make an impact in the NHL. Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Semin are all threats offensively.

  • willyboy

    I still maintain the young ones will have a hard time establishing themselves under Therrien’s “system”. I call it his Rule. They will probably only get to play if an injury forces Therrien to dress them. Then, a bad shift, a game with no points and you’re eating hot-dogs. It gets worse if he doesn’t like your face.

    The constant juggling of lines also has to go. How is chemistry ever going to be created if he’s modyfing lines in the first period? You want to experiment with lines, then do it when you’re down 4-1 in the first period. Otherwise let a line play for a minimum of 7 games. Even when you’re losing 4-1 in the first period. You might lose a few games but the players will at least get a chance to develop.

    The biggest problem I have with Therrien is his ability to destroy a player’s confidence. I believe he almost did it to Galchenyuk. I’m pretty sure he did it to Bournival. And there are other. Many others. This, in my opinion, will only get straightened out by letting Therrien go.

    I have seen the Cup won 4 years in a row. I’ve seen it won 5 years in a row. I’ve seen amazing Canadiens teams. Today when I watch a game, I get the feeling I’m watching the Michel Therrien Show.

    • Corey Desormeaux

      I get just as frustrated at MT as you have here…but every once in a while he surprises us giving players like de la Rose a steady role. Galchenyuk and Gallagher are also an example of young players that came into the league quickly under Therrien with prominent roles on the team.

      His line juggling and deployment of Desharnais are two of the most maddening Therrien’isms in my books.

  • Mark Nye

    MB has done an out-standing job as GM of the Habs to say the least .
    Scotty Bowman has taught MB well as has current GM of the Florida Panthers Dale Tallon while MB was being mentored in Chicago .
    My concern & It Is a major one is that MT the Coach needs to step-it up when It come to the style of play that the Habs have been playing . The other issue/concern is more flexability when It comes to the rookies .
    MT did a remarkable job with Gallagher & Galchenyuk but utilizing patience towards young rookies is an area in which MT needs to work on in my opinion .
    As for the Habs style of play well a puck passion style is more conducive for the Habs as they are a fast talented group that would flourish under the for-mentioned style that I indicated .
    Dump & chase style is not in my opinion suited for the Habs as they are built for speed finesse & puck possession, keep away basically .

    • Corey Desormeaux

      Agree Mark, thanks!

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  • Corey Desormeaux

    Galchenyuk has played consistently on the second line for the past two seasons and what more would you like Subban to do? He has won and been nominated for a Norris. I agree that DLR got his shot cause he is responsible in the defensive end but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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