Top Storylines for Montreal Canadiens 2013-14 Training Camp
The wait is finally over—the Montreal Canadiens open training camp on September 11.
The 2013 abbreviated season saw the Canadiens win the Northeast Division but then get dominated by the Ottawa Senators in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Habs have shown that they can win in the regular season with their current core of players. And after a few offseason upgrades, the goal for the upcoming season has to be a deep playoff run.
There are plenty of questions as to how they can achieve that goal as the preseason approaches. Here are the top storylines for the Montreal Canadiens training camp ahead of the 2013-14 season.
The Health of the Habs
The Montreal Canadiens are not completely healthy as training camp 2013 opens.
Captain Brian Gionta, who suffered a torn biceps injury in the 2013 postseason, might not be fully recovered in time for the start of the season.
"It's possible that Gio might not be ready to start the season but he'll be ready not too long after," Bergevin told the media at the Montreal Canadiens golf tournament on September 3 (via TSN.ca).
News isn't so encouraging for defenseman Alexei Emelin. Bergevin added that the Russian defenseman, who led the Canadiens in hits last season, won't be ready until at least December following knee surgery in May.
There's also the chance that newly acquired George Parros won't be in the lineup come October 1, as reported by Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette. The 6'5" enforcer had rotator cuff surgery during the offseason.
Lars Eller, however, is 100 percent recovered from that gruesome hit he suffered in the 2013 playoffs. Eller even added 20 pounds of muscle and will be a full-go from the moment training camp kicks off.
What Can Stephane Waite Do with Carey Price?
Arguably Montreal's biggest move this offseason was luring goaltending coach Stephane Waite away from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Waite has had incredible success in the past few years, taking unheralded goaltenders Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford and turning them into Stanley Cup champions. Now Waite inherits the most talented goaltender he has had in recent years.
Carey Price has all the talent and physical attributes needed to be a star goaltender in the NHL, yet he's been frustratingly inconsistent thus far in his professional career. Waite's challenge is to help Price put it all together and have the dominant season Canadiens fans have been waiting for.
What to Do with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu?
Marc Bergevin's final move of the 2013 offseason was the signing of defenseman Douglas Murray. This creates a bit of a logjam on the Canadiens blue line.
Looking at the roster, the top six seem to be set: P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Francis Bouillon, Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz and Murray. Davis Drewiske will likely be the seventh man waiting in the press box, while Alexei Emelin will return to a starting role sometime in December.
And so many Habs fans are left to wonder about top prospects Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu.
Before the Murray signing, it was generally assumed that Tinordi would begin the season as the team's sixth defenseman. After all, he was Emelin's replacement in the 2013 playoffs and he certainly looked like he was ready to take the jump into the NHL.
Beaulieu, Montreal's top defensive prospect (according to Hockey's Future), would have likely been given a shot had Tinordi struggled to start the season.
It is possible that either one could play their way on to the team's final roster, like Alex Galchenyuk did last season. Perhaps Marc Bergevin will make a deal before the start of the season. Injuries are inevitable as well.
As we look at the Canadiens roster today, however, it appears that both youngsters will start the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
How Will the Forward Lines Look?
Coach Michel Therrien will have plenty of intriguing options to consider during training camp when it comes to how his forward lines will look come October 1.
If last season was any indication, he'll likely have David Desharnais on the top line with Max Pacioretty and possibly Brendan Gallagher. The second unit would consist of Tomas Plekanec, Rene Bourque and Danny Briere. Lars Eller would center the third line, flanked by Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Gionta, while some combination of Ryan White, Gabriel Dumont, Brandon Prust, George Parros and Travis Moen would be the fourth line.
There's also the chance that Therrien could be looking for something new for 2013-14.
It's no secret that Desharnais had a tough 2013 season, while Eller had a breakout campaign. Perhaps Plekanec becomes the top-line center, Eller gets promoted to the second line while Desharnais attempts to work through his issues on the third line.
Then there's Galchenyuk. Having him on the third line to break him into the NHL was smart, but it may be time to take the training wheels off. The 19-year-old, who scored six times in the team's final 12 games last season, is far too talented to use in a checking role. Therrien should be looking at ways to allow Galchenyuk to produce more offensively this season.
How the forward lines shape up will be an interesting storyline to watch during training camp and the team's exhibition games this month. Coach Therrien will certainly have plenty of options at his disposal.