Montreal Has New Players and New Outlook, Same Old Goal of Winning Stanley Cup

Matt EichelSenior Writer ISeptember 2, 2009

MONTREAL- APRIL 22:  Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens stops the puck during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on April 22, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Every franchise that has had the dream to win a professional sports championship has had to start from the ground up.  Take the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, even the Detroit Red Wings as prime examples of teams that at one point were not prime contenders.

One team on the cusp of greatness in today's NHL is the Montreal Canadiens.  

A franchise chocked full of history, including some of the greatest names, teams, coaches, and heroics in the NHL and beyond, the Canadiens largest roster re-vamp has many speculating if the overhaul will harm or help the future fortunes of the once proud franchise.

Centering most successful champions has been the goaltender—Grant Fuhr for Edmonton, Billy Smith for the Islanders, Barrasso for the Penguins, to name a few.

To pair up Carey Price with names such as these would be unfair and has already been done by too many in the media.  Montreal-mad hockey fans are already getting upset and impatient at the development of Price—even after a mere two seasons into the young goalies NHL career.

Price's rebound for the coming season from a mediocre 2008-09 campaign will cement how well the Canadiens can compete night in and night out.  As has so many past Montreal netminders, the fate of the entire team rests on their shoulders and has failed numerous times in the forms of Jose Theodore, Jeff Hackett, and Joceyln Thibault.

But Price is no Thibault, no Hackett, and especially no Theodore.

To make that point even clearer, the influx of defensemen who have the size and strength to get the job done in their own zone may help Price in his third season.

Just as Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Paul Coffey, and Randy Gregg cemented the Edmonton Oiler defense of the early 1980s, the Canadiens are trying to find their top defensive corps to become a team that can rely on their back end not giving up goals.

Adding slow, but steady 6'7" Hal Gill and 6'4" Paul Mara gives the Canadiens much needed size as they replace spots previously held by 5'8" Francis Bouillon and 6'4" Mike Komisarek.  

Throw in Jaroslav Spacek, a seasoned veteran with a great first pass as well as a tremendous point shot to replace the aging Mathieu Schneider and the Canadiens have cemented their offensive point presence.

Championship teams also relied on their offense coming through in the clutch.  Gretzky and the Oilers did it.  Lemieux and the Penguins did it.  So did Yzerman and the Red Wings.

The largest question mark surrounding the 2009-2010 Canadiens is who will be the offensive leader?

Adding veterans and former New Jersey teammates Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta as well as former Calgary Flame Mike Cammalleri, most fans and critics have ridiculed GM Bob Gainey for acquiring small players up front once again.

After seeing captain Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins, and Alex Kovalev depart Montreal, the Canadiens still lacked the big, first line centre.

Yet, the Canadiens have acquired more speed in Cammalleri and Gionta and have also upgraded in the grit department with the addition of Travis Moen.

Moen, Gionta, and Gomez all share a total of four Stanley Cup rings between them, an invaluable asset to a young Canadiens lineup.

Young teams need leadership and the Canadiens have found that in former Stanley Cup champions.  The questions still remains who the captain will be yet the influx of leaders such as Gomez, Gionta, and Gill will help the young players such as Max Pacioretty, Matt D'Agostini, and the young Kostitsyn brothers.

The 2009-2010 Canadiens are a new team from the one that took the ice last October with high hopes of possibly contending for the Stanley Cup.  

But this October, the Canadiens are a new team, with a new lease on life, new names on the jerseys, but with the same expectations as the previous 16 seasons—bring home a 25th Stanley Cup.