The Montreal Canadiens may have been eliminated in the second round during the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but as much as it is saddening, it is exciting.
Once the Habs did make it into the playoffs, everyone predicted that they would at least go to the Stanley Cup Finals. That, of course, did not happen. The most important lesson, however, is to realize how much they did accomplish.
Most of the sophomores, and especially the rookies, did not play every game of the season. Some were not called up until most of the way through the regular season (with a couple not becoming a regular until the playoffs).
The list of these rookies and sophomores includes: Kyle Chipchura, Matt D'Agostini, Mikhail Grabovski, Sergei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse, Gregory Stewart, Josh Gorges and Ryan O'Byrne. This was also Andrei Kostitsyn's official first full season.
All have shown significant amounts of talent, clearly good enough for Guy Carbonneau to give them the opportunities to shine.
If the Canadiens can manage to keep the current roster identical for the 2008-2009 season, they should have another shot at repeating at the Eastern Conference champions.
By this time, the rookies and sophomores will have more chances to get comfortable with each other and with the veterans such as Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu.
Of course, that means picking up the skills that both Kovalev and Koivu have, something that cannot be learned anywhere else. The abilities those two men possess are beyond special.
They managed to once again hold the top power play in the National Hockey League.
They proved the management knew what they were doing with any deal and every single choice they made (such as the Cristobal Huet swap).
Even with a couple of trades expected to take place (Michael Ryder likely to be one of those), it is unlikely this team will be any different if left as is.