Going into the 2009-2010 season, no one knew what to make of a Canadiens roster that had seen a major overhaul over the course of the season.
Much of the uncertainty arose from the fact that it was not clear whether the team was better off with its new crop of players, or just...different.
Through the first 20 games of the regular season, the team is not only different. It's worse.
Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre and Andrei Kostitsyn have made less-than-stellar contributions as evidenced by the Canadiens' struggles to hold a .500 record.
For most games, only six players show up (not including the goalies): Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec, Glen Metropolit and Josh Gorges. And out of all these players, Tomas Plekanec is the only one who delivers a consistent performance.
That must be a tough (and expensive) pill to swallow for Bob Gainey, who has a combined $18,357,000 cap hit between his three top-line players.
At the end of 2008-09, Gainey predicted his team wouldn't produce championship results, so he basically got rid of all them, including long time captain Saku Koivu.
But were the Canadiens really that bad with all these players?
It's tough to argue that they were better, but the team apparently hiding in its shell so far this season also makes it tough to argue that this year's edition of the Montreal Canadiens is any better than last year's.
And now, with the team's non-existent depth and crippling injuries, it's extremely difficult to see this club in the playoffs.
The only things the Habs have going for them right now is the contributions of the aforementioned players, the impending return of Andrei Markov, great goaltending, and the fact that they are in the same division as the "Three-Wins" Maple Leafs.
The future is not so bright to say the least.
But perhaps, as fellow Canadiens writer Sebastien Tremblay wrote a few weeks ago, this might be the best thing that could happen for the Canadiens.
Being excluded from the playoffs after an up-and-down season, a top-10 draft pick would not be out of the question, and the Habs' rebuilding process could finally get underway.
However, there's still room for optimism. If the third and fourth lines can pick up their play and Andrei Kostitsyn gets out of his funk, perhaps the Canadiens could make a serious playoff run.
So is this team really worst than last year?
It's tough to say because the entire team hasn't shown up to play yet. But when the entire roster starts contributing, the picture will be much clearer in Montreal.