The Montreal Canadiens 2009-2010 season was a roller coaster ride comparable to any Six Flags high altitude behemoth. Goalie controversies, new faces, injuries, a new GM, lack of captaincy for the first time in franchise history and an unexpectedly deep run in the playoffs. While we so desperately try to cure our summer blues where absolutely nothing is happening, let's take a look at ten reasons to get excited for puck drop October 7th.
As the Habs enter their 101st year in the NHL, Martin enters his 16th year as a head coach and his second year guiding Montreal. His system of speed, skill and counter attack hockey led the Canadiens to their first Conference Finals since they won the cup in '93. Expectations in his second year are higher than ever, as everyone expects Martin to improve on his record from last season. He will no doubt be aiming for better positioning in the final regular season standings, teams like Washington & Pittsburgh will inevitably be there along the way. Jacques probably hopes that this time they won't meet them in succession
The Czech center signed a six-year, $30 million contract in the offseason, making him part of Montreal's long term plans. He led his team in point production (70) with 25 goals and 45 assists. Plekanec also added 11 points in the playoffs to round out his contract year. GM Pierre Gauthier happily responded with a new contract offer on June 22. The Olympian's new objective will be to headline as a first or second line center, in front or behind Scott Gomez. The big question for Plekanec is; who will be his linemates? Whoever he has as wingers will surely produce and help him improve on his point haul from last season.
Garnering his lowest point total in his three years as a full-time Hab, Andrei is slowly dropping down in production and is seemingly still affected by the departure of Alex Kovalev to Ottawa. Ask any Canadiens fan about him and they'll tell you he's great to watch, when he actually shows up to play. One out of six games. With 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points coupled with a tally of 8 points in the playoffs, Kostitsyn didn't exactly marvel us. With his brother Sergei now a Nashville Predator, will Andrei's performance ratio become six out of six games? Or will he suffer the same faith as his sibling?
Jaroslav Halak carried the Canadiens on his back on the way to two seven-game series wins versus top-notch opposition in the playoffs. He was then traded away to St. Louis. Carey Price has yet to sign a contract, journeyman Alex Auld was signed to a one-year deal, finnish goalie Karri ''Don't Call Me Carey'' Ramo came in off a trade with Tampa Bay and Curtis Sanford remains in Hamilton. Could it be that Montreal will not have a goaltending controversy for the first time in a long time? Last year was all about Halak or Price, this year it's all about Carey.
See four for a detailed history on how this came about. At this point, he has not yet signed but his agent along with the organisation are preaching the ''slowly but surely'' approach. His list of accomplishments is very impressive for a 23-year-old, but how will he react to his new status on the team? Halak won't be there to save the squad and Alex Auld is on board playing a backup role. The 2005 first rounder has tremendous potential, now is the time to show off his skill set. Will the prophecy of Jesus Price finally come true? Or is the Price wrong?
Besides the Halak for Eller/Schultz deal, no giant moves were made. Leading us to believe that GM Pierre Gauthier is satisfied with the nucleus that was formed during last summer's overhaul. The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Dustin Boyd, Mathieu Darche & newbie Ian Schultz will most likely be seeing a lot of each other as they are destined fourth liners. Travis Moen, newly acquired Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, Tom Pyatt & Aaron Palushaj will be all be fighting for a spot on the third line. The second line will be centered by Scott Gomez accompanied by long-time teammate Brian Gionta and 05' first rounder Benoit Pouliot. As for the first line, all signs point to Cammalleri, Plekanec & Kostitsyn. The first two lines undoubtedly produced sparks last season and will continue to build chemistry. The third line will be comprised of AHL talent who also had a run in their respective playoffs. Grit, grit and more grit will be required for the fourth line
Hal Gill & Josh Gorges were like Batman & Robin in last year's playoffs, blocking shots, clearing the crease and playing smart hockey. Will this duo be prosperous in the regular season as well? The Canadiens will be without power play quarterback Andrei Markov when the season starts for the second year in a row. He will be out until November while he recuperates from reconstructive knee surgery. With Paul Mara and Marc-Andre Bergeron not re-signing, the Canadiens will look to youngsters Ryan O'Byrne, Swiss-born Yannick Weber & Calder Trophy front-runner P.K. Subban for defensive support. Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik will have to take the kids under their wing.
Spacek can temporarily cover for Markov while he rehabs that knee, supplying the shot from the point and quarterbacking the power play. Montreal seemingly needs much more than that if they want to get back to man advantage glory. Young offensive defensemen like Weber and Subban will be looking to break through and earn a permanent spot on one of the two PP lines. Look for Cammalleri to get a lot of 5 on 4 production if the puck is distributed to him correctly
Besides P.K. Subban, who will be the next youngin' to breakthrough? We saw great things from Tom Pyatt in the playoffs. Perhaps newcomer Lars Eller can light up the lamp like he did for the Peoria Rivermen last season? Will his former AHL teammate Aaron Palushaj be on his right wing with fellow Michigan Wolverine Max Pacioretty on the left? Perhaps this is Ben Maxwell's year?
You guessed it, who will the team pick as the 33rd captain in franchise history? Front runners are Stanley Cup Winners Hal Gill & Brian Gionta, on-ice example Josh Gorges and articulate superstar Michael Cammalleri.
Ouuh, 33; I like that number. Don't you?