Amidst all the hooplah about the Montreal Canadiens 100th season, GM Bob Gainey has quietly retooled an already explosive lineup in the hopes that a 25th Stanley Cup banner will be hanging from the Bell Centre rafters opening night of the 2009-10 season.
But will the Bell Centre finally have its first ever Stanley Cup Finals game this coming season? Can this young, talented team play above and beyond what they accomplished last season?
Although the media is already heaping enough unrealistic expectations on these young players to have them crack, the expectation of a 25th Stanley Cup for the NHL's most successful franchise may be the breaking point.
Despite a core of veterans leading the team—including Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, and Alex Tanguay—the Canadiens are still a young team, learning still from the mistakes of last year's Stanley Cup Semifinals, where they bowed out to the Philadelphia Flyers in only five games.
Another question—is Carey Price really the man for the Canadiens in net?
Don't get me wrong, I am one of the biggest Price fans out there—but can he do what so many have done before him in Montreal?
A young defensive corps with a young goaltender may sound like something that a team would try to shy away from. But with young defenders such as Josh Gorges, Mike Komisarek, and Ryan O'Byrne only coming into their primes, the Canadiens' back-end is something that many teams should worry about.
Fast and speedy up front, the Canadiens should be a handful for any team.
But can the Canadiens live up to the expectations placed on them for another season? A first-place finish for the first time in over 10 years last season was a step in the right direction, but can they repeat that feat?
And can they maybe get farther than the second round for the first time since 1993?
Actually, that year sounds familiar. Maybe if they could make it to the third round, they'd have a better chance of making 2009 the new 1993.
Remember 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens? Centered around a few seasoned veterans like Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, and Mike Keane along with young players like Vincent Damphousse, Patrice Brisebois, and Paul DiPietro. Along with a great goaltender in Patrick Roy, the Canadiens became an unstoppable force in the playoffs, and set a few records on the way.
This past season, the Canadiens were likened to the 1992-93 team and almost went as far as they did—except they didn't make it past the second round. Now, another year later, the 2008-09 team is also being likened to the 1992-93 team.
Hopefully this season, they can come through. We shall see.