Montreal Canadiens: 6 Players Most Essential to Their 2012-13 NHL Season

Ryan SzporerContributor IIIAugust 4, 2012

Montreal Canadiens: 6 Players Most Essential to Their 2012-13 NHL Season

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    There’s no need to sugarcoat it: The Montreal Canadiens sucked last season. The first step is admitting it.

    Of course, the steps in between it and a healthy recovery involve a lot of alcohol, but who hasn’t watched taped Habs games from last year in a dark, secluded basement, doing shots each and every time Rene Bourque took a shift off? A drinking game for the ages, let me tell you.

    In any case, if the Montreal Canadiens are to shake it and Bourque’s penchant for apathy off and make the playoffs once again, it will all be up to these six players most essential to the Montreal Canadiens’ 2012-2013 season.

Carey Price

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    Everyone has either heard at least one Price is Right joke or told one since Carey Price signed an entry-level contract with the Habs back in 2007—and if you fall into the latter group, it had better have been a short-lived, alcohol-induced error in judgment.

    However, this latest deal of his can only lead one to believe Habs management knows Bob Barker only by reputation and not from ever watching an actual episode of the popular daytime game show, because $39 million over six years is way over market value for a goalie who owns more helmets than playoff series wins.

    Jonathan Quick, who won four of them last year alone, is now costing his team $5.8 million against the salary cap. Price? $6.5 million. The worst part? Aside from Quick being drafted two rounds later than Price in 2005, he signed his latest deal before Price did.

    So, Habs management not only missed one too many episodes of The Price Is Right (now with Drew Carey as host, fyi), but they also can’t be bothered to watch what’s going on in their own league.

    Just priceless…yes, I know. I’m not proud.

    Now, no more excuses. No more coddling. No more safety nets or backup goalies on which to fall back a la Jaroslav Halak. This is his team now, and he’s been shown the money. Now it’s time for him to show what he’s made of, and it had better be bleu, blanc et rouge and not just vert (French for green, in case that wasn’t clear).

Brian Gionta

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    Limited to just 31 games and 8 goals last year, Brian Gionta was unable to lead by example as he’s been so prone to doing since the lockout ended. Sure, his point production has curtailed since an 89-point career high in 2005-2006, but seasons of 28 and 29 goals are none too shabby and the kind of scoring Habs fans had grown accustomed to from their captain.

    With Mike Cammalleri shipped off to parts unknown for nothing more than a prospect by the name of Patrick Holland and a draft pick*, Gionta will be expected to pick up the slack and bounce back.

    Even at 33, Gionta is a threat. Combined with his leadership, he is one of Montreal’s most valuable weapons, when healthy. The bottom line: If Gionta can get back to where he was two seasons ago, the Habs have legitimate offensive depth. If not, the only Gionta we’ll be hearing about come next May will be Stephen once again.

    *Yes, that was a Rene Bourque dig.

David Desharnais

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    Having a first line nicknamed after Two and a Half Men is just adorable. The downside? It doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents. And the only thoughts of “winning” running through their minds prior to the game is a favorable outcome against a team whose top center looks more like a really big pee wee player than an actual NHL one.

    Of course, Montreal was able to play to their strengths, letting opponents underestimate David Desharnais and making them pay more often than you’d think. He notched 16 goals and 60 points, both more than the 11 and 57 totals of one Ryan Getzlaf.

    However, Habs fans who would be against a one-for-one trade with the Anaheim Ducks have most likely gotten those closest to them scared sick for their mental health.  

    Indeed, at 5’7” and 177 pounds, Desharnais has spent most of his life proving himself as a capable hockey player, and, unfortunately, until he puts together at least another season like he did in 2011-2012, he’ll have to keep doing the same.

    If Tomas Plekanec is a third-line center on an awesome team, logic would dictate that Desharnais is a second-line one. But his success last year doesn’t change the very real fact that most teams would be hesitant to allow him to pivot their second checking line. He does lack size, after all.

    Still, despite being flanked by the likes of veritable behemoths (compared to him) Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty (who just narrowly missed making this list himself), Desharnais is the key to that line and—as a result—Montreal’s offense as a whole, which struggled so mightily last year.

    He may just be the next Martin St. Louis, and he’s going to have to be for his and Montreal’s sakes.

Scott Gomez

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    Yes, I’m aware that including a player of Scott Gomez’s caliber on a list such as this is a shock at best and sacrilege at worst. But Gomez, despite all his failings, is more than just an oversized, overpaid, walking, talking paperweight.

    Of course, the walking and talking parts make him an ineffective one and now bad at two jobs, but that’s beside the point.

    The actual point is, despite those failings (lack of production, lack of being Ryan McDonagh, lack of his ability to lure Zach Parise to Montreal, lack of the good sense to tell Glen Sather once upon a time, ”Whoa, Glen, let’s dial it down a notch or…20. People will just end up hating me, you know, more than they already do.”), Gomez still has some skill. Granted, it’s hidden—deep down…somewhere.

    It is there, though. He did once score 84 points in one season, and 70 in two others.

    Of course, 60 points is probably a more accurate representation of where Gomez’s actual skill level tops off. If he can get even close to that this year (in the National Hockey League and not in the minors), Montreal will be a playoff team. That’s a big if, probably as big as the center Bob Gainey thought he was getting when Sather palmed the underachiever and his salary off on him, but it is the truth.

    Without a producing Gomez in the lineup, Montreal is a weaker team than with him in. During his first year with Montreal, Gomez netted 59 points. The end result? Montreal made it to the third round of the playoffs.

    His next season? A mere 38 and a first-round loss to the Boston Bruins. Last season, he had just 11 in 38 games and Montreal missed the playoffs altogether.

    As much as Montreal fans may hate to admit it, we need Gomez. I mean, we need Patrik Elias more, but what can you do? At this point, the Devil(s) you know rather than the one you should have gotten in the first place, right?

P.K. Subban

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    Scoring wins games, but defense wins championships (and goaltending wins Conn Smythe trophies), so it should be little surprise that P.K. Subban appears on this list. However, before Habs fans everywhere start having a coronary worrying that he signs an offer sheet with G-d knows what team, it’s perhaps best to put it all in the proper perspective.

    P.K. Subban is not Shea Weber. Not even close.

    I’m not even saying that as far as the chances of them being mistaken for one another on the street go. I’m saying even if—somehow, hypothetically speaking—Subban met a genie who promised him a single wish (bear with me…as if a genie granting three wishes would be more realistic?), and Subban asked to have Weber’s life—including his new, fat contract with the Nashville Predators—it wouldn't matter. 

    Inevitably, once he stepped onto that ice next season fans would be asking themselves, “Whoa...when did Weber start sucking so much? And what’s with all the spin-o-ramas?”

    However, Subban is still a very good player and doesn’t suck (he just does in comparison to Weber). If true, reports that Montreal offered him a two-year deal worth $5.5 million should justifiably be met with the view that the Habs are low-balling him.

    Once he signs—and, yes, he will sign with Montreal—he will be poised to become the most valuable member of Montreal’s defense corps well into the future and this year as well. Unfortunately, in regard to the latter, the Habs may be in trouble, as he doesn’t appear to be the number one defenseman Montreal needs.

Andrei Markov

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    When Andrei Markov has been healthy over the course of his 11 season career with the Habs, he has been a difference maker, with his development as a player and a quiet leader culminating in a 64-point season back in 2008-2009. Then it all turned to fecal matter.

    Multiple knee injuries (the first of which occurred back in 2003), multiple knee surgeries, multiple knee rehabilitations and only 65 games played over the past three seasons—it has all led to a shell of the player described above.

    Montreal has seen what life without Markov is like. It’s basically a lot like life with Chris Campoli...during the few games he actually played: Food tastes worse. Air is stale and humid to breathe in. Sleep doesn’t come easily and is rife with nightmares of Josh Gorges getting power play time.

    So, if Markov can regain just the slightest bit of the skill he once displayed, it would go a long way toward putting all of fans’ minds at ease and securing a possible playoff berth. Because, if not, not only may Montreal be forced to sign the next free-agent defenseman du jour (hello, Milan Jurcina), but its defense becomes eerily reminiscent of a holy bartender.

    Bottoms up.