As we approach the 2016-17 season, we’re previewing what’s ahead for each of the 30 NHL teams. Here’s a look at the Montreal Canadiens.
MAIN SUMMER HEADLINES
• Kirk Muller signed as associate coach
Head coach: Michel Therrien
GM: Marc Bergevin
Team payroll: $71.56 million ($73 million salary cap)
2015-16 Record: 38-38-6 (Sixth in Atlantic)
GF: 221 (16th in NHL)
GA: 236 (21st in NHL)
Result: Missed playoffs by 14 points
Key acquisitions: Andrew Shaw, Alexander Radulov, Shea Weber, Zach Redmond, Al Montoya, Bobby Farnham
Key departures: Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert
Rookies to watch: Forward Michael McCarron, who was drafted 25th overall in 2013, proved over 20 games with the Canadiens last season that he could compete at this level.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound centre had 17 goals and 21 assists in 58 games with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps before recording a goal and an assist in his time with Montreal.
McCarron might not have a spot with the big club out of training camp—the team has 14 forwards on one-way contracts and his is a two-way—but he’s going to get his share of games in the NHL this season.
Another rookie everyone in Montreal will be watching closely is Artturi Lehkonen.
Last season Lehkonen, who the Canadiens chose 55th overall in 2013, broke out for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists in 49 games. He then broke Daniel Alfredsson’s club record by scoring 11 goals and adding eight assists in 16 playoff games.
Montreal will have a successful season if…
Both of their special teams units finish top-10 in the league.
The Canadiens’ power play is getting a major facelift, with Shea Weber’s booming shot, Andrew Shaw’s persistent crease presence and Alexander Radulov’s talents being added to the equation.
But no individual will have as much influence on Montreal’s power play jumping from 25th last season to top-10 this season than associate coach Kirk Muller.
Muller drew up the power play plans that led the Canadiens to top-5 finishes in three of five seasons in his last stint as an assistant coach with the team. They finished seventh overall with the man advantage in one of the other two seasons he was in charge.
The penalty kill also benefits from Weber and Shaw’s presence. Oh, and a healthy Carey Price should make the difference between a 12th-place finish in the category last season and a top-10 finish in it this season.
Montreal will have an unsuccessful season if…
Price gets injured long-term.
He missed 70 games last season and in his absence the Canadiens went from Stanley Cup contender to lottery-pick contender.
There’s no doubt this team, with the addition of leaders Weber and Shaw, and the experience their young players accrued last season, is better prepared to stay afloat should Price miss some time due to injury.
The addition of goaltender Al Montoya gives Montreal much-needed depth at the position.
But a long-term absence for Price would be catastrophic no matter how you try to spin it.