Missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs by two points last season was a bitter pill for the proud Montreal Canadiens to have to swallow.
The franchise, led by stalwarts from the glory days -- Guy Carbonneau as coach and Bob Gainey as GM -- do not want to see the playoffs pass their team by again. So, the franchise made some difficult decisions and will ice a different looking team this year.
Sheldon Souray and his booming point shot left via free agency. Reliable veteran forward Radek Bonk and goalie David Aebischer also signed elsewhere. But those moves were acceptable for a franchise looking to find a new way of making things work.
In fact, the front office imported three proven veterans into what should be an intriguing mix of promising youth and experienced maturity that inhabits Les Habitants’ dressing room this season.
Defenseman Roman Hamrlik, so successful with Calgary, will be asked to replace Souray. Familiar face Patrice Brisebois will provide some depth on the blue line. Versatile veteran Bryan Smolinski, a natural center who can also play the wing, should shore up the forward lines.
Is it enough to get Montreal over the hump after last season’s disappointing finish? Only time will tell; but it is certainly a solid beginning to the process.
I challenged him to a goalie fight when we chatted before the game, but he didn't want to go. It was strange to see him at the other end of the ice, but I'm sure he felt the same way looking down at our end.
— Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack joking about facing his former teammate Roberto Luongo after the Canucks' win against the Panthers