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.
After being through it and seeing the other [outdoor] games on TV, just the atmosphere is spectacular. To stand here -- and we are essentially almost on the blue line -- and look up [into the stands] and knowing it is going to be packed and playing our biggest rival in this setting is going to be pretty special.
— Bruins president Cam Neely on the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between Boston and Montreal at Gillette Stadium on
Jan. 1, 2016