BROSSARD - Fans got their first glimpse of the 2015-16 Canadiens when doors opened in Brossard for the start of training camp almost three weeks ago. With Wednesday night’s regular season opener just over 24-hours away, Michel Therrien’s lineup still looks quite similar to the one he’s been icing since mid-September.
The main reason for the lack of line juggling can be at least in part attributed to the arrival of two key offseason recruits.
“We added two players in [Alexander] Semin and [Tomas] Fleischmann who are able to add some stability to our trios. I love the stability they provide,” praised Therrien, who is impressed with the Canadiens’ depth heading into the season. “It's the same for the defensemen. We wanted to create chemistry as soon as possible, and we were able to do that during the training camp.”
Despite a successful regular season that saw the Canadiens capture the Atlantic division title, Therrien believes the team is better prepared heading into the 2015-16 campaign than they were one year ago.
“We are much further ahead right now than we were last year at the same time,” he shared, before the team hit the road for the season opener in Toronto. “I really like the chemistry that our lines have. Even the fourth line.”
Entering his seventh year with the organization, P.K. Subban has been part of some of the most lethal Canadiens lineups in recent years. According to the alternate captain, no matter what pieces the team’s brass added over the summer, it’s up to the players to put them all together on the ice.
“To win a championship you need more than one weapon, and we’re going to have to continue to grow as a team and get better every day, but I think we are moving in the right direction now,” explained the 2013 Norris Trophy winner. “You can make the changes in the offseason, you can bring up young players, you can bring them into the lineup but ultimately it’s the team that has to go out and execute. For us, whoever is in the lineup on any given night has to come up with a championship performance.”
Over the last three years, the Canadiens have been a strong regular season team, capturing two Atlantic division titles along the way. Subban & Co. are hoping 2015-16 is the year that regular season success translates into June hockey in Montreal.
“Ultimately, what I’d like to see from our team is for us to take another step forward,” expressed Subban, who for his part achieved career highs in goals, assists and points last year. “Our goal is always to make the playoffs, but I don’t think it’s good enough to just make the playoffs in here.”
In the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, just two years after selecting Carey Price with the fifth overall pick, the Canadiens plucked Max Pacioretty out of the stands in the first round before nabbing Subban in the second. The trio has grown together over the years to form the Canadiens’ young leadership core.
“Whenever you can keep a core group together, it’s something special. When you’re drafted to an organization and you have an opportunity to do some damage in this league and do something special it means a little bit more,” explained Subban, who like Pacioretty and Price earned his spot with the Canadiens through strong play in the American Hockey League. “Whether it’s in training camp, regular season games, or AHL games or whatever, we’ve been playing together for a long time and we want to do it for each other. We want to be successful here.”
Following practice, the Canadiens announced that forward Jacob de la Rose had been sent down to St. John’s of the AHL in order to give the young forward more time to develop. The move also opens up a roster spot for forward Paul Byron, who Marc Bergevin claimed off waivers from the Calgary Flames on Tuesday afternoon.
“The acquisition gives us depth and it will give the De La Rose an opportunity to play in the American League. He did a lot of good things here, and he’s still only 20 years old. He has to find his confidence offensively, which will come with experience. That’s one reason we acquired Byron. It gives us a little more depth up front.”
In 57 games played with the Flames last season, the fourth-year veteran picked up six goals and 13 assists for a total of 19 points.
“We need every line to be contributing offensively and defensively. [Byron] is a fast player with skill and he has the heart to work hard,” noted Therrien.
Now that training camp has ended and the official 23-man roster has been set, the Canadiens will travel to Toronto to kick things off for real with the annual season-opening tilt against the Leafs on Wednesday night.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
Words from the room - October 7
Canadiens claim forward Paul Byron off waivers from the Calgary Flames
His time is now
Predicting the future
Tomas Fleischmann under contract for the 2015-16 season