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Season Preview: Montreal Canadiens

Additions of Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov, healthy Carey Price could be boost

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor
At a glance

2015-16 record: 38-38-6, 82 points, 6th in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify

Additions: F: Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw; D: Zach Redmond, Shea Weber; G: Al Montoya

Subtractions: F: Mike Brown, Lars Eller; D: P.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert

 

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Max Pacioretty -- Alex Galchenyuk -- Brendan Gallagher

Artturi Lehkonen -- Tomas Plekanec -- Alexander Radulov

Daniel Carr -- David Desharnais -- Andrew Shaw

Phillip Danault -- Torrey Mitchell -- Paul Byron

Brian Flynn

Defensemen

Nathan Beaulieu -- Shea Weber

Andrei Markov -- Jeff Petry

Mikhail Sergachev -- Alexei Emelin

Greg Pateryn

Zach Redmond

Goalies

Carey Price

Al Montoya

Mike Condon

 

Video: TOR@MTL: Weber finds back of the net from blue line

The season-ending knee injury sustained by goaltender Carey Price on Nov. 25, 2015 was cited by general Marc Bergevin as the main reason the Montreal Canadiens missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

But clearly he believed it wasn't the only reason as Bergevin drastically made over the Canadiens' identity during the offseason.

Defenseman P.K. Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29. That followed two trades June 24, one acquiring forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks and one sending center Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals.

On July 1, the Canadiens signed right wing Alexander Radulov to a one-year contract, adding a top-scoring talent to play on one of the top two lines.

The common thread between Weber, Shaw, and to a lesser extent Radulov, is a certain degree of abrasiveness, something Bergevin thought the Canadiens were lacking.

Subban is among the top transition players in the NHL, and even Eller helped move the play toward the offensive zone more often than not. But Canadiens coach Michel Therrien has long said he wanted a team that was tough to play against. This summer moved the Canadiens in that direction.

The addition of Weber helps in other areas. He is one of the top power-play scoring threats in the League. And his slap shot, along with the injections of Radulov's skill and Shaw's net-front presence, should help the Canadiens avoid a third straight season finishing 25th in the NHL in power-play efficiency.

Rookie left wing Artturi Lehkonen, 21, appears to be penciled into a spot on the second line, which would allow Shaw to play a bottom-six role and spread the scoring through the lineup.

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, the No 9 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, looks like he will break camp with the Canadiens. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, the 18-year-old has an NHL-ready body. He's a strong skater and is offensively skilled enough that he could impact the power play if he sticks past his initial nine-game trial.

 

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Price is healthy again and the roster has more talent from top to bottom than it did last season, even with Subban's absence.

Video: TOR@MTL: Matthews beats Price with PPG

 

Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Canadiens still don't have enough depth to survive injuries to significant players. In 2014-15, when the Canadiens finished first in the Atlantic Division and second in the League, they practically had no injuries of significance. Last season that was not the case. The Canadiens need to remain healthy to be successful, which is not realistic through the course of an 82-game season.

 

Breakout candidate

Nathan Beaulieu. At 23 and entering his third full NHL season, Beaulieu knows what is expected of him. He said during training camp that the trade of Subban was a clear signal that he was going to be looked upon to fill the role of puck-moving defenseman. Being paired with Weber to start the season should allow Beaulieu (two goals, 19 points in 64 games) to get heavy minutes, and the Canadiens are hopeful his offensive production increases.

Video: MTL@TOR: Daniel Audette beats Enroth to open scoring

 

On the hot seat

Weber. It is highly unusual for a team to acquire a player of Weber's caliber and have its fans upset about it. But that's how popular Subban was in Montreal. Weber won't need to do much differently than he did during his first 11 seasons in Nashville. But if his play begins to dip, as it has a tendency to do when players are 31 years old, the fans could turn on him.

 

Trophy candidates

Price (Hart, Vezina, Jennings); Weber (Norris).

 

Quotable

"We understand the year we had, we understand we have to learn from that. Some of the stuff that was said is obviously true, some is untrue, but it's up to us to understand what the reason was for why that happened and change it. I think management did a good job in the summer of addressing some of those areas, bringing in players that are really going to help us this year. It's up to us now as players in this locker room to go out there and get the job done." -- right wing Brendan Gallagher

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