The Montreal Canadiens have a solid goaltender in Carey Price, a charismatic defenceman in P.K. Subban and an emerging power forward in Max Pacioretty, not to mention several other key players who will help their cause.
Now retread head coach Michel Therrien has been rehired to push and pull the Canadiens back onto the playoff scene. Did brand new Habs general manager Marc Bergevin make the right decision?
Since the Canadiens last Stanley Cup parade in 1993, it hasn't been easy for the Habs faithful to watch former Canadiens coaches or players move on and have success in other locales. Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns each steered New Jersey to Stanley Cup championships.
Last spring was particularly difficult when former Canadiens bench bosses, Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault, met in the final, and Montreal's former AHL coach, Guy Boucher, guided Tampa Bay to the East final.
Bergevin remarked on Tuesday at the Canadiens press conference that he likes Therrien's leadership. Maybe Bergevin also feels that Therrien is about to have a breakthrough behind the bench like the aforementioned group has enjoyed.
There is no denying Therrien's success. He won a Memorial Cup championship in junior and steered teams to the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup finals. But he's an in-your-face coach who in the past has worn down his players to a point of no return.
The 48-year-old Montreal native said on Tuesday that he has changed. "We all change," he said.
He has learned from his experiences in his first stint behind the Canadiens bench as well as his time with the Penguins farm club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and in Pittsburgh. He believes he is a much better coach than when he arrived on the Canadiens doorstep a decade ago. Veteran defenceman Andrei Markov is the only player who remains from that time.
Bergevin interviewed less than 10 candidates for his first head coach hire. The people's choice, Patrick Roy, was a contender as was another former Habs coach in Guy Carbonneau. But the GM's decision came down to Therrien over Marc Crawford, who also is a candidate for vacancies in Edmonton and Washington.
Some have tried to link the Therrien hiring and Bob Hartley's appointment in Calgary last week to the success Darryl Sutter has enjoyed in Los Angeles and Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis.
Like Therrien and Hartley, Sutter and Hitchcock both had long layoffs before returning for their current coaching gigs. But while they all are demanding leaders, Sutter and Hitchcock have a human side. Therrien must somehow exhibit this personality trait. The NHL is a much younger league these days.
The Canadiens head coach portfolio may be the most difficult in the NHL. The fan base is loyal, but it yearns for success like no other. The media is the most severe in the league.
Therrien found this out a decade ago. He stated the experience he gained from his first turn as the Habs bench boss will help this time around. So will his stay in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Co.
But this was far from a safe choice for Bergevin. Maybe Crawford or Carbonneau would have been better. But we'll see how much Therrien has changed once the season begins and if he can follow the path of success travelled by Julien, Burns, Robinson and Lemaire - only this time in Montreal.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?