Montreal Canadiens: 2013 season preview
Coach Therrien returns, hoping to lead Habs back to respectability
Key Arrivals: F Colby Armstrong, F Brandon Prust, D Francis Bouillon.
Key Departures: D Chris Campoli, F Mathieu Darche.
Key Decisions: Hired Michel Therrien for 2nd stint as head coach, Signed G Carey Price and F Max Pacioretty to contract extensions.
2011-12 record: 31-35-16, finished 15th in Eastern Conference
Last year's story
2013 Team Previews
The Canadiens are coming off a 2011-12 campaign that easily ranks among their worst in modern history. To review: There were early indications that former all-star Andrei Markov was again going to miss a lot of time; he played just 13 games late in the season. Montreal won just 15 of its first 40 games, resulting in coach Jacques Martin being fired and replaced by an interim coach, Randy Cunneyworth, whose inability to speak French sparked a cultural firestorm. The handsomely paid Scott Gomez was so maladroit around the net that he inspired a website mocking his futility, and for the second straight season after signing a lucrative deal Tomas Plekanec saw his point total drop.
GM Pierre Gauthier traded shifty Mike Cammalleri for big Rene Bourque, who then recorded a whopping eight points in 38 games for the Habs. Gauthier, who earlier traded for a defenceman rejected by three teams in 10 months (Tomas Kaberle), was canned near season's end. Among the few bright spots: new addition Erik Cole, dependable Josh Gorges, comebacking Max Pacioretty (winner of the Masterton Trophy for perseverance) and resilient goalie Carey Price.
This year's outlook
The Canadiens will need to improve on the man advantage and balance playing tenaciously while staying out of the box; they had one of the worst net power-play differentials in the NHL last season. It's hard to be too cheery about a team that hasn't appreciably changed on paper other than adding some sandpaper types. But Therrien will not suffer indifferent players, so the Habs figure to battle hard, and in a shortened season it's a crapshoot.
Pacioretty will need to prove last season wasn't a fluke, Plekanec will need to regain his previous level of production, P.K. Subban (an unsigned restricted free agent as of Jan. 10) and Lars Eller will need to take another step in their progression, and some newcomer or two (Alex Galchenyuk?) will need to make considerable offensive contributions. Most of all, Price will need to be just about the best goalie in the league for the team to grab one of the last East playoff spots. Not an impossible concept to grasp, but not likely.