What's next for the Montreal Canadiens?
Questions abound after early playoff exit to New York Rangers
The Montreal Canadiens face a long summer filled with plenty of questions after last night's disappointing first-round exit.
"It's a bitter disappointment," Carey Price said after losing 3-1 in Game 6. "We couldn't catch a break all series. We thought we could have gone further."
The team began the season with high hopes — buoyed by a healthy Price, the newly acquired Shea Weber and Russian free agent Alex Radulov.
But after a great start that propelled them to a first-place finish in their division, they couldn't put it all together against the New York Rangers. Captain Max Pacioretty described it as a "missed opportunity."
Meanwhile, P.K. Subban's Nashville Predators swept the Chicago Blackhawks, prompting one fan to quip that the Habs were a victim of "Subbanfreude."
Jokes and bad bounces aside, the team's shortcomings — especially its inability to score goals — were laid bare in the series. Here are some of the key decisions facing the team as it enters the off-season.
Who will put the puck in the net?
Next year's team could look very different from the one that left the ice at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Clearly, scoring is a struggle. The Habs found the back of the net only 11 times in six games against the Rangers — a record low for the franchise in a six-game playoff series.
Given the lack of production, bringing in more goal-scoring talent will likely be a big part of any off-season shakeup.
Pacioretty, the team's leading scorer, and Alex Galchenyuk, once thought to be the team's solution to its centre-ice woes, both finished the series without a goal.
"The chances were there," Pacioretty said after the game. "I take full responsibility."
Galchenyuk is a restricted free agent this summer and there is speculation he could be on the move.
Will Carey commit long term?
Carey Price, nominated for the Vezina trophy for best goalie again this year, is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
He finished the series with a sparkling .933 save percentage, allowing only 12 goals in all. That's just one more than the team in front of him could muster.
Could you blame him if he's growing tired with the lack of production from his teammates?
It will be up to management to show the 29-year-old Olympic gold medal winner the team has the pieces in place to contend.
Who stays, who goes?
GM Marc Bergevin will be under pressure to make changes after the first-round collapse. But a coaching change isn't likely in the cards.
Bergevin turfed Michel Therrien in February, replacing him with Claude Julien. He inked the new coach to a massive five-year, $25-million contract.
Players, on the other hand, are sure to be on the move. The Canadiens have six unrestricted free agents and others, like under-performing defenceman Nathan Beaulieau, could be on their way out of town.
It's hard to imagine the team without fan favourite Alex Radulov, who came over from Russia last year, and Andrei Markov, who had another strong year despite turning 38.
But both need new contracts if they're to stay in town. Others, such as Dwight King, Andreas Martinsen and Steve Ott — all of whom joined the team at the trade deadline — may not figure in the team's future plans.
The answers to some of these questions may come tomorrow, when the players are due to meet with media and clean out their lockers at the Bell Centre.
It is likely, though, that players, coaches, managers and fans have only just begun several long months of dealing with some difficult questions.
with files from The Canadian Press