NHL season preview: Montreal Canadiens
Price, Habs begin post-Subban era
2015-16 record: 38-38-6 (82 points), 6th out of 8 in Atlantic Division, missed playoffs.
Key off-season additions: D Shea Weber, F Alexander Radulov, F Andrew Shaw, G Al Montoya, D Mikhail Sergachev.
Key off-season subtractions: D P.K. Subban, F Lars Eller, D Tom Gilbert, G Ben Scrivens.
Probability of winning the Cup*: 4.5%
Probability of making the playoffs**: 59.4%
*derived from betting odds posted by Pinnacle
**derived from betting odds posted by Bodog
Last season's story
Armed with the NHL's reigning MVP (goalie Carey Price) and its most exciting defenceman (P.K. Subban), the Habs hoped to build on their 2014-15 division title by making a run at the Cup. Montreal shot out of the gate with an NHL-record nine straight wins in regulation and was the toast of the league when it arrived at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 25 with a gaudy 34 points of a possible 44.
The Habs won that game (and the next to climb to 18-4-2) but it was a Pyrrhic victory: Price suffered what was (much) later revealed to be a sprained knee, and he'd never play another game. Without its best player, Montreal fell into a 21-34-4 tailspin and missed the playoffs by a mile as rumblings of a rift between Subban and the coaching staff (and perhaps others in the dressing room) picked up steam.
The trade that launched a thousand takes: On June 29, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin sent coffee cups nationwide tumbling to the ground by trading Subban straight-up for Nashville's Shea Weber. The old-fashioned blockbuster was widely panned, most boisterously in analytics circles, and the critics have a point: Subban is the younger, better and cheaper (if you go by total cap hit left on his deal) player. If there's a defence of the trade, it's that the Subban situation had become untenable, and personalities matter. But if that's the case, Montreal's next-splashiest off-season acquisitions are curious: Alexander Radulov was lured back from Russia for a third stint in the NHL after his last ended with Nashville suspending him for missing curfew the night before a playoff game. Andrew Shaw is an agitator (you call him a grinder when he's on your team) who was suspended for using an anti-gay slur in last spring's playoffs with Chicago.
A healthy Price returns to his Hart-winning form (he looked good in backstopping Canada to an undefeated run at the World Cup); Radulov joins with top snipers Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk to give Montreal a trio of 30-goal scorers; the hard-shooting Weber gets the power-play humming; Bergevin and maligned coach Michel Therrien show that chemistry still counts for something; and the hunky-dory Habs climb back into the playoffs.
Just copy and paste last season's script, but in place of the Subban-Weber trade, drop in, oh, let's say a straight-up swap of Carey Price for Marc-Andre Fleury.