Nevermind the quarterly review…
Offense: By all means should be worthy of Stanley Cup potential, but we’ve yet to see the signs that point to them dominating the East, as expected.
Defense: Steady improvement since the beginning of the season, but clearly not a Stanley Cup winning defense. Markov, Komisarek, and Hamrlik are a solid top 3– one of the best you can find, but they aren’t quite as intimidating as Kronwall, Lidstrom, and Rafalski, or Neidermayer, Pronger, and Beauchemin.
Goaltending: Price is capable of getting them there, but if he goes down…
Instead of reviewing, let’s do a needs assessment.
Start with the offense.
-What this offense needs is to start burying their chances. If Koivu, Tanguay, and Higgins could eventually be supported by Plekanec, Kovalev, and Kostitsyn, this team would be a very different team.
-It goes without saying, that the powerplay is in desperate need of some urgency. The forwards aren’t taking enough risks to put goals in the net, and this year the emphasis is on the forwards to do the powerplay scoring. Other teams are giving Montreal the point, so the forwards need to work harder down low and move more to create the necessary lanes that make a powerplay dangerous to defend against. When was the last time you saw a cross-ice pass on the powerplay…you know…Markov to Kovalev styles? I don’t think we’ve seen it once this year.
-The Canadiens could afford to bring in 1 or 2 guys from Hamilton, to light a fire under the current crop of forwards. We may see that happen if more injuries occur, but don’t expect those guys to turn the offense around. All twelve/fifteen forwards must take it upon themselves to start contributing. This offense is too good to continue like this for much longer.
-The addition of Mats Sundin would be highly welcome, even if it came at the cost of one of Montreal’s young talents. Anything short of Mats Sundin wouldn’t really be a necessary addition to this offense. Forget Brendan Shanahan, or even Marian Gaborik. The only reason to make an addition to this offense is to put it over the top in terms of it’s ability to bring Montreal to a Stanley Cup. There’s only one player available who can really offer Montreal what they’d be looking for in an offensive addition.
On to Defense…
-Komisarek better take as much time as he needs healing this shoulder injury, because when he gets back into the lineup the Canadiens are going to need him playing much better than he did through the first portion of the season. That means leading in hits, and blocked shots, and striking some fear into the opposition’s talented forwards.
-Josh Gorges needs to play full-time with Roman Hamrlik until someone else can be added to the top 4.
-About that someone else, take your pick: Bouwmeester (possible), Ohlund (improbable), Kaberle (under contract for next two seasons for an absolute steal at 4.25), Jack Johnson (currently injured until January– recovering from shoulder surgery, but well-known to have always wanted to play for Montreal), Preissing (possible). Note that these suggestions are intended to provoke some conversation. It’s very hard to look around the league and consider which defensemen could be on the move as rentals, or for other reasons, when you consider how crucial each of the players above could actually be to their current teams.
-The coaches have made a clear decision to ride Price. He was originally on pace to play 3-1, but now it appears he’ll get 4 or 5 starts to every one that Jaroslav Halak does. If Price gets hurt though…uh-oh!
-With the way Marc Denis is playing in Hamilton, it only makes sense that Jaroslav Halak will likely be traded this season. Denis gives the Canadiens a veteran presence at the position, and has done more than what was expected of him so far. Halak can be an attractive part of a package for a steady defenseman, and could very well save Bob Gainey from having to deal one of his young, talented forwards.
-All that considered, if Price goes down, and Marc Denis is stuck with the heavy lifting, this team is going to need another experienced back-up. So if Jaroslav Halak is in fact traded, look for the Canadiens to add a cheap, but experienced back up. The type of guy that comes to mind would be someone like Johan Hedberg (On a non-playoff team in Atlanta, making just over 1 mil- not part of the future plans in Atlanta).
I think it’s pretty clear what the fans need at this point. They need to chill out and realize that this team isn’t going to look perfect and achieve perfect results each time they play. The fans need to realize that this team will make the playoffs, and that finishing first, or even in the top 5 doesn’t make them any more, or any less of a cup contender once they get there.
What the fans, the media, and the team need is a good ‘ole fashion winning streak! A win in Detroit tonight might be perfect catalyst towards making that happen.
So pick your heads up, and cross your fingers…20 games down, 62 to go, and hopefully a minimum of 16 after that.