1) I think the greatest variance of opinion on this year's Canadiens revolves around their defense. Red Fisher thinks it'll be a weak point for the team
, while others think its composition promotes a level of balance that will enable the team to be better than they were last year.
I wouldn't refer to the Canadiens' blueline as one of the best in the league, but if you believe Andrei Markov is set for a healthy year; that Josh Gorges' knee is stronger than the one he was playing on for roughly ten years; that P.K. Subban is even marginally better than he was last year; that Yannick Weber is ready to claim a regular spot; that Hal Gill hasn't lost a step; that Alexei Emelin can make a smooth transition to NHL pace; that Jaroslav Spacek can be mildly more dependable than he was last season... well, that's a lot of ifs... I see Red's point.
I still happen to believe that most those ifs will work out in the Canadiens favor. Why venture towards the negative before a single game's been played?
2) I've spent a bit of time thinking about the likelihood that either Andrei Kostitsyn or Scott Gomez gets moved from the Canadiens before this season starts.
On Kostitsyn: I suppose he didn't help his cause by calling out the coach from Belarus this summer. That said, did he legitimately hurt it more than it was already hurting?
He has two options, as far as I'm concerned. Play his way up the lineup and buy his ticket out of town through free agency, or play his way off the Canadiens--which won't make much of an attractive commodity to other teams.
I don't see Gauthier moving him before the season starts. I think the Canadiens like their current composition, in the sense that they have scoring threats on each of their top three lines-- a luxury they haven't had over the last two seasons.
On Gomez: From a logistics standpoint, if the Canadiens had planned to move Gomez in the off-season, don't you think they'd have tried to have done it before free agency kicked off?
Whether Gomez had an impact on their success last season or not, you can't just remove a 18-min/game guy without replacing him with someone who can do his job and potentially do it better. Not that Gomez set the bar dramatically high, but if you were to try to replace him through trade or free agency, you'd want a player back that can play as well as what Gomez should be.
Instead, the Canadiens have held onto him, in the hopes that he can rededicate himself to being close enough to the player he should be.
The Canadiens would have to be in pretty bad shape if they're to consider moving him mid-season or at the deadline.
So, maybe we can re-hatch the 'trade Gomez' conversation next summer, if need be.
3) If I had to pick one player on the Canadiens who I expect a larger contribution from than is generally expected, it's David Desharnais. This kid is a scoring machine. I don't know how either, but I'm going to try to explain it.
I've always felt that there are only two ways for a player Desharnais' size to succeed at the NHL level.
First is speed. In order to be a top-tier player at Desharnais size, you need to be among the fastest players in the league. How else do you avoid some of the physicality that would surely knock you back down to the third or fourth line, or inevitably the AHL. Speed has been Marty St. Louis' success. Same goes for Gionta and a few other shrimps making a solid living in the NHL.
The other determinant is smarts. You need to have a mind for the game that's more developed than most, if you're to remain a scoring threat at Desharnais size.
Desharnais isn't the fastest player his size, but he has brilliant awareness out there. He knows how to read the play better than most, and it's his smarts that keep him from getting ransacked on every shift.
If he's spent time working on his speed in the summer months, it's going to allow him to succeed at this level the way he has at every other level.
4) When Mike Cammalleri predicts that he'll have the best season of his career
, you can bet Canadiens fans are all ears.
So, are we to expect more than 39 goals for the Canadiens' best sniper?
Tomas Plekanec must be excited.
5) Is it unreasonable to expect a bit more from Plekanec this season?
At 28, just one year into a lucrative extension, Plekanec should be on the path of establishing new career highs, regardless of how much time he spends killing penalties.
6) On that note, one way to reduce the amount TP plays on the PK is to take less penalties. The Habs can't possibly take as many as they did last season.
If they do, Plekanec will certainly have his work cut out for him. The team doesn't have too many hands to depend on in that department, unless some of that cap space gets spent between now and the beginning of the season.
7) Fun question for you, but not one you haven't heard before:
Who will score more this season? Andrei Kostitsyn or Benoit Pouliot?
8) I think there's going to be a fantastic competition this year between four teams: The Bruins, the Habs, the Sabres and the Flyers. I figure those four are battling for spots between 3rd and 6th. I figure it'll come down to the wire.
Obviously, one of the NE teams wins a division, I just happen to think the Penguins and Capitals own theirs. So, I don't believe the Flyers will finish better than fourth.
9) I guess it's a tough call to suggest the Penguins are going to win their division without knowing whether or not Crosby will be ready for the start of camp. But assuming he's playing early in the season, I don't think there's anyone in their division that can give them a nail-biting race.
The Penguins pulled some rabbits out of the hat last season, with no Crosby for half of it, with no Staal for half of it, and with no Malkin for most of it.
They have one of the best blue lines in the game, a Stanley Cup-winning goalie, and they made some solid acquisitions in Steve Sullivan and James Neal.
If Crosby plays, I think they have the East.
10) Provided Price is nearly right at the level he reached last season, and Subban shows the slightest progression, you figure they'll cost the Canadiens?????