TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie gets you set for the NHL season with a look at all seven Canadian teams. Next up, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Montreal Canadiens have a new look in the front office with GM Marc Bergevin and behind the bench with Michel Therrien, but when it comes right down to it, it's largely the same cast of core characters who will be looking to make amends on last year's fall from playoff grace.
New direction and new leadership off the ice will certainly count for something, and by adding character guys like Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong for depth up front, it's not fair to portray the Canadiens as same old, same old.
But the top three Hab centres are still Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Scott Gomez, though Montreal will give third overall draft pick Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting a chance to show his stuff in training camp. Galchenyuk has played both centre and left wing in junior.
The givens up front will be Desharnais between Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole, and that Brian Gionta will bring his same energy and effort on a consistent basis. Montreal is hoping Lars Eller can take on an increased workload and the Canadiens desperately need Rene Bourque to find a level of consistency. No one doubts Bourque's ability but his effort level waxes and wanes.
Prust is a valuable teammate who fights, hits and does all the things expected of him, ditto for Travis Moen and Ryan White. Armstrong, meanwhile, will have to show he's mobile and healthy enough to still contribute but the Habs also hope to give some youngsters from Hamilton, Brendan Gallagher and Gabriel Dumont, an opportunity to at least audition.
The defence has its share of question marks. Andrei Markov has to stay healthy and that's always been a challenge. P.K. Subban has to sign a new contract, and early indications are it may not come easily, and even if he's in the lineup, it will be interesting to see the dynamic between P.K. and Therrien.
Josh Gorges is old reliable and Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz, Yannick Weber and Francis Bouillon round out a blueline crew that could be quite good if it stays healthy and responds to Therrien's new approach. Oh, and we mustn't forget Tomas Kaberle, who has the skill to be a top-six factor but given recent history, there are questions about the will.
Youngster Jarred Tinordi and AHLer Frederic St. Denis from Hamilton could be options in the not-too-distant future but there should be enough veteran D, for now, to give Therrien lots of options.
It goes without saying Carey Price needs to be on top of his game for any Hab renaissance to take place. With Peter Budaj as the back-up, Price is the undisputed No. 1.
It's going to be fascinating to see how this group responds to new coach Therrien but it's almost impossible to imagine this Montreal team being as poor and dispirited as last year's group ended up.