Carey Price was heavily-decorated last year - not just the Vezina Award for top goalie but the Hart Trophy as MVP. He deserved it all. This is a team that really struggled to score and was laughably hopeless on the power play. That should be a recipe for disaster, but they managed to tally 110 points. The reason for the success was simple - you don't have to score that much when other teams consistently can't score on you. Price is the best goalie on the planet right now and the biggest key for this team.
The guy who bears the biggest burden behind Price is P.K. Subban. The $9 million man is by far the highest-paid player on the team, and he's an increasingly visible player around the league - he has never met a camera he didn't love. It was notable in some eyes that it was Max Pacioretty, and not Subban, who was named captain earlier this offseason when the team had a vacancy, but that's not an issue in my eyes - Pacioretty is a great fit. Subban is extremely talented, and he was great last year, but has had effort issues in his past. As long as he can stay on his current path and not read and believe the headlines surrounding him then he should be fine. He needs to be.
Montreal Canadiens Offseason Moves
As was the case with a surprising number of teams, the Habs mostly stood pat this year. There are only two guys likely to see significant playing time that weren't on the team last year. The first is a guy with massive upside and a chance to really help the offensive issues. Alexander Semin is a special talent and has had seven 20-goal seasons - and has had at least 38 goals two different times. He can flat out score. He's lazy, though, and was a total disaster last year in Carolina - just six goals in 57 games. He's only 31, but after signing him to a five-year, $35 million extension in March of 2013 they bought him out this summer. Semin needed a chance more than he needed money, so Montreal landed him for just $1.1 million. There is a good chance he can be as uninspired and underwhelming as he was last year. The potential is huge, though, and this could be a rebirth for him - especially if he can find linemates to mesh with. The second addition was Zack Kassian, a 24 year old they got in trade from Vancouver for Brandon Prust. He's a tough player with offensive upside, but he needs to be better than he was last year. Pressure will be relatively low as the third right winger on the team, and he could also prove to be a nice addition at a very reasonable price.
If there is a concern here it is that they have not added surefire offensive help to the roster. Both key pieces could be very good, or they could be
Montreal Canadiens NHL Outlook
Price is key here. If he is as good as he is capable of being then this team can at least replicate what they did last season - being among the elite in the conference and making a good playoff run. If he falters, or if the offense isn't even up to the level of last year, though, then this team could easily take a step back. It would take a really big step back for them not to be a playoff team, though - not in their relatively soft division.
Montreal Canadiens Schedule
The team plays their first four games, and eight of their first 12, on the road. It can be nice to get a good chunk of road games out of the way early - but only if they are able to perform well in those games. Included in that stretch are tough trips to Boston and Pittsburgh and a potentially tough western Canadian swing. It's a good way to get an early sense of how good this team is going to be. A lot of time on the road with his new teammates early on could also be a good way for Semin to settle in and rediscover his love of the game. He needs to get out to a fast start because there is no harsher fanbase and media than Montreal's, and they will be all over him if he plays like he did last year.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Canadiens are +1800 to win the Stanley Cup , which ties them with Nashville and Washington as the ninth choice. They are the fifth choice to win the East at +800 and the second choice at +240 to win the Atlantic Division.
2015-16 Montreal Canadiens Predictions
The East is very tough, but there is value betting on the Canadiens. I like the Semin gamble a lot and am bullish about Kassian, too. Pacioretty as captain is a great move as well. The offense should be a little bit better. Price is easy to like, and this team always has to be respected - especially in the playoffs - with him between the pipes. I would happily bet the team to win the East and the Cup at these prices. They aren't the best team in the league, but in relative terms they are attractive.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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