2014 Montreal Canadiens Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/16/2014
The Habs made it further than anyone outside of Montreal imagined possible as they came within just two games of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Now they have the challenge of building on the momentum created by the overachievement without falling into a trap of tripping over their own egos that are surely inflated by what they accomplished.
Two things make me nervous heading into this season. First, defenseman P.K. Subban has signed a massive contract and is one of the richest players in the league. He unquestionably deserves it as he is a truly special player, but that kind of move can have a negative impact on a locker room when a team hasn't typically paid huge money to players - especially because the Suban negotiation process was far from smooth. Second, with the departure of Brian Gionta through free agency the team was without a captain. Losing Gionta doesn't concern me, but the decision to not appoint a new captain and instead go with four alternates sharing the role does. A team in this situation needs strong leadership, and my concern is that the overly democratic approach to this problem could lead to a generally softer attitude on the ice. There are certainly opportunities for success in the East right now, and Montreal has a lot going for them, so this seems like a missed opportunity.
Montreal Canadiens Offseason Moves
There was more subtraction than addition this offseason, but somehow it seems like a net positive. Thomas Vanek moved on after being acquired at the trade deadline as expected. Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges both went to Buffalo. Daniel Briere was traded to Colorado after just one year in Montreal. Some other role players and spare parts were dispatched as well.
The key addition was what was returned in the Briere trade - the much younger P.A. Parenteau. He should be able to step into Gionta's role as the second right winger, and he has plenty of upside. Jiri Sekac is an under-the-radar prospect who can hopefully step into a top nine role as well. Manny Malhotra was clearly the first target in free agency for the team. He doesn't add a lot offensively, but he is so strong on faceoffs and generally disciplined that he is a big asset that takes pressure off of the forwards he plays with. Finally, Tom Gilbert is a defenseman who can take power play minutes and play behind the big stars effectively without a big dropoff.
The 2014 draft, led by first-round pick Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades, was solid but isn't expected to have a real impact this year.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Outlook
The Canadiens need a leader to emerge and carry this team on his shoulders. If that happens then there is a lot of upside here. The goaltending is world class - as good as any team in the league. They are exceptionally strong on the top defensive pairing as well and reasonably sound after that. It's up front that is going to make or break this team. There isn't an established offensive star on the squad, so the pressure is going to be on a lot of guys to carry their weight. Youngsters like Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk need to continue their progression. Max Pacioretty and P.A. Parenteau need to take a step as well. If the offensive core can have a strong year then this team could replicate their season from last year. Without an obvious leader or someone to step up and score when no one else is, though, then it could be a frustrating year.
Montreal Canadiens Schedule
The Habs jump into the deep end right out of the gate, playing four road games in six days to start off the season. It will be a good test of where the team is at. The always-rabid hometown crowd should be particularly fired up by the time they finally head home.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Canadiens sit at 18/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which places them behind just 10 teams. That seems a bit optimistic on the part of the oddsmakers from where I am sitting. They are the fifth choice to win the Eastern Conference at 17/2 and the 9/2 third choice in the Atlantic Division. There doesn't seem to be any value in betting on them.
2014-15 Montreal Canadiens Predictions
I expect the season for the Habs this year to look much like what last year was supposed to - a competitive team that is certainly playoff bound but which will fall short of anything impressive once they do so. There was a lot to like about their run last year, but it seems more like the maximizing of potential over the short term than something that can really be built on. It's going to be a nice team to watch, and they will look world class a times, but ultimately they are just a step or three behind the truly elite teams.
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