2019 Montreal Canadiens Odds to win Stanley Cup with Expert Predictions
After an aggressive offseason that saw them add Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, the 2018 Montreal Canadiens improved by 25 points from the prior season - with Domi and Tatar as their two leading scorers. It was an impressive improvement. But not quite enough of one. Though they were in decent shape in the playoff race heading into the final weeks of the season, they lost two in California, then came home and lost to Carolina and Columbus - two teams they were in the race with. Those four losses were too much to overcome, and the Habs missed the playoffs by just two points.
Now they need to take another step forward, and they need to take advantage of what is a shrinking window in which both Shea Weber and Carey Price will be able to contribute to the extent that their contracts and reputations suggest they should.
Montreal Canadiens Offseason Moves
For a team that wasn't quite good enough last year, and which plays in a conference that is only getting tougher and deeper, it was a frustratingly quiet offseason for the Canadiens. They essentially stood pat. The closest thing to an impact move was bringing in second pairing defenseman Ben Chiarot on a three-year deal to take the spot that Jordie Benn had held. It is an upgrade, but not one that particularly moves the needle. They also made a switch at backup goalie, ditching Antti Niemi, who was a disappointment last year and is now in the KHL, in favor of Keith Kincaid, who was previously with the Devils. That's probably an upgrade, but it is still all about Carey Price for this team in net.
While the team didn't change much, it's not like they didn't try. They signed outstanding youngster Sebastian Aho from Carolina to an offer sheet - the first the league has seen since 2013. Carolina matched the deal in a heartbeat, though, so that was pretty much a wasted effort. They also pursued free agent Matt Duchene very heavily and reportedly fell just short when the player chose Nashville. So, it seems like it was less happiness with what the team had and more an inability to do anything about it that plagued the team this year.
They got a bit of a steal in the draft. At 15th, they selected
winger Cole Caufield, the highest scorer in the history of the U.S.
National Team Development Program. The Wisconsin commit had the talent to
be selected well within the Top 10, but he's undersized at 5'7", so he fell
to Montreal. Combined with guys like Ryan Poehling, the 2017 first-rounder
who had a hat trick in his NHL debut in the final game of last season, and
Nick Suzuki, the rookie who was a prize in the Max Pacioretty deal with
Vegas, Caufield makes up a solid core of future talent.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Outlook
Without a lot of changes to this roster, improvement will have to be driven by development from within. Luckily, there are a lot of guys who could take steps forward - and who need to. Jonathan Drouin improved last year. However, in his third year with the team, he really needs to establish himself. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick last year, was solid as a rookie but can only get better with consistency. Max Domi had an impressive 72-point season but has yet to reach close to his massive ceiling. Guys like Tatar and Phillip Danault can prove that strong seasons last year were no fluke and that they can even be built on. Rookies like Poehling or Suzuki could step up and prove themselves. If they can develop from within, then this is a team that can exceed what the odds would suggest are pretty modest expectations.
Montreal Canadiens Schedule
The Habs open up on the road in Carolina, Toronto and Buffalo. That's a tough stretch of games against two very likely playoff teams and another that would really like to be. But it is a very good opportunity for this team to jump out of the gate and make an early statement that they are serious. Winning two of those three would be a big boost.
Montreal Canadiens NHL Futures Odds
The Canadiens are at +3300 to win the Stanley Cup, which places them much closer to the back of the pack than the front. They are the 12th choice to win the Eastern Conference at +2000 and the fifth choice to win the Atlantic Division at +2500 - though fourth choice Florida is miles ahead at +600. Their season point total is set at 88.5, with balanced action. They are +125 to make the playoffs compared to -145 to miss them.
2019-20 Montreal Canadiens Predictions
This team enters the season healthy. They are young but with a core of veteran experience to guide them. And they have a lot of upside. I like this team - probably more than I should. I have them penciled in for a playoff spot as one of what could be five playoff teams from the brutally tough Atlantic Division. I think it's a mistake to sleep on this team - though an injury to Carey Price would shake my conviction in an instant.
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