Montreal Canadiens 2017 offseason review
The 2017 summer offseason was one of big changes for the Montreal Canadiens. After an overall good season in 2016-2017 with a first-place finish in the Atlantic division despite a coaching change in February, the Montreal Canadiens did not meet expectations in the playoffs. A quick 6 games first round loss to the New York Rangers, a club that seemed weaker than the Canadiens, was an elimination that left fans and general manager Marc Bergevin on their appetite. The inability to score goals in important games was the main criticism addressed to the team at the end of the season.
To find a solution to this recurrent problem since the last few seasons, the Canadiens made a major trade on June 15, 2017. Jonathan Drouin was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in return of the promising defensemen Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin then signed a six-year deal for 33$ millions with the Habs. The addition of Jonathan Drouin is a very great move for Montreal. Not only he is a French-Canadian from the province of Quebec, but he is also a tremendous young player with a lot of talent and skills. He will sure bring a lot of excitement in this team for the coming season and years. Drouin can also play center and forward. From what we have heard from head coach Claude Julien, Drouin will be tested to both positions during training camp. If he proves to be the solution to the team center problem nightmare, the Canadiens will have made a stroke of genius!
Another big addition for the Canadiens was the signature of free agent-defenseman Karl Alzner previously with the Washington Capitals. His 5 years and 23 million dollars contract seems big at first look, but Alzner will bring a lot of leadership and toughness to the Canadiens. He will sure be an important piece for Claude Julien during penalty kill and maybe also on power play. He could be a very good replacement for Alexei Emelin whom the Canadiens lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in June and then to the Nashville Predators later in the summer. The big question in the training camp will be with which defensemen Alzner he will play. The Habs have many options with 7 other NHL defensemen with the team at the start of training camp. The most likely option is that he will see ice time with Shea Weber on the first pair but he could also be a great addition to the second pair with Jeff Petry.
Others move during the off season for the Montreal Canadiens include the arrival of defensemen Joe Morrow, David Schlemko and Mark Streit. Fowards Ales Hemsky, Matt Taormina, Byron Froese and Peter Holland. All of these players will likely battle for a place in the lineup during the camp. However, those who will be cut off by the team won't have to go too far because the farm team of the Habs is now located in Laval, Quebec just minutes away from Montreal. Many players have also quit the team during the summer. The most important and shocking departure was the one of defensemen Andrei Markov after 16 years with the team. Markov leaved from the KHL AK Bars Kazan at the end of July. His absence this season will sure be important for the Canadiens, especially on the power play and for the transition game between the defensemen and forwards. Another big departure was the one of free agent Alexander Radulov. After a very good comeback season with the Canadiens where he scored 18 goals and 54 points, Radulov decided to join the Dallas Stars for 5 years and 31 million dollars on July 3. His lost will also hurt the team, but to a lesser extent than Markov because the Canadiens have now Drouin to take the place of Radulov. Other departures also include Brian Flynn to the Dallas Stars and Nikita Nesterov and Dwight King to the KHL in Russia.
General manager Marc Bergevin take a lot of important decision for his team this summer and this will be really interesting to see how these changes will affect the team when the season starts. The Canadiens will play in a very tough Atlantic division again this year and making the playoffs will not be easy. However, this team have surely the potential to be in the playoffs again in April 2018.