What exactly were the expectations for the Montreal Canadiens this season?
This summer some analysts and fans alike thought Gainey did as good a job possible with bringing in some new offensive talent to the Habs replacing the team’s core of past years.
When it came time for the yearly spree of predictions on where each team would finish the season some thought the Canadiens would not make the playoffs. Most did put them in the lower part of the 8 places for the eastern conference. That is about where I thought they would finish, maybe about 6th place in the east with all the changes in players and coaching.
Looking at where the Canadiens are now I feel somewhat optimistic. Some of you might be wondering why I’d be optimistic when the Canadiens are 9 wins and 10 losses so far this season.
Well the reason is simple.
The team is struggling both offensively and defensively. Some nights it’s been horrid defense and some nights it’s the pucks that aren’t going in. But there have also been several nights where the team has displayed some very strong defensive play along with other nights that they’ve created many scoring chances.
And here’s the secret ingredient to my optimism…they’ve managed to stay competitive without Andrei Markov.
Why does that matter so much or matter at all??
Well previous to this season the Montreal Canadiens haven’t faired well without (arguably) their best player Andrei Markov. There’s a great analysis on the numbers with and without Markov that can be found here.
From 2005 to 2009 the Montreal Canadiens have played a total of 24 games without Andrei and their record is 5 wins 19 losses. The core that Montreal had around him really fell apart without him.
This year, taking away the first game that the Canadiens have played with Markov in which they won the team is 8 wins and 10 losses.
That is a much better record so far without the team’s best player… and one of the league’s best offensive defensemen.
Add to that Ryan O’Byrne being out of the lineup since the 2nd game of the season and now Hal Gill going down… Sergei Kostitsyn not taking his place in the lineup that was his to grab and a real lack of secondary scoring….
I’d say the Montreal Canadiens are fairing quite well so far if instead we don’t look at their record but compare them to the old regime (players). Imagine now if this team gets a Ryan O’Byrne who is fresh, healthy, hungry to play and picks it up where he left off prior to injury being very physical and making room in front of Price and/or Halak. Now imagine if Markov comes back fresh, hungry to play and healthy in time for a playoff run… if the Habs can hang in there I wouldn’t bet against them making the playoffs.
I realize that Markov may be a bit of a question mark after such a severe injury… but only time will tell.
So is it all so gloomy in Montreal?