Mystery in Montreal: How Will The Habs Fare In 2010?

Montreal has been going through a lot of changes since they were ousted in the semi-finals of this year’s Stanley Cup race. Some of the changes have been good, but others… well, we’re just going to have to see what the 2010-11 season will hold.

Here’s a re-cap of some of the recent goings on up in southern Quebec.

Big things ahead for Habs-nation

The most recent installment of the NHL Entry Draft brought some new faces to the Habs roster. With its first pick (22nd overall), Montreal took blue-liner Jarred Tinordi from the US Under-18 Development program. Later picks included Mark MacMillan from the British Columbia Hockey League, Morgan Ellis from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Brendan Gallagher from the Western Hockey League, and John Westin from Sweden.

The most exciting of these picks is Tinordi. A tall D-man, Tinordi has a good combination of size, toughness and speed. He was captain of the US Under-18 squad last season, registering six goals and 17 points in 65 games- he also tallied 105 penalty minutes. In addition, he went +8 and took home the gold medal with Team USA at the World Under-18 Championships (not too shabby, eh?). While he’s still a long way off from skating in the NHL, he has plenty of potential and will no doubt excel this fall when he suits up with the hot-and-cold University of Notre Dame.

MacMillan was also a smart pick for the Habs, who must see the promising future that lays ahead for versatile forward. Known more as a set-up man, Macmillian tallied 26 goals and 80 points in 59 games with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last season. He needs to gain some bulk before he can be taken seriously, but a good pick none the less. Ellis, another defenseman, had a decent 2009-10 with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, where he potted four goals and 29 points in 60 appearances.

Gallagher, a forward for the Vancouver Giants, had a great sophomore campaign, racking up 41 goals and 81 points in 72 games. He more than doubled his output from last season and put on a clinic in the WHL Playoffs, scoring 11 goals and 21 points in 16 games (more impressive? His +10 rating). Rounding out the draft is Westin, who played with various MODO clubs over in Sweden. He tallied eight goals and seven assists with MODO’s two J18 squads, and added 16 more goals and 26 points in 31 games with the J20 squad in the SuperElit league. He also had a respectable WJC-18 showing, netting three goals and an assist in six games with the Swedish U18 Team.

Prior to the draft, Montreal had a pretty epic playoff run (like you didn’t know that already- some of the best comebacks ever?), knocking out the mighty President’s Trophy winning, first seed Washington Capitals (not to mention Ovie) and then coming back in the next series to do the same thing against the 2009-10 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins (not to mention Crosby, Talbot, Fleury, Malkin…). We witnessed some incredible playoff hockey come from the likes of Mike Cammalleri (13g+6a), Brian Gionta (9g+6a), and Tomas Plekanec (4g+7a). Rookies even stepped up in the post season- how impressive was PK Subban? The defense had more blocked shots than a basketball team full of Lebron and Shaq clones. And then there was the play of Jaroslav Halak… oh, Halak.

In case you hadn’t heard, there was a trade in the past month that broke the hearts of Habs fans from Montreal to Madagascar. Our boy Halak, number 41 and the savior of the 2010 Montreal post-season, was dished to the Blues in exchange for forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. Most scouts say Eller is second-line at best and Schultz is not much more than a goon (although he has had decent numbers with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL). To trade a skilled goaltender like Halak for two guys who could potentially spend next couple of seasons in the minors (or worse) was a foolish move on Montreal’s part.

Does Price have what it takes in 2010?

A direct result of this trade puts the team in the exact same position that they’ve been in for the past three seasons: all the pressure is on the 22 year-old shoulders of Carey Price.

The mentality of Price in Montreal isn’t that he will be the next Patrick Roy, it’s that he is the next Patrick Roy. The fact is, Price has yet to prove himself at the NHL level- he’s gotten consistently worse every season and has yet to hit the 25-wins-in-a-season mark- and for him to continuously get the starting job in the crease at the Bell Center is unfair- both for him and for the rest of the guys on the Canadiens depth chart. He simply isn’t ready for the pressure that comes with being the Montreal Canadiens netminder. He’ll really have to step up his play, but don’t count out a veteran netminder coming to Montreal in the coming weeks to show him how to do it.

A great article in the August issue of The Hockey Newsreports even more upheaval raging through Habs-nation. Team President Pierre Boivin will be getting the boot come next summer (although some sources say he won’t make it to 2011), with his replacement being none other than Geoffrey Molson, the head honcho of the CH Group- owners of the Habs and the Bell Center. A more in-depth article on this story can be viewed at habsinsideout.com.

These excerpts from the THN article is all you need to know about this decision and why it’s a bad one:

“It appears as though Geoffrey Molson… who has never run a big business in his life, thinks he can operate a multi-million dollar sports enterprise better than the guy who, in no particular order: played a key role in tripling the value of the franchise; established the Canadiens Children’s Foundation; ushered the franchise through its ambitious and hugely successful 100th anniversary celebrations; and made former owner George Gillett a ton of money in the nine years he owned the team.”

And:

“The average fan should care about those things… That’s because no matter what the organization is, the decisions made at the top trickle down to the ice eventually and if the wrong person is making those decisions, they’re going to have a negative effect.”

Let’s hope for the sake of the franchise- not to mention the fans- that Molson listens very carefully to what Boivin has to say in the next 10 months.

2010 in Montreal is going to be a season of “what-ifs”. What if the Habs made the right choice and Halak turns out to be a flop in St. Louis? What if Eller skates out opening night at the Bell Center and nets two goals? What if Price decides to play with the All-Star caliber that he’s certainly capable of? What if the boys in le-bleu-blanc-et-rouge carry a little of that playoff magic with them into October?

But what if none of that happens? What then?

The Hockey Writers
The Hockey Writers is: 1) a top tier emerging media hockey resource 2) a collective of some of the best hockey writers on the Internet 3) a radio show 4) one of the best NHL Prospects resources on the net 4) a source for an in-depth look at the NHL 5) your first destination for 'meatier' hockey information
The Hockey Writers

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