The Canadiens have had a good start to the 2016-17 campaign, and while there are some that continue to criticize the team, they hold a very strong record that is yet to be topped by any other NHL club. The first place Habs are 13-2-2, with 28 points. Despite this, slight weaknesses are becoming more apparent as the season progresses. It’s nothing new that the Habs rely on their star goaltender, Carey Price a little too much at times but other problems are beginning to become a concern for the team.
In their last outing against the Florida Panthers, the Canadiens were without their newly signed winger, Alexander Radulov. The forward was listed as day-to-day with an illness. Since being brought in from the KHL, Radulov has proven that he is an integral part of an otherwise offensively challenged forward group. The team has a few main scorers, like Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, but Radulov’s acquisition had eased the load on these few players. When the team was without him, the offensive issues from season’s past re-emerged.
Prior to Radulov’s illness, the Habs’ offensive lines (as of November 9th) looked like this:
Byron – Galchenyuk – Radulov
Andrighetto – Plekanec – Gallagher
Pacioretty – Danault/Desharnais – Shaw
Carr – Mitchell – Flynn
With Radulov out of the lineup, the Habs’ lines (as of November 15th) looked like this:
Byron – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
Andrighetto – Plekanec – Desharnais
Pacioretty – Danault – Shaw
Carr – Mitchell – Terry
Let’s face it, the Habs with Radulov look like a much scarier team on paper than without him. Having unproven scorers in the top-six shows how the team needs to build on its offensive depth if the Habs want to contend this season. The team already only has five legitimate top-six forwards (Galchenyuk, Pacioretty, Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, Radulov), and losing one has a big impact on the lineup.
The NHL season is long and strenuous; injuries will happen. The problem is, if an injury occurs to the Canadiens’ delicate offensive core, the team is immediately handicapped. The lineup shifts, and the team plays like they’re missing a piece.
Most of the Habs’ recent moves suggest that they’re looking to make a deep playoff run this season, and if this is the case, they should look to help pad their top-six offense with either experience or skill in order to avoid a crisis if/when injuries occur. According to Eric Engels of SportsNet, the Habs are on the lookout for some offensive help.
Told this morning Martin Hanzal could be on the move soon from Arizona. Activity heating up. Canadiens among a few teams in the hunt.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) November 17, 2016
Hanzal is a 29-year-old Czech forward who stands at 6 feet 6 inches. He isn’t known around the league for being an extremely gifted scorer, though he has put up decent and consistent numbers over the last five to six years on a Coyotes team that rarely contends for the playoffs. This isn’t to say that he’s the solution to the Canadiens’ offensive problems, but he is big, and he can put points on the board in approximately 60% of his games (on average statistically).
The Canadiens’ offence is rather fragile, since one important absence can lead to major shuffles and role changes. Naturally, when an important player misses games, there is a void in the lineup, but the hole to fill usually isn’t as drastic as what the Habs are experiencing in Radulov’s absence. Luckily for the team, the winger should only be out for a few more days.
The Habs face-off against the Hurricanes on Friday night, and will again be without Radulov.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) November 17, 2016
Hopefully the team can continue their high-level of play despite missing one of their most important offensive pieces.
It’s Still Early
Look at the bright side: it’s November. The Habs are running into this problem now, which is kind of a good thing. If it were March, there’d be reason for real concern, but at this point Canadiens’ GM, Marc Bergevin has lots of time before the NHL trade deadline to search for a forward that can help provide depth and offense this season.
The Habs are back in Montreal on Saturday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs. It has not been announced whether Radulov will be available for the game.
Here’s footage from before today’s morning skate that shows another thing Price is great at. Isn’t he just the best?
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 17, 2016
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.