Even before the 2015-16 season starts up, with Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin done for the summer, there are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up.
Like a daytime soap opera, with manufactured drama at every turn, you can’t turn away, nor should you want to. At the very least, the upcoming campaign promises plenty of lasting intrigue, care of primarily these top five ever-enduring storylines:
5. How Will the Defense Shape out?
Montreal Canadiens fans have a pretty good idea that Andrei Markov will start the year playing with P.K. Subban, but it remains to be seen if he’ll stay there or not. After Subban spent a good portion of the playoffs covering for an exposed Markov, there’s speculation the latter was simply injured in an admittedly sadistic best-case scenario. Alternatively, his 36, going on 37 years in age may be catching up to him.
Furthermore, 2010 first-round pick Jarred Tinordi is no longer waiver-exempt, meaning there’s a good chance he gets picked up by another team if he doesn’t become a full-time member of the Canadiens, whether it’s in the lineup or in the press box.
With Alexei Emelin earning a salary-cap hit of $4.1 million, the argument is Tinordi could in theory do a more cost-effective job in his place. But will head coach Michel Therrien see it that way?
4. What Does Carey Price Have in Store for a Follow-up?
Everyone pretty much assumes goalie Carey Price will have another great season, but will it be as great as his Hart Memorial Trophy-winning campaign last year? More importantly, if it isn’t, will it be enough to propel the Canadiens to a second-straight Atlantic Division title?
The 2014-15 Canadiens season essentially reads like a grade-school whodunit. A cursory glance at the facts reveals in no time who’s responsible. His .933 save percentage, 1.96 goals-against average and team-record 44 wins were all incredibly impressive. The real mystery: Can he do it again?
3. Who Will Be Captain?
Last season the Canadiens opted not to go with a captain. Markov, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Subban were made alternates, with each going on to enjoy great seasons.
The announcement was made at around this point last year at the team’s annual charity golf tournament, so the news should be coming soon. But when (or if) an actual captain is announced the idle speculation won’t be over with. Then the second-guessing will begin.
For the record, with Plekanec set to reach unrestricted free agency next summer and Markov reportedly never having been interested, it really should come down to Pacioretty and Subban. Or will it, for some reason, be Brendan Gallagher?
2. Will the Alexander Semin Signing Pay off?
There is no doubt Alexander Semin has skill. The question has always revolved around his work ethic. Now the question becomes whether he will gel with Therrien, seeing as the latter is known to value hard work more than anything else.
It’s not necessarily a faulty philosophy, but, with the Habs in dire need of scoring and a boost to the power play, Semin potentially becoming a press-box fixture is a hot topic for debate.
It’s hard to imagine the $1.1 million signing backfiring. In many ways, not inking Semin would not have made sense for the price at which Bergevin got him. And, if he does turn out to be the locker-room cancer most everyone makes him out to be? Simply absorb the salary-cap penalty and send him down to the minors.
The level of risk associated with the deal really is that laughably low. Still, Semin not producing, especially after scoring just six goals last season, is a definite possibility. Look for regular updates into his scoring prowess or woes by mid-season at the latest (assuming of course you won’t be keeping tabs on him yourself).
1. When Will Alex Galchenyuk Be Played at Center?
With Alex Galchenyuk entering his fourth year in the league, Therrien at the very least seems open to the possibility of regularly playing him at center… which would be cause for optimism were it not so downright hilarious, seeing as he was drafted as one and the team has severely needed a No.1 pivot for decades.
#Habs Therrien on Galchenyuk at C: "Near the point (of placing him there)" but wants to put 27 in positions where he won't lose confidence.
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) August 11, 2015
People tend to forget that Alex Galchenyuk admittedly did play center last season. He just only played around 170 minutes of it, between Pacioretty and Gallagher. And, while he did enjoy some success, it wasn’t enough for Therrien to keep him there.
This could finally be the year. Wait and see.