Montreal Canadiens: Will They End Canada’s Cup Drought?
For the hockey mecca of the world, Canada hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993. Ironically, it was the Montreal Canadiens who captured the holy grail at that time. They’re also the ones with the best chance to end the drought 25 years later.
Simple. The Canadiens have a new bench boss, a more dangerous offense and the NHL’s best goaltender hands down.
Brought in midseason last year, Claude Julien will have an entire training camp to get to know his players and implement new plays to his playbook. He has the freedom to call bold plays in 2017-18′, a by-product of acquiring the creative Jonathan Drouin. Selected third overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Drouin is a dynamic playmaking winger. His vision is second to none, allowing him to see plays other guys cannot. That will certainly help the power play.
They re-signed winger Alex Galchenyuk as well, hoping he could continue building into a top player in the league. Despite missing 21 games with a knee injury, he ranked third on the Canadiens with 44 points. His defensive game needs improvement, something the defensive minded Julien will see occurs. Truth be told, Drouin’s defense wasn’t up to NHL standards either so there’s hope for both.
Yes, the loss of dynamic scorer Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars will hurt. However, if Drouin can put up some of the numbers he did in 2016-17′ there’s hope for the Canadiens to advance deep into the playoffs. Heck, it’s not a stretch to think that he and Galchenyuk could develop into one of the formidable 1-2 punches in the league if healthy.
Defensively, the Canadiens lost two of their top blueliners in Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov. Both played integral roles in Montreal’s Atlantic Division title last season, evidenced by Markov’s plus-18 rating. That was good for third on the team, behind only Shea Weber and Paul Byron.
Adding Karl Alzner was smart, as it adds longevity and another sound player to the back-end. Drafted fifth overall by the Washington Capitals back in 2007, Alzner hasn’t missed a game in seven years. Last season, he tallied 13 points and a plus-23 rating. He’ll be asked to help Weber munch minutes, a task he will likely welcome.
In net, the Canadiens ride Carey Price. He carried them to a division crown last year before falling short in six games to the New York Rangers. They’ll need him to stay healthy, as Al Montoya’s a solid backup but not much more. Then again, an improved offense might ease his load.
Can the Montreal Canadiens finally end Canada’s Stanley Cup drought? While unknown, they have the pieces to make it deep into the 2018 postseason. If that happens, one can bet the entire Canadian nation will be watching, hoping to see their first championship in a while.