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A Lockout Winner

It would be hard for Montreal to have a worse season than 2011-12 -- they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference -- but I don't see a big change in the team's fortunes as we enter the lockout-shortened 2012-13. No need to recount the indignities suffered by the Canadiens last season, an embarrassing campaign which led to front-office and behind-the-bench changes. But the labor impasse buys general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien some time to implement changes. Little was expected even if the season started as normal last fall, but those expectations are lowered with a shorter schedule. It's a built-in excuse for a sub-par season. But the short season is also a concession I'll grant Bergevin and Therrien. With less than a week of training camp, there's very little time for the decision-makers to implement the on-ice changes or the players to adjust to change. It's the stable franchise, one with little organizational change that should do well and carry the burden of expectation. The Canadiens can continue on a course for a high draft pick while cleaning up the problems afflicting their roster. Bergevin/Therrien brought in a couple of heavy hitters that should make it tougher on opponents when beating the Canadiens. Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong won't solve Montreal's anemic offense, but teams will know they've been in a battle. This will be an opportune season for the Canadiens to let some younger talent develop, like Louis Leblanc and Lars Eller. Or give some real neophytes, with high offensive upside, like Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, minutes in the NHL.

Comments

By: Steve Emmert
On: 1/14/2013 7:16:00 AM
I agree that this is likely to be another frustrating year for Montreal fans. I recall looking at the team's roster in October 2011 and musing that I couldn't see a single 65-point scorer. As it turns out, I was just barely wrong -- Pacioretty reached that number on the button. The team finished in the lower-middle of the pack in goals per game last season, but I don't see any meaningful increase in the truncated season that we're about to "enjoy." Perhaps you're right that another high draft pick will bear fruit down the line.

One irony of this sad state of affairs: This is the same franchise that was once so prolific in power-play scoring, the league changed the rules on them. Younger fans may not believe this, but once upon a time, a player didn't get a free ticket out of the penalty box when his opponents scored on a power play. You could score two or three times with the man advantage, and the Canadiens became so adept at skating with a man up, the league decided to reduce that advantage so the Habs wouldn't be quite so dominant. The vote to make that change was 5-1, with only Montreal voting against it.
 

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