OK, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: the P.K. Subban trade was indefensible, and will probably continue to be so until he retires.
That being said, enough with the doom and gloom. Enough focusing on the one really bad thing to the exclusion of a lot of good things.
Does it suck that Subban got traded? Yes. Am I personally heartbroken that Lars Eller is going to go be great somewhere else? Yes, a bit. Would I rather Therrien had been replaced? Definitely. However, there is still a lot to be excited about.
Don’t forget that the Habs are still a very good team.
Some facts that seem to have been forgotten
- The team was absurdly injured last year. The Habs you remember from the end of the season were a broken husk of a team playing their third- and fourth-pairing AHL defencemen, Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and an army of fourth-liners/rushed rookies because everyone else was hurt or had been flipped for picks at the deadline. That wasn’t the real Habs. They have some legitimately good pieces, and most of those pieces are still here, hopefully poised for a much healthier year.
- Max Pacioretty was a 30-goal scorer for the third year running. On a team that has chronic scoring problems.
- Alex Galchenyuk scored 30 goals and had 26 assists, despite only being given top-three linemates and ice time (barely) at the very end of the year.
- Brendan Gallagher missed 29 games and still had 40 points.
- Carey Price is back, and he’s back with a vengeance.
- David Desharnais is actually a perfectly decent hockey player, and will probably take advantage of other teams’ third lines, especially with the likes of Daniel Carr, Andrew Shaw, or Sven Andrighetto on his wings.
- The Atlantic Division is a silly, silly place. Also, have I mentioned we have Carey Price?
To be fair, it’s not all rosy...
- Plenty has been said about Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw, most of it correct. Is Subban better than Weber? Absolutely, 100%, yes. Is Shaw a little over-priced? Sure (but maybe not as much as you might think). However, Weber is still a fully capable hockey player (for now), and Shaw is likely to be a decent contributor if he can toe the line between pest and the penalty box. Moreover, while I do personally believe that Eller is the more skilled player, when being used correctly, I think we can all agree that Shaw makes a more effective third-line winger than Eller — especially in Therrien’s system. And whether anyone likes it or not, Therrien is the coach of this team. So doesn’t it make more sense to have players who can succeed under him, instead of constantly trying to force square pegs into round holes and then wondering why they don’t fit? As to Eller’s defensive abilities, while they certainly are considerable, how much are they really going to be missed between Plekanec, Pacioretty, Mitchell and Byron?
- The potential for an Andrei Markov/Alexei Emelin second pairing is quite real, and very terrifying. However, Beaulieu, Pateryn, Redmond, and Sergachev all made very strong cases for themselves this pre-season, and give the team lots of options if that veteran duo can’t get it done.
- Al Montoya hasn’t looked fantastic, and neither has Mike Condon, while the less said about Zachary Fucale the better for now. However, Condon and Charlie Lindgren could make a pretty lethal AHL duo to make the team competitive, and the Habs have Carey Price.
- Speaking of, it is certainly entirely possible that Price doesn’t re-sign with the Habs in two years. However, that is borrowing trouble, and it is equally possible that he does sign with the Habs in two years. A lot of things can happen in that amount of time.
There are reasons for excitement
- Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Gallagher for a full season is going to equal a lot of goals and a lot of exciting play.
- Have you been paying attention to Artturi Lehkonen? Because if not, you should be. He’s here, and he’s the real deal.
- Alexander Radulov is in the house, and he’s probably the top-six winger we’ve all been waiting for.
- Tomas Plekanec put up 54 points last year with a wide variety of linemates, and any combination at all with he and Radulov, Lehkonen, Daniel Carr or Sven Andrighetto will be beastly, and should bring in some very nice secondary scoring.
- Nathan Beaulieu stepped up in a big way this preseason, and could be in for a monster year, Together with Greg Pateryn, they have looked fully ready for big NHL minutes.
- Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Paul Byron and Phillip Danault have shown that they still have what it takes to be a very strong fourth line.
- The kids are a lot better than the IceCaps’ record shows. (Check out some of the things Audette, McCarron, Hudon, and Lindgren have done in the last few weeks.)
- The Habs have looked pretty decent all pre-season, and have done so while only once dressing something resembling their opening night lineup: a 6-1 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs in their final game.
- The Habs draft well, and this most recent draft was no exception. Mikhail Sergachev will be on the roster for at least one regular-season game this year. Will Bitten was also a pleasant surprise at rookie camp.
- Apparently, Therrien was the one who approached Kirk Muller about coming aboard, which is a really big deal. We only had a handful of pre-season games, but already Muller’s influence is all over this team. Power plays (even those run by rookies against NHL teams) have shown better creativity and puck movement, as well as showcasing surprises like Pateryn’s point-shot (did you know he could shoot like that? I sure didn’t). Moreover, while the old dump and chase method certainly still is being employed, we’re glimpsing a bit more of the puck-carrying that the Habs displayed at the beginning of last year.
It’s been a long off-season, but the Habs should be both fun to watch, and successful this year. There are a lot of positives about this team, and we might as well start appreciating them.