It was a tough year for the bleu, blanc et rouge. Management needs to turn the page to next season and see what they can salvage from a promising core that was sent reeling off course. Let's take a quick look at five things the Montreal Canadiens might do to improve next year, and five things they will do to refocus on winning a Stanley Cup.
We sat down with the management team to determine what moves the team should make before next year.
Suggestion: Unload dead weight and make a push to sign Steven Stamkos.
It's a bit of a pipe dream, but the reality is there are thirty teams in the NHL that could use Stamkos. As one of the premier goal scorers in the game, he would give Montreal another weapon in their top six, complementing expected thirty-goal-scorers Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
Montreal's offence would be bolstered to a level it hasn't been in years, as the team would have an explosive forward group that could pummel opponents into submission.
How to do it: If the Habs can unload the contracts of the underperforming David Desharnais and Alexei Emelin they could free up the necessary cap space to add the veteran scorer. It would be a bold move, and one that could undo virtually all of the damage done by last season in one fell swoop.
Management says: Stamkos is a tight fit on this cap, and may not bring in the defensive acumen and grit our forward corps requires. It's a tough market to get a top-six guy.
Here's an option you may not have considered: Dale Weise.
He has grit, and he's expressed interest in returning to Montreal. Last season was a learning season, a transition season, a growing season for Dale. He knows Montreal and we know him. We're confident he'll bring the scoring we need. There just aren't any top-six guys available. Bringing back Weise is the right move.
Suggestion: The team should publicly mend its fractured relationship with star P.K. Subban.
Rangers fans bristled at a New York paper's insinuation that Henrik Lundqvist was to blame following a blowout loss to the Penguins in the playoffs, but it was a sentiment that seemed familiar to Habs fans. Subban is often saddled with the team's failures, and never moreso than this season, when the absence of Carey Price only narrowed the crosshairs on Montreal's superstar defenceman.
How to do it: A public acknowledgement of the team's faith in Subban, his importance to the community, and an adamant statement that trading him is not an option would be a great PR move for a team that could desperately use one. It would reassure the fan base and provide some stability for the suddenly reeling franchise.
Management says: You want good PR? What if we start with re-signing Dale Weise? He's a beloved glue guy who's notched a few big-time goals for the Habs in the playoffs in past years. Re-signing a fan favourite is a great way to boost the morale of the fanbase. Look at what happened with John Scott. What an end to the season!
Looking at this from a PR standpoint, it seems like bringing back Weise is the best move here.
Suggestion: Fire head coach Michel Therrien and examine the team's staffing at every level.
Montreal came firing out of the gate last year, and for the first dozen games of the season the team appeared to have morphed into an analytical darling. They were pouring on shot attempts, suffocating opponents and scoring goals.
And then the wheels came off.
When the losses came, so too did a return to form for Therrien. His team returned to a dump-and-chase style that failed to provide support for mediocre goaltending, veterans received ice time over promising young players, and the plug was pulled on the season by January.
How to do it: Releasing the coaching staff at both the NHL and AHL levels could solve serious systemic issues for the organization and shake the shackles off its premier offensive players.
Management says: Fancy alliteration on that last sentence, but we've already said it. Therrien will be behind the bench to start next season. Remember the whole 'foxhole guy' thing?
And since we're sticking it out with the coach, why not bring back one of his favourite players? It sounds like a crazy idea, but we may just pull Dale Weise back into the fold. Seems like that might be the right move here.
Suggestion: Take a serious look at why the team has overcommitted to depth in the bottom six.
In a league where teams are stacking their top six and even expanding scoring to their top nine, filling out your bottom six forwards doesn't seem like a pressing need. But the Habs have continued to add depth forwards to their roster, bringing in Mike Brown at the trade deadline as one of the team's only prominent additions.
Factor in the additions of Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, John Scott, Stefan Matteau, and Philip Danault over the past year, and it's clear the Canadiens are putting a lot of stock in their bottom six forwards.
How to do it: Just—just stop signing bottom-six guys for a little while. Please. Please.
Management says: Look, there's no such thing as too much depth, especially when that depth boasts versatility.
And there are few wingers who have showcased that versatility as ably as Dale Weise, who has proven he can score occasionally when given premier minutes with one of the league's top shooters in Max Pacioretty. There are only a few hundred players in the NHL that could do that.
We love Weise, and it seems like bringing him back is the right move on this one.
Suggestion: Try -
Management says: Dale Weise.
EOTP: But -
Management: We really like Weise.
EOTP: ...damn it.
Management: Dale Weise seems like the right move here. Good talk.