With the new season only weeks away, training camp is wrapping up for the Montreal Canadiens, with all of the players looking to improve on last year's season.
There are many players keen to impress their new team, such as Jonathan Drouin and Jakub Jerabek, as well as players who need to live up to expectations, like Alex Galchenyuk.
But there are also some who went through down years last season, and are looking to rebound in order to keep their places solidified in the lineup. Here are a couple of Habs that are looking to come back in a big way in 2017-18.
Following Andrei Markov's departure this summer to the KHL, Plekanec is now the longest-tenured Canadien on the roster. He has faced a lot of scrutiny the past couple of seasons due to a large dip in his offensive production, as he scored only 10 goals and 18 assists this past year.
He is now the second-oldest player on the team (Streit is the oldest at 40), which may help explain his production, but he is still a two-way work horse, and fared relatively well when considering he started 60.3% of his shifts in the defensive zone.
He played most of his time last season with Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher, part of an effective shutdown line as they played about 157 minutes together.
How can he improve this year? Plekanec is slated to be the Habs’ third-line centre, behind Phillip Danault and Drouin. Despite this, you should still expect to see him used as the team’s top defensive pivot when needed, as that responsibility is gradually shifted onto Danault.
Playing with fellow countryman Hemsky could help his offensive game, but the pre-season trio with Artturi Lehkonen and Charles Hudon as his linemates has proven effective so far, and the two young wingers could rejuvenate their centreman’s play
To help the team the most, he will definitely need to put more pucks on the net, as he had just 139 shots on goal last year; his lowest total since his rookie season in 2005. A two-goal performance in the Red vs. White Scrimmage is at least an encouraging sign.
Predictions: 17 goals, 25 assists
The gritty-yet-skilled forward had a very up-and-down season in 2016-17, beginning the year in both the coach's and fans’ doghouse. Shaw played a style that had him taking unnecessary penalties, with the constant trips to the box making it difficult to find his form. However, that changed closer to the end of the season, especially when Claude Julien took over as head coach.
Julien reined in his new charge and allowed Shaw to find the line between playing a rough-nosed style and still being able to use his skill to contribute to the offence. Shaw definitely seemed to become more like the player we saw in Chicago, and finished the year with 12 goals and 17 assists.
In his second year with the Habs, Shaw will be hard-pressed to improve on last season. With the additions of Drouin and Hemsky, along with Lehkonen and Byron's emergence last year as top-six options, this creates a tough path for Shaw to play his way into Montreal's top nine.
He will most likely start the year in a fourth-line role, which could limit his ice time. However, the Canadiens’ forward group is among the best in the league, so even in that role he will have capable linemates. The discipline he showed in the latter half of last season could help him to be an effective offensive player, even on the bottom trio.
Prediction: 15 goals, 18 assists
The feisty forward has been victimized by injuries the last couple of seasons, fracturing his hand on two separate occasions, most recently via friendly fire in the form of a Shea Weber slapshot. He still managed to play 64 games last season, but the injury definitely affected his shooting, as he only scored 10 goals; lower even than his total in his lockout-shortened rookie season.
We've seen Gallagher's potential to be a 20- to 25-goal-scorer, as he posted 24 in 2014-15, and he might even be able to score 30 now if he could remain healthy, but concern is rising due to his two consecutive injuries. His struggles can’t be pinned on a lack of chances, as he registered 187 shots on goal last season.
A healthy season will do wonders for Gallagher, and new line configurations should help him even more. With Alex Galchenyuk possibly slotting in as a winger, Gallagher could once again team up with his long-time friend on opposite flanks. With a solid two-way centreman like Danault, Gallagher would be able to play more liberally on offence, skating to the net as Danault takes care of moving the puck.
He could also see time alongside Drouin, perhaps on the top line with Max Pacioretty, which could really give him a huge boost in terms of production.
Prediction: 25 goals, 30 assists