After a tumultuous 2018 the Montreal Canadiens are looking ahead to building upon the successful groundwork they’ve laid down this season. New faces have exploded offensively, old names continue to be steady productive pieces, and as a whole the team is continuing to shrug off suggestions that they weren’t good enough.
For 2019, I sat down before enjoying my New Year’s cigar and scotch, and thought of some resolutions for this team in the New Year.
For Tomas Tatar and Max Domi, continue to play like you have been all season. Your fresh starts in Montreal have reignited the team and are driving the offence night in and night out. Keep playing with that chip on your shoulder, and keep proving those that counted you out wrong.
You’re no longer just the add-on in a prospect deal, or the return in a one-for-one trade anymore. Tatar, you’ve become one of the NHL’s best possession wingers, on one of the NHL’s top lines, and for Domi, you’re proving to be a great fit down the middle and have brought the best out of Jonathan Drouin. Just maybe don’t waste time fighting people....
For Carey Price, try to sleep, I know child number two won’t make that easy, but we believe in you. Get healthy also. Even if it’s a minor injury come back at 100%, this team needs you as their stable base every night. When you’re healthy and playing like you have been before the Christmas break this team is a threat to anyone in the league.
Jeff Petry and Shea Weber, having both of of you healthy has made the right side of the Canadiens defence among the best in the league. While Victor Mete and Brett Kulak have played well on the left, this next resolution is for Marc Bergevin to find a top-flight left handed defender to strengthen this defensive group.
Jonathan Drouin, you’re on pace for a career season, and when you’re on your game, it’s obvious why you were a top-three pick. My resolution for you is simple, tap into that “On Switch” type of game more consistently. You’ve been good this year, but the offence clearly suffers a bit when you’re having a poor night. Find that mindset that allows you to break defenders’ ankles, and put goalies’ jock straps into the rafters, and the Canadiens are laughing into the post-season.
Paul Byron, maybe skate a little slower? It’s hard to keep up while making gifs sometimes. Seriously, I think another 20-goal year would be fantastic, as you continue to be one of the NHL’s most underrated players.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen, don’t stop doing what you’re doing. Luck on goals has been tough on both of you, but at the same time you’re creating chances and terrorizing defences. For Jesperi, you’re so close to opening the floodgates, keep digging and you’ll be filling the net in no time flat.
Claude Julien, trust in your younger players. Charles Hudon and Brett Kulak have made their errors this year, but so has everyone on the team. Let them play through them, and trust in your staff to help them fix these mistakes. When your younger players play with confidence they’re at their best. A few small errors don’t sink a team, but not helping young players develop can do that long term.
In the AHL, Joël Bouchard, don’t change anything right now, the work you’re producing with a depleted lineup is admirable. You’re trusting players like Michael McCarron and Jake Evans to be their best selves, even if they slump for a little bit. For the first time in years, I can see a plan for prospects coming in, and they aren’t punished for occasional mistakes. With major names like Ryan Poehling, Josh Brook, and Nick Suzuki coming into the professional ranks soon, it’s reassuring to have a steady hand at the helm.
For the fans, we all root for the same team in the end. Get behind the team, trust the process, and let’s enjoy what should be a wild ride to the end of this year.