Marc Bergevin has been one of the most active general managers this off-season. He added a few key players that fit the style of team he’s looking for – a team that’s bigger, stronger and difficult to play against.
Additions: Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, Zach Redmond, Alexander Radulov and Al Montoya
Notable Subtractions: P.K. Subban and Lars Eller
With the amount of trades and signings that Bergevin made this summer, it’s around that time when we explore what the new and improved lineup will look like. Below are my projected forward lines for this coming season:
Max Pacioretty-Alex Galchenyuk-Alexander Radulov
Galchenyuk wasn’t drafted to be played on the wing. He was drafted to be a number one center. I understand that most centers coming into the league will usually play the first year or two seasons on the wing. It helps them gradually adjust to the speed of the NHL and reduces their defensive responsibilities at the start. Following his two years on the wing, Michel Therrien gave Galchenyuk 12 games at center. In that time, he played between Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. He scored nine goals in ten games and recorded his first career hat-trick. But when the team went through a minor mid-season slump, Galchenyuk was demoted and moved back to wing and coach favourite David Desharnais was moved back to first line center.
This past season he started with Alexander Semin on his right and Lars Eller on his left. Semin was on the decline at the time and it was to be expected that he and Michel Therrien wouldn’t mesh well; his stint lasted about 15 games. Eller was added to complement Galchenyuk defensively. I will talk about the problem with Eller on the wing soon.
Even though it took an injury to Desharnais for Galchenyuk to emerge, it was the highlight of this disastrous season to see the former 3rd overall pick finally pan out through the middle. Galchenyuk’s highest production rate came from playing alongside Max Pacioretty. He had 14 goals in 16 games. Furthermore, he and Pacioretty both potted 30 goals. There is no doubt that these two will rekindle their chemistry come October.
The right side was the weakest it’s ever been this past season. The injury to Gallagher meant rotating wingers on the right side. Dale Weise, Torrey Mitchell, Paul Byron, Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Carr and Brian Flynn all had opportunities on the first line at some point throughout the year. The addition of Radulov not only adds depth to the right flank but addresses the need for a top six forward.
(It only took Bergevin four years)
Radulov is a proven scorer. He was over a point per game player with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. He achieved 65 points in only 53 games last season. Radulov has had some issues in the past but in recent interviews, he seems to have completely matured and at this point would like to move on. Along with that, he has been training hard this summer and seems to be showing nothing but excitement for the upcoming year. Some are calling this signing the steal of the off-season. Hopefully if he pans out the way he should, this line could be one of the most dynamic, creative and dominant first lines in the league.
Artturi Lehkonen-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher
Lehkonen is one of Montreal’s most intriguing prospects and arguably their most offensive young player within the system. He was followed a lot closer this year and became one of the team’s more prominent prospects, especially after his performance this season with Frolunda HC.
Lehkonen dominated the scoresheet in both the regular season and the playoffs. Throughout 49 regular season games, Lehkonen managed 16 goals, 17 assists for 33 points. In the post season, he absolutely blew up and even broke Daniel Alfredsson’s playoff scoring record. Through 16 playoff games, Lehkonen scored 11 goals and eight assists for 19 points.
Earlier this year, Bergevin inked Lehkonen to a three-year, entry-level deal.
— Artturi Lehkonen (@arsilehkonen) May 8, 2016
Artturi Lehkonen is a speedy, scoring winger and is known to be excellent at battling in the corners. Whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone, he is immediately a scoring threat. He’s very crafty with the puck and has an underrated shot. Like most young offensive players coming into the league, Lehkonen’s defensive game still needs some work.
Although I’m not too high on Tomas Plekanec, he can still be an efficient two-way centre… in the regular season that is. While offensive production was low for the entire team this past season, the 33-year old played all 82 games but only managed a mere 14 goals. The last time he scored 14 goals was in the lockout season when he only played 47 games. To be fair, he hasn’t always had the opportunity to consistently play with skilled wingers on his flanks. This year, I think Plekanec will bounce back in terms of production with two relentless skilled wingers to complement him.
Brendan Gallagher has served as an excellent first line right winger but with the addition of Radulov, I think his role is best suited for the second line. All three players on this second line aren’t noticeably big or strong compared to others, but that’s not an issue. Gallagher was held back this past year and only played 53 games due to a hand injury. Adding Gallagher on the right side not only is an energy booster for his fellow linemates, but we’ve seen time and time again that Gallagher is relentless and always knows how to get under the opponent’s skin. His teammates, more specifically his line-mates, will admire his tenacity.
Sven Andrighetto-Jacob de la Rose-Andrew Shaw
One move that still doesn’t sit well with me when I hear it is the deal that sent third line shutdown center Lars Eller to Washington for two late second round picks. This is a trade that I feel will haunt the Habs for years to come, and I think Bergevin really messed up on this one. Eller is a player who not only exceeded expectations offensively when given 4th liners on his flanks but actually managed to be one of the best shutdown centers in the league. This is all despite incredibly harsh deployment from head coach Michel Therrien. For years Eller has had a very prominent role on the penalty kill. Not only that but he would consistently shutdown opposing teams top centers (Crosby, Tavares, Kopitar etc). Furthermore, we’ve seen for years now that come playoffs, the two players that seem to shy away when the game is on the line are Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais while Eller elevates his.
I often see people on Twitter say that Tomas Plekanec will take on Eller’s defensive responsibilities. Those same people also say that this is Plekanec’s year to finally have skilled wingers by his side. So what will it be for the 33-year old? Will he be an aging shutdown center with two players who can’t kill penalties or will it be his bounce back year?
Whatever way you look at it, the team now has a hole at the third line center position. They desperately need someone who can fill Eller’s skates. At this point, I will rule out anybody who isn’t Jacob de la Rose. Jacob de la Rose played for the team for his first time when Lars Eller was injured a few years back. de la Rose was immediately the team’s temporary 3rd line center and even earned some praise from his head coach.
He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s a very responsible player. He’s responsible in his positioning when he doesn’t have the puck and when he has it as well. He doesn’t force plays. He always makes good decisions when he has puck possession. We’re really happy with a young player his age. Usually, youngsters have a tendency to force plays and they get themselves in trouble. When you watch him play, though, he never gets into trouble. – Michel Therrien
Upon Eller’s return, many expected de la Rose to be sent down but that was not the case. Therrien trusted the 19-year old so much that he used him on Eller’s left and the two of them often killed penalties together. He played the remainder of the season and every post-season game to follow. Seeing that the Swedish forward was waiver exempt, it came to no surprise to me that he was sent down at the start of the 2015-2016 season.
It’s not common to see a prospect make a jump from the AHL-NHL as quickly as de la Rose. Jacob de la Rose is a “blue chip” prospect. He differs from small one dimensional players such as Carr, Andrighetto and Hudon. His defensive game has always been a notable strength. He’s an excellent forechecker and has great scoring instinct. Along with that, he’s a big body presence (6’3) and a strong skater. With the loss of Lars Eller, I am confident that Jacob de la Rose can fill that position.
Newly acquired Andrew Shaw has a tenacious battler and, much like Gallagher is a goalie’s worst nightmare. He can also chip in offensively. This past year with Chicago, Shaw scored 14 goals. He is the ideal third line right winger. Sven Andrighetto on the left adds some much needed offense as well. Furthermore, Captain Max Pacioretty expects this to be Andrighetto’s breakout year.
This line is unbelievably strong, gritty and could be the team’s “shutdown” line while also providing some scoring.
Paul Byron-Torrey Mitchell-Brian Flynn/Daniel Carr
Picking up Byron from Calgary was a steal by Marc Bergevin. Byron ended up being a superb penalty killer. Despite his small 5’8″ stature, he isn’t one to shy away from physical play. He actually led the team with 112 hits this year (one more than Lars Eller) for forwards. Torrey Mitchell, Paul Byron and Brian Flynn have all had significant time on the penalty kill and the three of them have all shown that they have chemistry. In key scenarios, Flynn or Mitchell were often the names called if a draw had to be won.
Brian Flynn is quite cheap and has a movable contract. If he is moved, I expect Daniel Carr to slide into that 4th line right wing position. Carr has really quick hands, an underrated shot and has proven to be able to put the puck in the back of the net. He led the team in goals and points in all of December last season.
Many will probably be wondering where the 5’6″ pivot David Desharnais fits in the lineup.
The answer is quite simple actually… He doesn’t.
Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien have been so adamant about building a team that is “big, tough and hard to play against”.
That approach is understandable and admirable. But in my opinion, until that weak, privileged, insignificant, timid, irrelevant, minuscule, coach favourite dwarf Desharnais is off the team… I am convinced that Marc Bergevin couldn’t care less about actually winning a Stanley Cup.
Not to be biased.
Nathan Beaulieu-Shea Weber
It’s about time Nathan Beaulieu took on that first pairing role. He was ready last season but Therrien kept an aging Markov ahead of the former 17th overall pick. The team is currently lacking some depth but Nathan Beaulieu has emerged as the most skilled on the left side. He is an excellent skater and one of the team’s best transition defencemen. Beaulieu could easily serve as Weber’s “Roman Josi” this season by constantly setting up his one timers and being a fluent puck mover. He is a team first player and many times this past season we saw that he would never hesitate to drop the gloves. All of those key qualities from a 6’2″ defencemen who is only 23 make him an impact top-2 defencemen.
I’m not too big on the trade but I am not one to sell Weber short and act as if he will be insignificant to the team this upcoming season.. As we all know, fan favourite P.K. Subban was shipped off to Nashville for gold medalist and stud defencemen Shea Weber.
Weber is a proven beast. He has the hardest shot in the league and last season used that to his advantage. He scored 2o goals this past season and nine times out of ten they were a slapshot, from the point, on the powerplay. I expect his offensive totals to be similar this season with Captain Kirk back behind the bench running the powerplay. Marc Bergevin felt the need to completely change the identity and style of this team. Perhaps management thought that Price needed to be protected which motivated them to make this move. Maybe P.K. Subban failed to protect what Shea Weber will now be able to do.
Although Shea Weber is less exciting than P.K. Subban, he plays a safer, boring “dump and chase” style that Therrien is attracted to. Along with that, Shea is a winner of the Mark Messier leadership award, something that the team clearly lacked this past year. However, I think that if the management felt that they needed to trade their best skater in exchange for “leadership” then that says a lot more about every other player than it does about P.K. Subban doesn’t it? Anyway, I digress.
A pairing of Beaulieu and Weber could be exciting offensively but also intimidating to match up against.
Andrei Markov-Jeff Petry
Andrei Markov can still be very effective but his minutes this season will need to be reduced significantly. He can’t handle 25-30 minutes a night. On a second pair, playing roughly 20 minutes a night he can still produce offensively while helping out on the back end. He has great vision and can always be a helping hand on the powerplay.
Jeff Petry was held back due to injury and that resulted in him missing a large portion of the season. He is a stabilizing presence who can play both ends of the ice. He is a great skater with an offensive upside who plays with an edge. He will never hesitate to flatten an opponent if need be.
The two of these guys together could shutdown opposing lines with the ability to chip in offensively.
Mark Barberio-Greg Pateryn
Barberio worked his way onto the team because of reoccurring injuries on the back end. A steady defencemen, Mark Barberio can easily clear the zone by either carrying it out or making a smart first pass. He has an accurate point shot that can find a way to fool goalies. The only downside to his game is he lacks the physical play. Regardless, he is a possession driving defencemen who can help out offensively.
Although he had to go through numerous hoops to get to where he is now, Pateryn has finally established himself as an NHL defenceman. An effective stay at home player who will protect his teammates and hit anyone who gets in his way. He has a rocket shot that he isn’t afraid to use either. He is capable of doing all the little things right, especially in his own end. Pateryn is a type of player who can effectively play bottom-pairing ice time and end up being completely undervalued by fans. Both Barberio and Pateryn are above average bottom pairing players who round out the rest of the pairings nicely.
Hopefully Bergevin can find a General Manager who’s willing to take on Alexei Emelin’s $4.1 million cap hit for a small return. Not only does that shed cap space but leaves room for newly acquired Zach Redmond to take the position as the teams 7th defencemen and play when needed.
Carey Price (Obviously)
Al Montoya was picked up as a free agent. He and Mike Condon will have to battle for the backup spot when October rolls around.
Do you agree with my lineup? Disagree?