Three Habs Plots to Watch in 2015-16

Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

I’m Lori, and this is my first article for All About the Habs. It is my intention to write as a fan – a supporter of the Montreal Canadiens – emotional, ardent, and perhaps a little irrational at times. In my day job I bring expertise in the areas of writing, leadership and even a little analytics. I won’t be able to forget I know these things, so I may drift there sometimes. But it is my intention to just be a fan in what I write. Hopefully my ideas can spark some chatter about the team we all love.

So on Day 1 of the season, here are three fan plots that I will be watching for the next 82 games.

Playoff Pairs

This pre-season generated much chatter about the crowded blue line in Montreal. The pairs appear to be set at Subban-Markov, Petry-Emelin and Gilbert-Beaulieu. Pateryn’s reliability seems to have earned him 7D status. With both Tinordi and Barberio subject to waivers, Bergevin chose to protect Tinordi, and he remains with the club as the 8D. Still crowded, no?

Some predict a trade of Emelin, Gilbert or Tinordi that would eliminate the conundrum, and over the next few weeks, I suspect clarity will emerge from the blue line muck. For this fan, I’m more concerned with how the blue line looks come April.

Will the coach who played Markov for 27 minutes in a pre-season game – a game where Flynn was his shootout choice – discern the need to manage the General’s minutes? Does Therrien have a clue that he has just one horse in his stable who can keep up with his thoroughbred? Will Emelin be played consistent with his capacity or his cost? Will pairs that can get us through the playoffs be in place in time to adequately prepare for the playoffs?

Sudden Death Special Teams

In the upcoming NHL season, as many as one quarter of a team’s games may be decided by the newly instituted 3-on-3 overtime. While special teams are characterized by the man advantage or disadvantage, it seems to me that the new format requires the type of strategizing that is inherent in preparing for a power play or killing a penalty.

Coaches will have to decide about the ratio of defenceman to forwards, whether to employ an offensive or defensive posture, how home ice may impact matchups, and which players may employ a style that is suited to open ice play. Unless a coach was in the AHL last year, these strategies will be newly developed, with access to few tools beyond the tape of AHL teams.

The most innovative coaches will have an advantage. We can feel fairly certain that grinding, getting pucks deep, dump and chase, and other Tools of Therrien are going to land flat. Having seen the line-ups for 3-on-3 in a recent practice, as well as the plan to utilize Price’s puck-moving skills, I am hopeful. But getting this right is a big deal in the standings. Does the new consultant have tricks up his sleeve?

Can Kassian Cash In?

In the pre-camp presser Marc Bergevin displayed his mammoth math skills and proclaimed that since Zack Kassian scored 10 goals in 42 games with Vancouver last year, then he should be good for 15 this season in Montreal. That seemed hopeful – a worthy contribution unencumbered by ridiculous expectations. Then camp began, and Kassian was firmly planted on the 4th line, where he was expected to begin the season with Flynn and Mitchell. Suddenly, 15 goals seemed lofty.

My initial impression was that the only planet on which Kassian would score 15 this season is one where he either worked his way up the line-up, or where he was a consistent fixture on the power play. Personally, I liked the idea of Kassian’s big body and decent hands firmly planted along the crease during the power play, ready to cash in on some dirty goals.

Those were the good old days – when the biggest story circling Kassian was whether he could play to potential. But as the pre-season drew to an end, a car accident in the wee hours, an angry GM in a presser, and a league suspension awakened us to a sombre narrative for #8.

There are bigger questions for Zack Kassian. Can he successfully engage in substance abuse treatment? If so, will he be welcomed back to the Habs family? Will we see him achieve differently while in recovery?

 

It’s October and there are still 82 to play. There will be many plots to watch in the drama that is habsland. What storylines have your attention?

 

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