Montreal Canadiens: The Road to Opening Night 2015-16


The Montreal Canadiens are entering the dog days of summer, now that the off-season has fully taken hold. NHLers are now kicking back on beaches, and GMs are recovering from the draft and free agency. Even the news media take much-needed time-off, with their voices and writing going silent for a month or two or onto covering other sports.

So what bones do Canadiens fans have to chew on in the meantime? Let’s take a walk down the next few months until that puck drop on October 7th.

August represents a dearth of hockey news, a desert of information as Habs fans feign interest in Toronto’s Blue Jays, or head out of town to enjoy the warmest mosquito-free month the area has to offer. So what will fans of the Canadiens sink their teeth into when they get sick of sitting around campfires and lollygagging around patios?

Controversies that may cause Consternation

Alex Galchenyuk

Ever since he fired his former agent, Hall-of-Famer Igor Larionov, in late June, Galchenyuk has been silent, as has his new agent Pat Brisson. If he’s not signed by mid-August, a fever will start building as fans furrow their brows at the idea of the Canadiens starting the season without him.

Adding to the recent news of Max Pacioretty‘s injury, fans will no doubt worry about two of the team’s best players out of the lineup.

Last year, P.K. Subban signed his big deal on August 2nd, but we all remember his first go-around at restricted free-agency. Subban was the last player to hold out into the season, and only time will tell if Galchenyuk will follow that path.

Who’s the Captain?

Andrei Markov – reportedly – never wanted it. Tomas Plekanec might have gotten it last year if it was going his way. Subban and Brendan Gallagher have matured, representing the team with honest and interesting personality.

Max Pacioretty is starting the season injured. Would it go to him before the season starts, even in that case?

One thing is for sure: it’s an extremely interesting dilemma for head coach Michel Therrien, and if he turns on his radio, he’ll find no shortage of suggestions.

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School’s Back

From mid-August, up until the week or so before training camp, the various members of the squad make their way back to the city, and start hitting the ice, though not in any official Canadiens-related capacity. High-fives will be exchanged with their favorite chefs on nights out, lucky fans will run into them around town, and the buzz begins.

The Rookie Tournament

For the first time, the Canadiens will be sending a team of top prospects, the week of September 12th, to the 2015 Rookie Tournament sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto’s prospect team will face off against prospects from the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal in the tournament held in London, Ontario.

It’s a simple round-robin type of event, where each team plays 3 games. The bonus is that it may help instill an experienced understanding of the rivalries that exist between these teams, long before they face off at an NHL level. No doubt, some surprises will come out of the meetings, and you have to believe each “rookie” is going to be trying to make a serious impression.

Training Camp

At long last, NHL players will hit the ice in practice. In yesteryear, they’d report with beer guts, or having chain-smoked their ways through a nice long summer vacation. Nowadays they’ve bulked up, recovered from injuries with extensive physio and training, and just need to get the old timing back.

Physicals for the 60-or-so training camp invitees will likely begin after the rookie tournament. Very quickly, Therrien, along with GM Marc Bergevin and coaching assistants Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin, and Jean-Jacques Daigneault, will begin making cuts.


Prior to playing seven preseason games, the remaining players play against each other in an all-Canadiens intrasquad game, the Red vs White. This is a big game; for many players, their performance may make a difference between playing a preseason game or not. It’s also a fan favorite, when the Bell Centre is once again home to the Habs and the buzz in the arena is electric.

From September 22nd to October 3rd’s final preseason game in Ottawa, the veterans will begin playing more than they had, and the prospects will move from playing their handful of preseason games to a Newfoundland-bound plane (the Habs’ AHL team, the Hamilton Bulldogs recently moved and have become the St. John’s Ice Caps).

Opening Night

Last year’s final cut before opening night was Jacob De La Rose. That turned out to be a very good sign, as this year he’s guaranteed a spot against the Leafs on Wednesday, October 7th in Toronto.

It will be a tough start with all four of the Habs’ first games being away from home, the others in Boston, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh. By then the radio callers will be jamming the phone lines, the Bell Centre’s cash registers ringing and the experts in full analyst mode:  the 2015-16 season will be underway.

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