The Montreal Canadiens Future is Not so Bleak

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: Brendan Gallagher
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: Brendan Gallagher /

The 2017/18 season has not been easy for the Montreal Canadiens, but come September, they may be in a better position to compete than many assume.

Since the league has moved past the trade deadline, there is little point in talking about the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens trading Alex Galchenyuk or Max Pacioretty until after the draft and free agent signing period. With the possibility of landing one or both of Rasmus Dahlin or John Tavares over the summer, it would not be smart to make any changes until it is known what Habs management has to work with. But it is clear this team needs a little bit of sprucing up.

The Offence

This team does have the potential to produce some great offence numbers, especially with whatever youngster the Montreal Canadiens pick up in the first-round of the 2018 entry draft. The lack of offence seems to be coming from Claude Julien’s system, especially if you listen to the many delighted Boston fans.

Hopefully next year Julien will allow the offence to thrive a bit more either through less structure, or a more offensive system being put in place. After the retool, I expect to see at least eight or nine of our forwards still on the team.

It could end up looking something like what I have below. Keep in mind, Montreal has received a second-round pick for Tomas Plekanec, along with some prospects. This lineup also lacks Pacioretty, but it will either have a roster player and some potential draftees from a trade in there, or himself if he remains on the team.

Nikita ScherbakJonathan DrouinAlex Galchenyuk

Artturi LehkonenPhillip DanaultBrendan Gallagher

Paul ByronCharles HudonAndrew Shaw

Daniel Carr– ? – Nicolas Deslauriers  

The Defence

The defence is also not so far from improving as one might think. Joe Morrow and Jakub Jerabek are both gone, but the defence has improved from the season’s start. Karl Alzner is an interesting case as he is having an unprecedented poor year so far, but so is almost the entire team.

It would not be a good idea to give up on him yet, seeing as he has four more years on his contract, Alzner performed admirably for the Washington Capitals before finding a new home in Montreal due to salary cap issues. His pairing with Noah Juulsen has had a very welcome impact on his level of play. Maybe taking on a bit of a mentorship/veteran role on his pair has brought something out of him. The starting six may look like something along these lines.

Related Story: The Habs Defence Needs a Retool

Victor MeteShea Weber

Mike ReillyJeff Petry

Karl Alzner  – Noah Juulsen

Jordie Benn (he should be on the left) / David Schlemko – All other fringe players/prospects.

Potential Future of the Montreal Canadiens

There are quite a few names unmentioned like Ales Hemsky and Logan Shaw because they will not return next season. With Plekanec and possibly Pacioretty moved for picks/prospects/roster players, this team is ready to compete very fast. With Galchenyuk, Drouin, Scherbak, and Gallagher as their premier goal scorers. If Pacioretty isn’t moved, he will be another boost to the pool of offence on the Montreal Canadiens.

Watching the Scherbak-Drouin-Galchenyuk line was amazing. Every team needs players that can create offensively, and that is what this line does. It is pure offensive talent, and if they continue to improve the defensive responsibility will come.

These players generate some of the most exciting hockey Montreal fans have seen in many years. It was a line filled to the brim with skill that is out there having fun and trying whatever enters their mind. This kind of creativity is essential, and it’s what made Alexander Radulov such a special player for Montreal.

So what is seriously missing here? A top centre if Drouin does not become one and bottom-nine depth down the middle. Byron Froese could fulfil the 4th centreman role, along with A. Shaw, but hopefully, Ryan Poehling is ready to make the leap soon to become a bottom-six player.

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I do see Danault as a second-line centre on a competitive team. With Lehkonen and Gallagher on his wings, they would make a superb shutdown line that would carry some offensive upside. It appears as though Montreal may also see the return of Plekanec for the 2018/19 season to bolster the centre depth.

The Montreal Canadiens will already be receiving a great draft pick on top of what they get in trades. A Dahlin would be an absolute game-changer, but anything in the top ten (preferably top five) would make an instant impact on the team.

The dream of landing a UFA Tavares is always on the mind no matter how unlikely it is; though the Carey Price/Shea Weber, Olympic connection leaves a tiny bit of hope. If these rumours of playoff importance are true, he could very well go to free agency this off-season. If Marc Bergevin can sign him, having Pacioretty on his line would be an amazing offensive duo.

Next: Five Players Having Career Years

The Takeaway

The future of the Montreal Canadiens is not so dark after all, and change can come fast if executed well. While the defence looks as though it is only one piece away from being a solid core, the offence looks a bit further away from being at a contending level, especially if Pacioretty goes. But with five draft picks in the first two rounds, Montreal will fill out the offensive and defensive roster. So take a breath, get through this season, and get excited for the draft lottery. The future is not so grim after all.