Part 25 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
7. NY Rangers
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#6: Montréal Canadiens
Top Fws: Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta
Top Ds: Andrei Markov*, P.K. Subban
Top G: Carey Price
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Max Pacioretty (23)
2. D P.K. Subban (23)
3. F Lars Eller (23)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Alex Galchenyuk (18)
2. D Nathan Beaulieu (19)
3. D Jarred Tinordi (20)
4. F Danny Kristo (22)
5. F Sebastian Collberg (18)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: B
The Canadiens have, on paper, a deep and talented group of defensemen. While none of them can be considered "true" top-pairing defenders (except for oft-injured Andrei Markov) the depth goes 8-deep and they have a good mix of both offensive and defensive punch. The team's scoring wingers have good size (except for Gionta) and the team looks like it has two solid scoring lines. Carey Price will be the number 1 in net for a long time, and the team's core players are all 25 and under.
Size up the middle is lacking; the team's top 2 centers (Plekanec and David Desharnais) are both under 6 feet tall. The team is weak in terms of depth players up front, although this isn't as big an issue with the signings of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong. The team has struggled with injuries and inconsistency from their top players over the last few years; a healthy Markov and bounceback years from guys like Tomas Kaberle would go a long way in making this team a playoff contender.
The Habs have quietly built an impressive group of young players. They have some depth at every skating position, and their best prospects have varied skillsets. Beaulieu headlines a solid defensive group that includes massive bruiser Tinordi and hard-hitting sparkplug Dalton Thrower. Up front, Alex Galchenyuk is the new big man on campus, and he may get to line up with a deep and talented group of wingers in Kristo, Colberg, Brendan Gallagher, Aaron Palushaj, Tim Bozon, and Charles Hudon.
The team's goaltending pipeline is utterly barren, although with Carey Price being only 24, that need is negated somewhat. While they have good depth throughout the forward ranks, the only top notch talent up front is Galchenyuk; the rest of the players all project to being second and third line players at best. Up the middle, beyond the aforementioned Galchenyuk, the team is weak in terms of potential scoring centers.
Coming off a successful 2010-11 season, the Canadiens entered the regular season looking to improve upon their 6th place standing in the East. What they got instead was an absolute disaster of a season. The Habs wound up 15th in the East, well short of a playoff berth, and would end up receiving their highest first round pick in years. A team that has perennially faced inner pressure from the Francophone community saw some bad luck with injuries and inconsistency and really never was able to get back on its horse.
The Habs have thus refurnished their front office and bench, bringing in a new coach and a new GM, and the two will have some pieces to work with. The team has been able to find some elite talents despite regularly drafting in mediocre positions, and finds itself with a burgeoning group of young players at the NHL level such as Louis Leblanc. The system itself is well-stocked with young potential as well; Montreal has done very well for itself through the draft, leaving the team with soem hope that they can turn around an ailing franchise quickly, if not immediately.
While it's unlikely that the Habs will implode on itself the way last year's team did, it'll take an uphill battle for the team to climb into postseason contention. They'll be looking to improve their team over the next few years, however, as they gradually phase in their young talent.