For a long time it did not seem like it was going to be possible. Finally there is going to be an NHL season. After reaching a new collective bargaining agreement the 30 NHL teams will get to work. Because of the delay to the start of the season a full 82 game season could not be played. 48 games have been decided on as the length of the NHL regular season with teams playing all their games against teams within their conference. So Montreal will only be facing the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maples Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres.
It will be interesting to see if the third work stoppage over the last 10 years in the NHL will affect attendance around the league. I don’t think so in the larger hockey cities. Fans in Toronto, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Montreal will flock to games to see their hockey heroes. The only question here in Montreal will be whether the new players, coach and general manager will be able to make a difference in the standings.
This will be the storied Montreal Canadiens 104th season. Les Habitants and their fans will want to forget last season as it was a disaster. The team ended up out of the playoffs and in 15th place in the Eastern Division. That is last place if you are keeping score meaning they were behind teams like the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans are crossing their fingers hoping that the team will be better.
Several changes have been made in regards to the roster, behind the bench and management. General manager Pierre Gauthier was fired in March and Marc Bergevin was hired. Bergevin was an NHL player for 20 seasons and after he retired he worked within the Chicago Blackhawks organization as an assistant coach, scout and director of player personnel. He has hired such well known names as Patrice Brisebois (Player Development Coach), Martin Lapointe (Director of Player Development), Rick Dudley (Assistant General Manager), and Scott Mellanby (Director of Player Personnel) to fill out his staff. Also this past summer he fired Randy Cunneyworth as the team’s head coach, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone, and then hired Michel Therrien for his second-go-around as head coach of the team. Michel Therrien then hired Gerard Gallant, Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Clement Jodoin as his assistant coaches.
Behind the scenes is not where the only changes took place as the Canadiens’ roster is a little different as well. As the final roster for the team has not been set there could be some changes from now until then. Twenty-seven players are in attendance at the team’s shortened training camp. New faces include a couple signed in the off season as free agents. A familiar “new” face is defenseman Francis Bouillon. Like Coach Therrien this will be Bouillon’s second-go-around with the Habs. The veteran defenseman should provide some insurance, guidance and stability on the blue line. Another new but old face amidst the 9 defensemen in camp is Mike Commodore. Commodore is 33-years-old and has played for the Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Tampa Bay Lightning over his 10 years in the NHL. The free agent was recently signed to the team and has been playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs in an attempt to get back into the NHL. A big body he also will be a good insurance policy for the team if there are injuries.
The Canadiens have been criticized over the past decade for their lack of robustness, so the management took that into consideration when signing two rugged forwards. Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust both will add some size and sandpaper to the team. Armstrong, most recently of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was signed on a one year contract as he has had some injury issues. While he is a rugged player, when healthy he also had some offensive skills. Brandon Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, is a fighter and penalty killer. With him on the 3rd or 4th line teams will be less likely to take liberties with the Montreal Canadiens. Another new face amidst the 16 forwards in camp is 1st round draft choice Alex Galchenyuk. The highly touted centre/winger is only 18-years-old, but has demonstrated in the junior ranks and in the recent WJC tournament where his U.S. team won gold that he is mature beyond his young age. Plenty of pressure will be put on the Habs to keep this guy with the team coming out of camp.
With the addition of healthy (cross your fingers) Andrei Markov, Ryan White and captain Brian Gionta to the roster and young players like Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Alexei Emelin, Lars Eller, PK Subban (again cross your fingers), Raphael Diaz, and Yannick Webber having a full season of experience under their belts has got to lead to the team being better this season. Here’s to the fresh hope each new sports season brings players and fans.
-Regular Season Dates: Saturday, January 19, 2013 – Saturday, April 27, 2013
-Venue: Bell Centre (home games)
-Ticket Purchase: www.canadiens.nhl.com
-Ticket Prices: $21.00 – $418.00 (plus handling charges)