The Montreal Canadiens aim to contend once again, but health and continued growth during the 2023-24 season will be needed.
Record: 31-45-6 (68 pts) – 8th in Atlantic
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
Joel Edmundson (D – WAS), Jonathan Drouin (F – COL), Alex Belzile (F – NYR), Denis Gurianov (F – NAS), Chris Tierney (F – NJ), Mike Hoffman (F – SJ), Rem Pitlick (F – PIT)
Alex Newhook (F), Tanner Pearson (F)
For the Montreal Canadiens, they need to stay healthy if they aim to contend once again. The Habs have not had the best of luck in this category. Montreal had 751 man game lost last season, breaking the record of 720 they had set during the 2021-22 season.
Changes were made with the training staff as Graham Rynbend, the head athletic trainer, being dismissed after 19 years. Then, Donald Balmforth, the head physiotherapist, was also let go after two years. The replacements there with Jim Ramsay and Maxime Gauthier, respectively, should bring fresh eyes on overall player health.
Special teams is also one key piece of the puzzle that the Habs need to focus on. Montreal finished 29th in both the Power Play and the Penalty Kill. In order for both of these items to improve, the overall health of the line-up is important.
Despite the injuries the Canadiens had last season, there was a 13 point improvement. However, this will also be the second full season of a complete re-build process.
Montreal is possibly one year away from their re-build and aim to be in contention once again.
It is not a secret that the offense has not been a strong point for Montreal. Forward Nick Suzuki was the leading scorer at 66 points, good for 70th in the NHL. Forward Cole Caufield was on pace to have a 46 goal season, but he had a season ending shoulder injury. Montreal has not had a 40 goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse 30 years ago.
There also has not been a player finish in the top 10 in scoring since the 1985-86 season when Mats Naslund hit that mark. The Habs need to have the right momentum if they expect to contend once again.
This is a young defensive minded squad with five rookies last year that saw at least 39 games last season. The five rookies are relied on this season to keep things together. The defense allowed the 29th most goals on average last season at 3.72.
Montreal, as stated above, is at least a year away from possibly making any kind of postseason contention.
After 14 rookies saw action, including the 2022 top pick in Juraj Slafkovksy, health is very important. With this, there should be less of a reliance on the players in their AHL affiliate, so those players can be developed further.
With a healthy squad, Montreal should aim to contend once again and return to the postseason.
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