The Montreal Canadiens, a team with an almost cult-like following in Canada. Arguably one of the most decorated franchises in NHL history with an astonishing 24 Stanley Cups in it’s now 100 season history with the NHL. With legendary players like Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Ken Dryden, Guy LaFleur, and Patrick Roy (insane off the ice), just to name a few, it’s easy to see how Montreal has sealed it’s claim to being one of the most winning franchises in the history of Sports.

But, in recent years the Montreal Canadiens have taken a fall from grace. Many blame the immense pressure that the media in Montreal places on them. You may not think hockey that important in the United States, so you understand how much pressure they are under, but imagine the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and the New England Patriots. Imagine how much pressure the media places on them. That might be a fraction of how much pressure the Montreal media puts on the Canadiens. Hockey is THAT big in Montreal.

The past two seasons have been rebuilding years for the Montreal Canadiens. In the offseason they saw the departure of their long time captain Saku Koivu to Anaheim, which has me personally devastated because of my immense hatred for Anaheim sports and the trading of Komisarek to the rival Toronto Suck Le…I mean Toronto Maple Leafs, I may seem unbiased but when it comes to my Canadiens? The Maple Leafs can suck a fat one. But, the Canadiens made several key trades as well by picking up Scott Gomez from the Rangers, Brian Gionta, and Michael Cammalleri.

But, one has to wonder if that will be enough. The Canadiens are a VERY small, finesse, team with the exception of George Laraque who, with his abysmal hockey talent, is like a basic one man down scenario. Like always, let’s take a look at Montreal’s impact players.

Impact Forwards:

The Kostitsyn Brothers (Andrei and Sergei): These two brothers have a lot on their plate as they are quickly becoming the heart and soul of this Montreal team. Without Koivu or Kovalev anymore, these two NEED to step into a leadership role. For Andrei that will be a very plausible scenario because he has all the tangibles to become an elite player. He is deadly fast, has hands like you wouldn’t believe, and can probably snipe a shot in any little piece of the net he so desires. However, his faults lie in those very skills. Too many times has he tried one too many dekes and lost the puck or passed up a great scoring opportunity when he tried to get too fancy. If he gets back to basics and tries to be a little less flashy then he could really blow up in a good kinda way. His brother Sergei, however, is another story completely. Last season was sent down to the Hamilton Bulldogs because his play wasn’t up to par with what management was hoping from him. If Sergei is on-task then he has the potential to be just as good as his brother, but like his brother he lacks the size…but the problem is he thinks he has the size and will try to deal heavy hits and start fights only to find himself outmatched and sometimes injured because of it. He doesn’t have ANY of the tools to be trying to hit anyone, he needs to stop trying to throw his body around or he is going to cause odd man rushes that will result in goals.

Matt D’Agostini: He was brought up because of injury problems last season and shined in a way few people could have predicted. He showed amazing break-away speed and proved he could beat defensemen to a loose puck and cause serious problems when he got to it. However, he also tends to go on cold streaks because of his lack of NHL experience. The consistency should come as he gets more time on the ice and learns what he needs to do from a game to game basis while being with the team for the whole season. If D’Agostini finds his stride and can stay consistent…watch out because he has serious star potential.

Mike Cammalleri: One of the new free agents signed to the Montreal Canadiens from the Calgary Flames. Like a lot of the Montreal Canadiens he is ultra talented offensively but really lacks the size to be effective in the defensive zone or in the physical battles along the boards or behind the net. Another thing about Cammalleri is he always tends to be in the right place at the right time and in hockey that’s just a humble way of saying the guy knows what he’s doing. He can read plays and figure out where he needs to be. He tends to be a bit streaky though, playing a somewhat inconsistent game considering how much of a veteran presence he has become.

Brian Gionta: Another terribly small player on an already tiny team, Gionta is only 5’7” and 173 pounds. Went somewhat undetected last year because of how much talent the New Jersey Devils had. Gionta, as you might be able to tell from his size, has incredible speed. The guy can straight up move down the ice, but that can also present a problem if a hulking defenseman times a game changing hit just right. Has good stick skills in front of the opposing net, but again, with his size he can’t stay there long before an almost 300 pound enforcer forces him right out of Crease Town. This is another guy that goes through streaks in terms of production, one week he seems to raking in the goals and assists while the next he could be Mr. Cellophane.

Scott Gomez: One of my favorite players, Scott Gomez is probably one of the best passers I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like he can see everyone on the ice and nail them with a picture perfect tape to tape pass without even blinking an eye. He has scary passing abilities and that makes him a valuable weapon. But, again, at 5’11” and only 200 pounds he can’t play a physical game and he can’t really crash the net with much success because of how small he is. Also, if he doesn’t have any scorers around him then it really doesn’t matter how well he passes. He could make a perfect pass but if the guy on the receiving end of the pass doesn’t know what to do with it…then it’s just a waste.

Overall: VERY talented forwards that can finesse and deke you out of your skates six ways from Thursday. This group has endless talent when they have the puck on their stick and can make you hurt in a plethora of different ways. If that wasn’t enough they are all FAST, this has got to be one of those forward cores that is going to kill you with speed. But, with all that said, they are really small in comparison to most NHL teams and that could, and at times has, bitten them hard. Once they need to get into physical battles that can’t be won with speed or finesse then they’ll be crushed and easily injured. They will also be having consistency battles as a lot of the guys have had a hard time keeping their game going at a steady pace.

Impact Defensemen:

Josh Gorges: Seems like he has started to fall into a leadership role with the Canadiens as of late, and it really does look like a lot of the guys look up to him. He doesn’t make many mistakes and always seems to be working hard to make the plays that need to be made in his defensive zone. However, he doesn’t have a real cannon for a shot so he isn’t terribly helpful on a powerplay or as that heavy shot from the point. But his consistency makes him an asset none the less.

Andrei Markov: This is your powerplay quarterback right here, his shot is freakishly heavy. I’d say he has a cannon but that doesn’t do his shot any justice because the puck just gets obliterated off his stick. He has proven time and time again that he can handle the pressure of being the BIG defenseman that leads the team down the ice and starts the offensive rush. Has been a little injury prone as of late so if he can stay healthy then Markov will be one of the leaders of this team without question.

Goaltending:

Carey Price: Price has been heralded as the savior to the revolving door that has been the Montreal starting position. Montreal has seen talented goaltenders like Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet, and David Aebischer come and go because of the immense pressure that both the crowds and media put on them. Carey Price IS the number one goalie for the Canadiens without question. Crowds have nicknamed him “Jesus Price” and have taken to the saying, “The PRICE is RIGHT!” because of his outstanding performance in the playoffs the past two seasons. This kind of hype absolutely destroyed the talented young Jose Theodore and he has, to this day, never recovered from it. Despite winning the Vezina in Montreal he went through a rough patch, as most goalies do, and the thrashing he received from fans and media alike utterly obliterated any chance he had at recovery. To this day, I’m still disgusted at what Montreal did to him, but like I said, that’s how big hockey is there. It is something Price has shown he can deal with and get over, for the most part. Price is your typical Butterfly goalie to the tenth degree. Price is sometimes down in the butterfly on his pads almost before the shot is taken and has given up more than his fair share of top shelf glove side goals because of it. However, towards the end of last season he looked much more in control and wasn’t as prone to just go into the Butterfly and pray it hit him. He seemed like he was really watching the puck and reading plays, which made him play much better and help the Canadiens at least hold onto a playoff spot. If he continues from where he left off than Price will have a real breakout season. Yes, I have a Carey Price jersey.

Jaroslav Halak: A very solid backup that, when Price was slumping, was being pushed to take over as the starter until Price found his stride in practice. Like Price, he has a big frame that covers a good chunk of the net. Unsure with how he really handles pressure because as a back-up he didn’t get a ton of playing time. However, when Price went down with injury in the thick of the playoff hunt, Halak did come through and steal more than his fair share of games to help keep the Canadiens in the thick of things. A great back up to have and many thought the Canadiens were trying to play him more to shop him around to other teams to make a big trade since the Canadiens ARE Price’s team.

Team Overall: It’s always hard to say how the Canadiens will do because when you look at their roster it is a who’s who of talented finesse forwards. But that’s the problem, they’re all finesse and don’t have nearly enough size to compete in physical battles with teams like the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers. That’s not to say they can’t beat them, but the minute the game turns physical the Canadiens are immediately handicapped because of their size. However, if the Canadiens can keep the games going at their pace and keep the pace moving fast then they can compete with the best of the best. I suppose how the Canadiens do really depends on how well they can control the tempo of the game. If they can keep the temp fast and furious, then they’ll win. If not, we’ll see a lot of injuries, losses and weird reports from the Montreal Media about gangsters bribing players on the Canadiens and their star goalie being a pedophile dating a 16 year old. Yeah, Montreal Faithful, you know exactly what I’m talking about.