NHL 2017 Season: Montreal Canadiens Pre-Season Overview
The Canadiens had a bounce back year for the 2016 – 17 season, finishing first in the Atlantic Division and 4th in the Eastern Conference. This season they will be looking to go even longer in the playoffs, and they might just have the right people to make sure that it happens.With a strong defense that is amongst the top 5 in the NHL, the Canadiens look like they may have become even stronger with their key additions. There are also a couple of new forwards to help strengthen the offensive end of the team, and there’s still plenty of talent that has been retained from last year. It’s time to take a look at the new additions, as well as other players that could factor into a successful season for Montreal.
Important Additions to the Montreal Canadiens in 2017
Like every team in the NHL, the Canadiens have aimed to improve their roster through trades and new acquisitions. Although they have lost some players, it does look like they’ve brought in the right people to help offset the losses, while slightly improving the team overall.
Mark Streit and David Schlemko Join the Defensemen
Boosting the already strong defense, will be Mark Streit from the Penguins, and David Schlemko from the Golden Knights. These two are going to make the blue line even more solid than it already is, and it should keep the Canadiens near to the top of the league in defensive power.Mark Streit is returning to the Canadiens, and fans will remember that he spent his first three NHL seasons with the team. Not only was the team his first in the NHL, but it was where he had his best ever season. In 2007 – 08, Streit produced 62 points for the team, a figure that he hasn’t been able to recreate since. When talking about the move back to his first team in the NHL, Streit said that “time goes fast and a team changes its face. But it’s great seeing Carey Price, the kind of player he is now. He was 18 then, and now he’s the best goalie in the league.” Streit also pointed out that Tomas Plekanec is still on the team, saying that “I was really excited to see both of those guys.”Schlemko will also be important in the defense. He has excellent puck control, and is one of the more technical players in the league. Schlemko will help to raise competition in the defense, which should allow the coaching staff to get the very best out of the blue line. Many would agree that Schlemko is underrated, yet he always manages to come up through adversary, even when analysts and fans have written him off. Speaking about joining the Canadiens, Schlemko was excited about the move. He told the media that “this is the first time I’ve actually been traded. I’m happy to end up here in a great hockey market, on a good team. It’s been a lot of moving.” Speaking about how he has steadily improved throughout his career, Schlemko said that “Confidence and opportunity make a big difference. You get put in the right situations and do the right things and you’ll be rewarded. I still think I have more to contribute offensively than I have in the last couple of years.”
Ales Hemsky and Jonathan Drouin Join the Offense
The Canadiens have one of the best defenses in the league, but their offense should not be underrated. This year, two of the most important additions should be Ales Hemsky and Jonathan Drouin. Hemsky has spent the last three seasons of his career playing for the Dallas Stars in the NHL. Although far from his very best seasons in the sport, 2014 – 15 and 2015 – 16 still allowed him to prodce some good results. He scored 11 goals and 21 assists in 2014, and 13 goals with 26 assists in 2015. When the Stars went to the playoffs in 2015 – 16, Hemsky played in 13 games, scoring a single goal and creating three assists. Hemsky has been optimistic about his move to the Canadiens. He told the media in Montreal that “I’ve been in the league for a long time. Hopefully, I can help them [the Canadiens] in the defensive zone and in the offensive zone, and just kind of take a little bit of pressure from them. Carry the puck… we’ll see how it goes. It will be the first game and we’ll see how the chemistry will go.” Hemsky is joining the team as a free agent, and was a late signing after Alexander Radulov left the team. Being a low cost signing, Hemsky is low risk, and the team management hopes that his experience will help to develop some of the younger players in the team. Of course, there’s still a chance that Hemsky could end up with some strong results, so he will definitely be a player to watch in 2017.Jonathan Drouin could prove to be another strong addition this year. The Canadiens have had a rough pre-season opening (going 0 – 2 as of September 20th), but Drouin picked up an assist in the second game of the pre-season, and was named third star of the game. Coach Claude Julien said that “When you talk about Jonathan Drouin, we’ve seen him enough in the past that he’s such a smart player, he can make things happen and I think there’s even more to his game. I know there is more to his game than what he’s shown. He’s just getting into game shape like everybody else. He’s only going to get better.”
Season Forecast for the Canadiens
The Canadiens are going to the playoffs this season, and you can consider that a fact. The real question is whether they have what it takes to make it to the finals. That’s still very much an unknown, considering how much new and young talent there is on this team. Fans of the team can at least take confidence from knowing that they will be competitive, and with their blue line and Carey Price they will be one of the hardest teams to beat in the regular season.