Previewing the 2017-18 Montreal Canadiens season

Even with a number-one centre in Jonathan Drouin, Habs still face plenty of problems

After a disappointing first-round loss in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens fans are hoping the team will redeem itself this season. The Habs start the 2017-18 season on Oct. 5 against the Buffalo Sabres. The Concordian previews the good, the bad and the unknown of the Montreal Canadiens 2017-18 season.

The Good: Jonathan Drouin. The Canadiens acquired the 22-year-old centre from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade in June. General manager Marc Bergevin acquired Drouin to have a number-one centre and to add strong offensive scoring, two of the team’s weaknesses from last season. Drouin scored 53 points last season, and will add offensive firepower to the Canadiens as the first-line centre.

Drouin will almost certainly become a fan-favourite in Montreal. The Ste-Agathe, Que., native has said it was always his dream to wear the bleu-blanc-rouge. His agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted a picture of a Canadiens cap on which Drouin wrote: “There’s no place like home.”

The Bad: The Canadiens defence. In the off-season, the Canadiens lost Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, two of their best defencemen from the past few seasons. They replaced Emelin with Karl Alzner, but Montreal still hasn’t found a replacement for Markov to play alongside Shea Weber.

The Canadiens will have a hard time replacing Markov’s crisp vision and accurate passing. In the preseason, 19-year-old Victor Mete played with Weber. Although Mete’s strong skating and smart passing is much like Markov’s, should the teenager make the team, he won’t be able to fill Markov’s skates. Even though Mete impressed coaches and fans with his play in the preseason, Mete just lacks the intelligence and experience the 38-year-old Markov had. Having no seasoned top-pairing defenceman to play with Weber will hurt the Canadiens this season.

The Unknown: Depth scoring. The Canadiens’ lack of scoring is what put the final nail in their coffin last year. They just couldn’t score in the playoffs—when it mattered most. Even with Drouin, the Canadiens still have very little offensive firepower.

They lost right winger Alex Radulov, who had 54 points last year, and replaced him with veteran Ales Hemsky, who had seven points in 15 games last season. Wingers Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk had 29 and 44 points respectively, and will need to increase their point totals this year. Who will provide the depth scoring? We will have to wait and see.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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