|ESPN.com: NHL Preview 2005||[Print without images]|
Offense: Although they didn't blow the doors off the free-agent market, Gainey managed to return Alex Kovalev, one player that should benefit from a new open game as much as any other in the league. Though the Russian star was courted by a number of teams, he chose to return to Montreal, a team he was dealt to at the 2004 trade deadline. He is, quite simply, a treat to watch and could easily return to top 10 in league scoring.
The offensive supporting cast is intriguing. Richard Zednik has averaged more than 26 goals a season for the past three NHL campaigns. Rookie of the year candidate Michael Ryder was second in team scoring in 2003-04 with 63 points, two points behind another emerging offensive star in Mike Ribeiro. Popular captain Saku Koivu returns to provide solid leadership and should see his offensive numbers jump provided he can stay healthy (he played in only 68 games in 2003-04). Radek Bonk, a perpetual underachiever in Ottawa, joins the cast and may flourish where expectations have been dialed back considerably.
Defense: The Canadiens' blue line features a group loaded with promise, although the team's successes will hinge to a great degree on its continued maturation. Gone is favorite whipping boy Patrice Brisebois. Sheldon Souray was an All-Star in 2004 and his 15 goals were the second-highest among NHL defensemen, but his durability remains a concern. Andrei Markov is the leader of the next generation of Canadiens blueliners and is joined by former University of Michigan star Mike Komisarek and fellow American Ron Hainsey, who were paired together for a time in the AHL. One key addition will be the arrival of fleet-footed Mathieu Dandenault, signed away from Detroit, where he won three Cups while floating between defense and forward under master tactician Scotty Bowman.
Goaltending: This will once again be a strong point for the Canadiens with former MVP Jose Theodore returning to hold the fort. But his backup, Cristobal Huet, starts the season on the shelf with a knee injury, meaning there's a troubling lack of support for Theodore. Still, Theodore's play will help smooth over many of the rough spots the young blueliners may endure.
Search: Montreal Canadiens
|Comings & Goings|
C Radek Bonk; G Cristobal Huet; D-RW Mathieu Dandenault; D Johnathan Aitken.
D Patrice Brisebois; C Jim Dowd; RW Jason Ward; D Stephane Quintal; LW Darren Langdon; G Mathieu Garon; C Joe Juneau; C Yanic Perreault; RW Andreas Dackell.
|When we last saw them|
Ribeiro had 20 goals and 45 assists during the 2003-04 season.
Theodore had a 33-28-5 record and .919 save percentage in 2003-04.
“We were doing a lot of positive things but
you can't afford to give teams momentum.”
— Saku Koivu on new rules' effects on games