ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — After a long off-season for Canadiens fans, it’s finally time that we have some play on the ice to discuss. It may have been a red versus white scrimmage, but it still counts as hockey. At least it did count for the sold out crowd that showed up to the Bell Centre to watch the intrasquad game on Sunday afternoon.
When it comes to actual pre-season games, it begins on Monday night as the Habs will host a split squad of the Devils. The Habs then face the Panthers on back to back nights starting on Wednesday in New Brunswick and at home on Thursday, before heading to Ottawa on Saturday night to face the Senators.
For new readers of the Habs Notepad, the column appears every Monday on All Habs Hockey Magazine during the hockey season. Make sure to check it out every week.
Molson on Playoffs
At the Canadiens annual golf tournament at Club de golf Laval-sur-le-Lac and through his various media tours over the last week, Marc Bergevin mentioned that the team’s objective for the season is to make the playoffs, and anything can happen after that. Canadiens owner Geoff Molson shares that vision. “We’ll start the season with that as the goal and we’ll see what happens,” Molson told reporters at the golf tournament.
After not clinching a playoff spot in two of the last three seasons, missing the post season again this year would be unacceptable. “I think there’s pressure every year to make the playoffs and we want to make the playoffs just as much as everyone else, obviously. And so yes, the pressure’s there to make the playoffs,” added Molson.
When asked by the French media if Bergevin’s job would be at risk if the team doesn’t clinch a spot, Molson’s answer left the door open. “It will depend on a lot of situations, but I have confidence in Marc and his team. I have confidence that we’re going to play well this year.”
I wouldn’t expect the owner to come out and give an ultimatum in public prior to the start of the season. There’s a risk in doing that. In an interview that was published last Monday by La Presse, Bergevin said that he would be willing to trade a prospect at the trade deadline, depending on the standings. A General Manager that would have that type of pressure set from the owner would be tempted to jeopardize the future of the organization for a short term fix to get the team in the post season.
In my opinion, Molson should cut ties with Bergevin if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again, regardless of circumstances. In 2015-16, Carey Price only played 12 games due to injury. No significant moves were made that season to replace their elite goaltender. That was Bergevin’s mulligan. Injuries can’t be used as a way to justify a failed objective again.
The first thing that Molson should look at would be this off season, and the fact that his General Manager failed to improve any of the team’s needs. The main additions were Ben Chiarot and Keith Kinkaid, to replace the roles of Jordie Benn and Antti Niemi.
Fans interest dipped as a result of the 2017-18 season, where the team finished at the bottom of the standings. The sell out streak at the Bell Centre ended as a result. Last season’s exciting style of Habs hockey did help the brand but not back to where it has been in the past. In an interview with RDS’ Chantal Machabee in June in honour of his tenth anniversary as team owner, Molson said that winning is more important than making a profit.
It wasn’t that long ago that tickets to every single home game was sold out within hours of the tickets going on sale. It has been over a week that tickets for this season’s home games have been on sale, and if you and your seven friends would like to attend the home opener against the Red Wings on October 10th, you can go over to the team’s site and purchase a block of eight tickets.
As much as he said that winning is more important, ticket sales are certainly a concern for the owner. It will get worse next season if his team doesn’t make the playoffs.
Gardiner and Duchene Contract Offers
At the golf tournament, Bergevin confirmed that they made a contract offer to defenceman Jake Gardiner over the summer. La Presse’s Alexandre Pratt reported on Tuesday that the Canadiens offered a three-year, $15.75 million contract to the free agent. The Hurricanes signed Gardiner to a four-year, $16.2 million contract. In other words, Montreal offered him almost the same total dollar amount like Carolina, for a year less of work. Only Gardiner himself can confirm, but it’s obvious that his decision was made based on a factor not related to money.
Matt Duchene also confirmed to Sportsnet last week, that he seriously considered signing with the Canadiens over the summer before signing with the Predators. “French-Canadian background, and [GM Marc Bergevin] and [owner Geoff] Molson couldn’t have been better when we went to Montreal,” Duchene told Sportsnet. “There was definitely something to be said for the history and the tradition they have there. It was pretty cool just to even talk to them, go to that rink, have them [involved].”
Early Training Camp Observations
The players hit the ice on Friday and we got to see the line combinations that the coaching staff prepared during the off-season. “I think it’s obvious when you look at what’s going on right now in training camp that we’re trying to prepare for the start of the season,” Julien said on Friday. “We don’t have 23 jobs available, we all know that. We’re starting with lines that we think we might like. It doesn’t mean it won’t change before the start of the season, but we have an opportunity to work together and do these things.”
Based on the line combinations and defensive pairings after the initial weekend of training camp, the coaching staff’s plan seems to be as shown below:
The available roster spots as of now are for depth players on the fourth line, and the third defensive pairing. It seems that the coaching staff is giving Josh Brook a good look as he has been paired with Brett Kulak on the third pairing.
Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki have been playing up to this point with players battling for a fourth line/depth role. Things may change before the start of the season due to injuries or players not playing to expectations, but early indications are that both of them will start the season in Laval.
By Chris G., Senior Writer
All Habs Hockey Magazine
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