New-Look Canadiens Begin Training Camp for Wild 2021 Season
Finalement, le temps est venu.
The Montreal Canadiens, after an active offseason, begin training camp today for the “2020”-2021 season. The shortened 56-game season begins in Toronto on January 13th. There are many storylines heading into this unprecedented season. I’ll go through a few of them here.
Their division is insane
Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, the NHL has realigned their divisions. To eliminate cross-border travel, teams will only play teams inside their division, baseball-style. If you haven’t figured it out already, this means that the Montreal Canadiens will be playing one of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets, the Vancouver Canucks, the Ottawa Senators, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames on any given night. That’s right, an all-Canadian division. The top four teams of this seven-team division will make the playoffs, and because playoffs are played within each division, a Canadian team is guaranteed to make the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
So, how does this affect the Canadiens? Well, their division is shaping up to be the most competitive by far, with all the teams except for Ottawa expecting to make the playoffs. By all accounts this division is a toss-up. The Canadiens have the advantage of being better defensively than their high-flying Canadian compatriots, and they definitely have the best goaltending duo (sorry Winnipeg). I hope their offensive additions from this past offseason can match up against the formidable forward corps in this division, but I’m not sure if that’s the case. Compared to their divisional rivals’ offenses, the Canadiens are lacking in star power but make up for it in depth. I anticipate many nail-biting games this season, and a tight division where the top-six teams are all within a few points of each other.
Predictions are all but pointless this year, nonetheless I could see the Canadiens finishing 3rd, behind Toronto and Calgary.
Keep in mind that the Canadiens were 9-0-4 against Canadian teams last season – not bad at all.
Alexander Romanov, we’re expecting great things from you
Props to those who got the Hamilton reference.
In all seriousness, Romanov has been touted by scouts and the Habs brass as a smooth-skating, physical, responsible defenseman. He is getting a serious look this camp at a role on the third, even the second pairing. The second-rounder from 2018 was fine in a sheltered role in the KHL, though lacking offensively. However, the KHL is not known for high-scoring defensemen, and there were questions about Romanov’s usage that may have limited his offensive capabilities. Romanov really shined playing against players his own age at the World Junior Championships, where he was named Best Defenseman in 2019 and amassed 14 points in 14 games over two tournaments. One excellent trait in Romanov is that he’s proactive defensively. He consistently shuts down offensive opportunities early, something rare among younger defensemen. I think Romanov fits well on the third pairing. I don’t think he’ll contribute much in terms of points, but his skating and physicality will serve him well in his first NHL season.
In Other News:
Anaheim Ducks legend Corey Perry signed a one-year, 750k deal with the Canadiens this week. Perry will be counted on for some much-needed grit, leadership and experience on what is a pretty young team. He’ll be indispensable in a (hopeful) playoff run.
Calgary Flames legend Michael Frolik signed an identical deal with the Canadiens recently. He is an important depth piece that embodies similar qualities to Perry.
Boston Bruins legend Zdeno Chara almost signed a deal with the Canadiens before eventually joining the Washington Capitals. Chara reportedly liked the way the Canadiens are built, but decided against turning the Canadiens’ blue-line into a football defensive line, because quarantine would have made it impossible to see his family. Maybe it’s just me, but while Chara would contribute to the Canadiens, seeing him the bleu-blanc-rouge would be too weird. All the best in D.C.
Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield has 4 points in 5 games at the 2021 WJC as Team USA advances to the semi-finals. Caufield, who is producing at over a point-per-game in college, could join the Canadiens as early as March, depending on how his Wisconsin Badgers do in their division.
J’ai hâte commencer la saison. Cette saison sera très excitante, et tabarouette, je veux seulement regarder le Canadien dans un match de hockey.
Stay safe out there, and Happy New Year.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo