I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions so I decided to ask the Genie to grant wishes for the Montreal Canadiens during the season and since it’s been a tough year, I’m greedily requesting five wishes instead of three. Here’s hoping some of them come true and can lead to success for the Habs in 2020-21.
Josh Anderson Becomes the Power Forward Montreal Needs
During the first few days of training camp, Josh Anderson has impressed his new linemates, Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin, with his combination of speed and size down the wing.
“There was one play in practice where he (Anderson) just took off. Me and Drou (Drouin) were off to the side and we just looked at each other and smiled. We knew we couldn’t wait to get that down our wing. He’s big and fast. I think he fits us as a line perfectly,” Suzuki said.
I’ll admit I smiled too when I read this quote because what Anderson brings is exactly what the Canadiens have been missing since they won the Stanley Cup in 1993 with John Leclair in their lineup. Not to mention that Anderson is the perfect complement for Drouin and Suzuki, two playmakers who can feed him the puck and benefit from the space he will create.
If Anderson can stay healthy and produce following shoulder surgery, he changes the dynamic of Montreal’s forward group significantly, adding an element that has been sorely lacking. His ability to score off the wing will quickly make this team better.
“We knew what we were getting. But when you see him every day, it’s fun and exciting to see how well he skates and how he uses his speed to the outside when he brings pucks to the net,” head coach Claude Julien said. “That’s something we’ve wanted to have for a while, and we’ve encouraged our team to do more of. Hopefully, that becomes contagious.”
Alexander Romanov Proves He Belongs
Another player who is making a strong first impression at camp is Alexander Romanov, but that’s nothing new for the rookie defenseman who has quickly become the most highly touted Canadiens prospect in recent memory.
By all accounts, the 21-year-old is somewhat of a rink rat, putting in extra work both on and off the ice while exuding his refreshing enthusiasm for his job.
“He’s a really dialed-in athlete and everything he does on the ice every day is at 100 percent, and that’s how he’s been his whole career, his whole life. A guy who just loves the game, comes in and works hard every day,” explained Julien.
The coaches are showing their confidence in Romanov already by placing him at the point on the second powerplay unit and using him in 3-on-3 situations.
While I’m anxious to see the Canadiens’ other new acquisitions in action this season, I am most excited to watch Romanov every night and see what kind of impact he can have in his introduction to the NHL. He has all the tools and the swagger to become the star that the Montreal market so craves.
Jake Allen and Carey Price Become a Formidable Duo
I want this wish to come true if only to make general manager Marc Bergevin feel better about spending nearly $15 million of his cap space on goaltending.
I also hope it comes true for Carey Price who has been a lonely man in the crease over the past few years and finally has a proven, reliable backup in Jake Allen. But I don’t just want them to be good, I want them to be great because together they have the potential to be the best goalie duo in the league. If that happens, not only will Price likely return to the Vezina Trophy conversation once again, but the Canadiens will also be very tough to beat.
After all, despite all the offseason acquisitions, this is still Price’s team and he will still have the biggest impact on this season’s results. In addition to Allen, Price will also have a revamped defense corps playing in front of him. One that’s bigger, stronger, harder to play against, and one that will make life easier for their star netminder.
“One thing should not be forgotten about this team, or even this offseason, because both hinge on one person, and it’s not Josh Anderson or Tyler Toffoli or Nick Suzuki or Romanov. No, the fate of the Canadiens will always lie with Carey Price, and the bulk of the work Marc Bergevin did in the offseason was to optimize his top asset,” (from ‘Amid all the change, Carey Price’s status on the Canadiens is the same as always’, The AthleticNHL – 1/4/21).
Jonathan Drouin Finally Fulfills his Potential
Will 2020-21 finally be the year Jonathan Drouin hits his stride with the Canadiens?
He should be one of the players who benefits most from the roster changes. He developed chemistry with Suzuki during the postseason and lining up with Anderson should do him a world of good as well.
Arguably the most talented player on the team, Drouin is in a position to lead the Habs in scoring this season and to start making fans feel better about the trade that brought him to Montreal from Tampa Bay in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev. If he doesn’t, this might be his last year in a Canadiens uniform.
Marc Bergevin’s Offseason Moves Pay Off
My final wish is that this edition of the Canadiens lives up to the lofty expectations that have been placed on them. There hasn’t been this much excitement surrounding a Habs team in ages and it will be a whole lot of fun if the lineup Bergevin has assembled looks as good on the ice as it does on paper.
It’s been a welcome change to hear management and players say that they expect to win instead of just hoping to make the playoffs. Adding a handful of Stanley Cup winners to your roster will do will have that effect. So will having enviable depth at every position.
“We have high expectations internally. We won’t hide that. We have to perform. I really like the team we’ve put together. We could play pretty much any way you want,” Bergevin said.
If the Genie grants my five wishes, the Canadiens will be contenders during this shortened season. That’s what Bergevin deserves after his stellar work this offseason, it’s also what Price, the franchise’s greatest player of the past decade, deserves and it’s what the team’s loyal fanbase deserves during these trying times.