On the Offensive
Turning my attention to the offensive possibilities as they stand for the Montreal Canadiens for the 2011-2012 season, I am both hopeful and optimistic.
Looking over the forwards sign, sealed, and delivered for the upcoming season, I do not see many changes. The substitution of Benoit Pouliot for Habs-killer Erik Cole is a change I was looking for and definitely an upgrade. The Habs now have a proven power forward who is not afraid to go to the net and use his size to make room on the ice for his linemates. Critics have said he requires a great front line center in order to be effective, and cite the Habs lack of one as a reason it will not work. However, I believe either Scott Gomez or Tomas Plekanec would fit the bill. They both are pinpoint passers who can enter the zone with speed and force, drawing attention and opening up space for a streaking Cole.
I am looking for a much better season from Gomez than he had last season. The scuttlebutt is that he is in awesome shape this time around. Nothing like a veteran whose pride has been been hurt and has something to prove.
The captain, Brian Gionta, is the steady Eddie of the group - he goes quietly about his business and handles the press with grace. He is expected to continue his normal clutch scoring and leadership on and off the ice.
Plekanec will hopefully get more green lights on the offensive side of the ice this season. He is reliable on both sides of the ice and does not take a shift off, which is nice to see.
Michael Cammalleri had a difficult season the last time out. I am looking for him to finally put it together and avoid injuries, thus scoring more consistently in a Habs uniform.
Andrei Kostitsyn has been a streaky player throughout his career. When he is on, there are few who can match his speed and physicality in the league. Like several other skilled players, however, he seems to take some days easier than others. Confidence is paramount to him, and if he starts well as he did last season, hopefully we do not hear - well it is his contract year from the powers that be. I expect him to play hard and compete every game, nothing more and nothing less.
Max Pacioretty should be ready to go this season. He spouted off near the beginning of last season, and when push came to shove, put his money where his mouth was until he was injured. The biggest concern I have for him this season is how he will react to playing after such a serious injury. Some cope better than others and I expect him to do very well indeed.
Lars Eller is expected to be a bigger presence this season than last season. He has gained fifteen pounds of muscle on his large frame despite recuperating from shoulder surgery in the off-season. He will be the center on a very much improved third line.
David Desharnais is another diminutive forward who has played his way into the hearts and minds of Habs fans. He is exciting to watch and certainly has the speed and skill to be a star. It is nice to see him succeed and attain the admiration of the fans.
Mathieu Darche is a heart and soul player who lives and breathes determination. He is willing to go to the not-so-pleasant areas on the ice. He is certainly not the most talented player on the team, but is a leader on the ice and a very hard worker.
Travis Moen is a very good penalty killer and is very good defensively. He may not put the puck in the net with any regularity, but will chip in the occasional goal.
Ryan White rounds out the 12 forwards as they stand at the moment. He is a hard-nosed guy who will stand up for his teammates if and when necessary. He goes to the net and is not afraid to use his size.
This season, the Habs will boast three scoring lines. The depth of the team will be on display this season with various options if something is not working. Injuries play an important part every season and hopefully the injury Gods are not looking at the team this year.
Barring any deals, this group should find the back of the net with more regularity this season. Things looking optimistic from where I sit.