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30 Teams in 30 Days - Montreal Canadiens Written by Oilerfan4life - September 14th, 2009
Over the course of 30 days, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season. 

Next up, the Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal Canadiens
Season 5: 41-28-12-1 (4th East, 2nd Northeast)
GM: Mikeyevil(3rd Season with Montreal, 4th Season Total)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(Incoming Player In Bold, Rookies In Itialics)

Lupul - Arnott - Frolov
Whitney - Koivu - Rolston
Johnson - Moore - Cooke
Darche - Begin - Larose

Jackman - Komisarek
Salei - Keith
Alberts - Mottau

Clemmensen
Sanford

What They Did In The Off-Season:

Mike Fisher’s first season in Montreal was a forgettable one as Montreal finished 13th in the East. They had little depth at every position but a good stable of young top end prospects. It was then that they decided waiting would take too long to become a contender. Fast forward one year and the team became a Stanley Cup contender with the 3rd best record in the East. Now it did cost them a lot of those top end prospects but when your winning, well that’s all that really matters.

Although the Canadiens had their best regular season finish since they won the Cup, they failed to make any noise in the playoffs and lost in 5 games to a hot Tampa Bay Lightning squad. This would lead to Fisher making major changes. He decided to once again avoid the draft and did not make a single draft choice in 2009. In fact he has made only 1 draft pick in the last 2 years. As long as Montreal can win games this wont be a huge issue but this could hurt the team in a big way down the road.

The first thing on Fisher’s mind this summer was to lock up his free agents. Jason Arnott and Matt Cooke signed long-term, Curtis Sanford and Andrew Alberts were locked up as well. The negotiations went fairly smooth with the exception of Joffrey Lupul. The two sides seemed worlds apart and both sides got involved with the media. In the end they settled on a 1 year deal just under $3 Million. With his own guys all locked up Fisher was free to see what else was out there. The club would avoid any big name players and went after some depth players in Mathieu Darche, Karl Stewart, and Keith Aucoin. They don’t make up for losing Dean Mccammond and Karlis Skrastins to other teams but it was clear that Montreal wasn’t going to match their other offers.

Now seeing that the draft and the free agent market wasn’t where Fisher was going to improve his team, this left only one option. The trade market. One of the first deals completed since the league opened up trading for the summer was to send 3 time Norris winner Chris Pronger to their division rival in Ottawa. A surprise move considering who they dealt him to. Pronger was the anchor on the Canadien blueline but with reports coming out that his wife didn’t like Quebec, Mike Fisher’s hands were tied. In return he got Marian Gaborik and Steve Eminger. This gave them a huge boost up front but no question their defense took a big hit. A day later Montreal would make another massive deal sending Patrik Elias and Mike Commodore to Calgary for Jason Spezza and Eric Brewer. Then former Calder winner Eric Fehr was sent to Philadelphia for 4th line forward Chad Larose and a mid pick. The trades didn’t stop their either. Mike Modano was sent to San Jose in a salary dump move for Ryan Johnson and Stephane Veilleux. Dennis Seidenberg and Liam Reddox went to Carolina for Dainius Zubrus and a 1st(which had a few GM’s wondering what Carolina was doing). Jason Spezza would be dealt for Mike Komisarek. A move to perhaps counter balance the Pronger deal by giving some much needed help on the backend.

Now for most teams that would be enough trading for the entire summer but Mike Fisher was not done yet. In perhaps the most surprising move yet, he dealt goaltender Alex Auld, Rostislav Klesla, and Vernon Fiddler to San Jose for Saku Koivu. Now this is a player who was on Fisher’s radar for a long time and he still can be very effective on both ends of the ice but at what cost? Auld had a great season and became a bonofide #1 in the CMHL after proving his season 4 with Dallas was not a fluke. This would leave them with Scott Clemmenson and Curtis Sanford in net. Neither of whom have ever proven capable of being a starting netminder. However the club wasn’t done just yet. They dealt Brewer for Barrett Jackman, and sent Zubrus to Dallas in a huge steal of a deal for Ray Whitney and Duncan Keith. They then moved Gaborik with a 1st and a 2nd for Alex Frolov. It might see like they gave up more than they needed to but Frolov is fresh off a Stanley Cup victory and that experience goes a long way. They would also bring back Brian Rolston and say goodbye to yet another summer acquisition in Eminger.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

Goaltending is without a doubt the big question mark. Will Clemmenson be able to carry a team to the playoffs? Its always a risky choice going with an unproven #1 goaltender but with a 32 year old that has never even won a game in the CMHL? The Canadiens seem prepared to go ahead with him to start the season but you can be sure that if he falters, Mike Fisher wont be afraid to pull the trigger on a deal.

Player To Watch:

Joffrey Lupul - Lupul had a career season with 72 points in S5. 32 more than his previous best. He signed a 1 year deal to prove that he is capable of repeating those numbers and to cash in on his next contract. He will likely play with Jason Arnott again and Montreal will look for him to become PPG player with the minutes he will get.

Season 6 Outlook:

The loss of Pronger and Auld is big, there’s no denying that. However one could say the defense has improved with a better supporting cast and the top 6 up front is as strong as ever. With that said we see them as a playoff team but not in the top half of the east. Look for Montreal to finish between 5th and 8th. Although with Mike Fisher behind the wheel, every player on this roster could be dealt within 2 months, thus making this preview worthless!

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Comments:

Frolov is fresh off two Stanley Cups actually, as he was a member of the S4 Islanders. Good luck charm? Maybe...

Written By: habsfan93 (2009-09-14 16:33:25)

Well with Clemmensen and Sanford in net for 82 games, you can best be sure that Montreal will be no threat in the East this year!!

Written By: StajanFan (2009-09-15 17:02:30)

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