However, their playoff journey was quite short as they were quickly ushered out by the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators in the first round.
Can this young team learn from their experience in the lockout-shortened season and build on it? With a young roster that’s growing, that’s quite possible.
Biggest Offseason Loss: Michael Ryder
Ryder had 21 points last season, which might not seem like that much but when you consider he only played 27 games, he actually finished second on the team among forwards in points-per-game.
Ryder is now 33-years-old and while he was a good stop-gap option for a season, the Habs really didn’t work too hard to bring back the veteran back. They’ll have other options.
See our Sleepers for the Stanley Cup~
Biggest Offseason Gain: Daniel Briere
One of those aforementioned options is Daniel Briere, who the Habs surprisingly signed after he was (somewhat) surprisingly bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers. Briere isn’t what he used to be. He’ll be 36-years-old in October and has scored just 22 goals over the last two seasons (just 16 points in an injury-marred campaign last year). However, the Habs are still banking on him to be productive assuming he can stay healthy. He’ll also add some experience and leadership.
The issue with Briere is that his production really fluctuates. Here’s a snapshot of his last six seasons in Philadelphia:
2007-08: 79 GP, 72 PTS, 0.91 PPG
2008-09: 29 GP, 25 PTS, 0.86 PPG
2009-10: 75 GP, 53 PTS, 0.71 PPG
2010-11: 77 GP, 68 PTS, 0.88 PPG
2011-12: 70 GP, 49 PTS, 0.70 PPG
2012-13: 34 GP, 16 PTS, 0.47 PPG
Clearly, there’s a downward trend over the last three seasons but if you were to chart his numbers overall, you’ll notice that his production jumps around quite a bit. Montreal is hoping that the next jump is back up.
The good news is that he’s not going to be relied upon to be the man in Montreal. The Habs had eight different players who scored double-digits last year, so this team has balance and that should considered some when making our NHL Picks.
State Of The Franchise:
The Habs went from outhouse to penthouse last season as they were the team that finished dead last in the East in 2011-12 but then bounced-back to finish second last season. Was that a fluke? The way the NHL goes these days, you never know.
Most people would sooner bet that the Habs are a team on the rise, though. When you take a look at their core forwards like Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty, you’ll notice that all are 30-years-old or younger. As a matter of fact, other than Plekanec, all are 26 or younger. The same can be said for the defense as P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz are all 27 or younger.
However, this isn’t just a cast of young up-and-comers. General Manager Marc Bergevin has surrounded the youngsters with quality veterans like Briere, Brian Gionta, Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. They’re not All-Stars but if the youngsters develop into All-Stars, this team could be a Cup contender.
Much lies on the shoulders of goaltender Carey Price, who is a former All-Star himself. He really struggled down the stretch last season, though. He posted a 1.87 GAA in February, 2.81 GAA in March and a 3.49 GAA in April. The Habs aren’t going anywhere until he proves once and for all that he’s elite but to date, we can’t quite put him there. Case and point: his 2.59 GAA ranked 27th last season and .905 save percentage landed him 31st.
So Where Does that Leave the Habs?
Well, if their young players continue to develop, which is quite possible, and Price can play consistently well for a full season, which is also possible, then they could challenge for the top spot in the East again.
What’s more likely, though, is that they overachieved a bit last season and that – while they’re still a good team next season – they’ll slightly fall back to the middle of the pack in the East.
2013 NHL Odds To Win The Stanley Cup At Bovada: 25/1