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Better Know a Rival: Montreal Canadiens

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This new series will profile teams from the Atlantic Division that we believe the Hurricanes will battle for a possible Wild Card spot.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Well, what better way to officially introduce myself to the community here at Canes Country than by getting right to work? My name is Andy House, and it is my honor to be a part of the enhanced staff here at Canes Country. I am very excited to get started, and so without further ado, let’s go!

The idea behind this additional series is to provide some perspective on the teams with whom the Carolina Hurricanes will be in tight competition with for one of the precious playoff spots in the 2016-2017 NHL season. We all know the usual suspects that are lingering at the top of the Metropolitan Division in the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Even with the hopeful expectation of improvement here in Raleigh, any idea built around competing with those two for one of the top spots in the division would seem to be foolish. Additionally, in the Atlantic Division, there are prohibitive favorites for the top spots in that division who each reside in the Sunshine State in Tampa Bay and Florida.

So, for the Hurricanes, that leaves the 3rd slot within the Metropolitan Division and the two Wildcard spots as the most likely opportunities for breaking through and re-entering the playoff parade for the first time since 2009. With that, here is the first of four pieces profiling the teams in the Atlantic Division with whom the Hurricanes are likely to be jockeying with for a potential wild card spot. And we will start with “Les Habitants,” the Montreal Canadiens.

What They Did Last Season

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The main thing the Montreal Canadiens did last season was come to the painful realization that they were a house of cards built upon the excellence of Carey Price. The season began in the most auspicious of fashions, with the Canadiens winning their first nine games, the longest streak since the 2006-07 Sabres ripped off ten straight. Seven of those games were started by Carey Price. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, he only played five more games (and none after November) and the slide out of playoff contention began in earnest. By the time the season had ended, the Canadiens had slipped all the way to sixth in the Atlantic, twelfth in the Eastern Conference.

The holes in their scoring, blueline depth, and goaltending depth were never more apparent than when their anchor on the back-end was no longer there. While Max Pacioretty led the way with 30 goals and 64 total points, and Alex Galchenyuk added another 30 goals and 56 points, the secondary scoring left much to be desired in Montreal. In net, the Price injury, Montreal went into full flail mode almost immediately. In total, four different men stood between the pipes after Price, including Mike Condon (55 games), Ben Scrivens (15 games), Dustin Tokarski (6 games), and Charlie Lindgren (1 game). While the story of their season certainly had interesting ups and downs, the really interesting stuff occurred after the season...

What They Did in the Off-Season

Montreal Canadiens v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

For many fans of the Montreal Canadiens, June 30th, 2016 is a day that will occupy the same space in their minds as December 6th, 1995, the date Patrick Roy was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. It will forever be known in Montreal as the day P.K. Subban was traded in a controversial deal with the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. In a straight up deal, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin managed to trade an All-Star defenseman on a long-term deal for another, older All-Star defenseman on a longer contract. A stunning move for sure, but one that is more likely to backfire in the extended future, not so much the immediate future, as Weber is still playing at a very high level.

This was not the only move made by the Canadiens, but it will certainly be a touchstone moment in the most recent chapter of the franchise’s storied history. The signing of Alexander Radulov (also formerly of the Predators, but most recently of the KHL) added more talent, if also a healthy dose of eyebrows raised. The trade on draft day for Andrew Shaw was executed to improve the depth of the forwards, but the trade of Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals leaves another opening...and let’s be clear, the signing of Chris Terry as a UFA is not the kind of solution Montreal fans are looking for. The Canadiens also attempted to close the gaping hole behind Carey Price in net by signing Al Montoya on July 1.

Why You Should Root Against Them

Honestly, you should hate any club whose management team would run off this guy.

2016 NHL Awards - Red Carpet Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

But honestly, you should hate this team because this is a team that plays in a hockey hotbed, and who collectively look down upon the “sunbelt hockey” franchises. This organization deals with a once-in-a-generation talent and personality, a player who shows more likability than the rest of the organization collectively, and trades him because they appear to be threatened or put off by his actions. A team willing to part ways with a player such as Subban deserves to be haunted by that decision for the remainder of his career.

The Canadiens have a coach on the rocks in Michel Therrien who might need to be replaced, but a well-documented need to hire a French-speaking coach in the past surely provides the organization a more limited pool to choose from. Imagine that, the most storied franchise in the history of the sport limited to such a small pool of possible coaching candidates. For all of these reasons, and the fact that the Canadiens may be competing directly with the Hurricanes for a playoff spot in 2016-17, feel free to actively root against the Canadiens!