Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Your 2011-2012 Montreal Canadiens

So what have we got? We’ve got the deepest top nine the Canadiens have seen since 2008, if not earlier.

We’ve got a defence that is in a holding pattern, waiting for the arrival of Andrei Markov.

And, thankfully, we’ve got Carey Price.

The forwards look solid, for once, with two big bodies getting regular ice time. Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole are going to make a big difference to the Canadiens offence, crashing and banging, driving to the net. The Habs haven’t had that sort of physicality since Shayne Corson’s second go around in the late 90’s - and just saying that dates me. Scott Gomez looks like a man possessed, based on the pre-season. That probably only means 60 points, but that’s a heck of a lot better than 40. Tomas Plekanec has 70 point potential, as does Mike Cammalleri. Brian Gionta is dependable, Andrei Kostitsyn ever the enigma. The third line has great potential, with David Desharnais wielding his significant offensive instinct between Kostitsyn and, once healthy, likely Lars Eller. It could be the Habs best third line in years. Or, it could be a mess. We’ll know pretty soon.

The fourth line, however, is a question mark. Ryan White, Travis Moen, Andeas Enqvist and Mathieu Darche are a crapshoot. Darche is probably the most talented and committed - he showed a flair for going to the net last year, and could provide much needed depth in case of injuries. White and Moen will act as the crash-boom grind that so many fourth lines possess. And the jury is out on Enqvist - I didn’t see much from him to get me excited in camp, but as I’ve said many times, the pre-season means little. However, what the fourth line lacks is a proven winner or two. Stanley Cup teams have much stronger fourth units, with savvy veterans and gritty, grinding wingers. The Canadiens have Enqvist et al. Not sure how they will stand up over 82 games.

As for the defence, it reminds me of the great 1980’s board game Guess Who? Why? Because it’s a veritable ferris wheel. Andrei Markov is out, that much we know. PK Subban is, for now, ‘the man’ on the back end. Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, and Jaro Spacek, in some order will fill out the top four. And then the games begin. Raphael Diaz looked good in camp - but is he the real deal? Chris Campoli brings veteran presence, an ability to rush, and a decent shot - but is he any better than 3rd pairing defenceman? Alex Emelin had lots of promise, but his hitting talent has yet to translate. Jef Woywitka had a good first and second game, and was lacklustre from then on. And Yannick Weber has not developed as hoped, to the point that he may end up a fourth line winger. How will this defence perform? We don’t know. But what we do know: Markov can’t come back soon enough.

And, finally, Mr. Price. The key to any success the Canadiens will have this year. He’s a Vezina candidate from the start, and probably the team’s MVP as of day 1. If Price has another season to remember, the Canadiens are in the hunt. If not, a lot of Peter Budaj likely won’t mean a lot of wins.

Bottom line: the season depends on Price. We all know that. But the strength of the defence will contribute a lot to Price’s success, as will the forward depth that Pierre Gauthier has assembled. My bet is this team gets 95-100 points, and finished top three in the Northeast, and nails down a playoff spot.

And with that, back to the kitchen for some more Tylenol. Anyone else nursing an autumn cold? This one is wicked. Gotta be better for Thursday. Time to drop the puck.

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Comments

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Well let’s hope the effort the boys showed against TB is the one we get on most nights. If that’s the case, we’ll be fine.

Curious to hear your thoughts on the Campoli non suspension. I don’t get how that’s not a suspension after the other ‘suspension worthy’ hits we’ve seen this pre-season…

What’s Macarthur suspended for when you look at Malone launching himself into a D man chasing a loose puck and hitting him in the head?

I think Shanny’s opened the proverbial can of worms by not protecting the vulnerable player who had no other choice but to chase the loose puck in his zone. On that play, there’s no way the D Man thinks - oh I need to look up to make sure I’m not creamed… He’s got to get the puck out!

Now, every hit to the head is going to have to pass the Campoli test. At least Campoli is alright.

Posted by Marc10 from Sydney, Oz on 10/04/11 at 09:40 AM ET

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Marc: I agree re: Malone. I felt that should have been a suspension. It was clearly a hit to the head, and he left his feet to deliver it. Campoli was doing what any defenceman would have done. That said, I knew that at some point Shanahan would rule on something and people would disagree wit hit. But I concur, I felt it was as bad, if not worse, than the MacArthur hit.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/04/11 at 06:15 PM ET

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About The Upper Canadien

The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com