Every year, people have resolutions on time for the New Year. Boxing week is traditionally the best months for exercise equipment sales and Gym memberships. You go to the gym in January and most machines are taken almost all day. Two to three weeks into the New Year, people’s motivation is fading and by March, only regulars are still using the equipment. Diets are out the window, the cigarette pack is back on the counter and old habits show their ugly faces again. It’s back to square one for most people.
And that’s why I don’t make New Years resolutions anymore. Instead, I try to improve on myself every day of the year. On some aspects, it comes easier than on others. I slip, I fall, I get back up and try again. But for the sake of his article, let’s go with the majority of people who like to use the New Year to set a new bar for their behaviour in life. As training camps are set to open on the 2021 season in early January, let’s see what players and hockey staff could or should have for resolutions on the Montreal Canadiens. Since we don’t necessarily know who will be on the team and who won’t (in some cases), let’s look at the most obvious choices.
Carey Price: Stay healthy and take full advantage of some much needed rest. This will be a jammed-packed schedule with many games each week. Having Allen as a backup should help alleviate the pressure, as well as the physical and mental strain on Price to be in net more often than he should. Being able to take a day off should help keep him mentally and physically sharp.
Jake Allen: Develop some chemistry with his new defensemen rapidly, and stay sharp when called upon. While he may have had hopes of beating Jordan Binnington to the starter job in St. Louis, there is no way he will do it to the Habs with Carey Price. But he certainly can allow for Price to get some quality rest. If he can earn the trust of Claude Julien and Stéphane Waite, he will be given plenty of opportunities to play.
Shea Weber: Take full advantage of the fact that the second pairing is stronger than before by playing fewer tough minutes each game. Getting rest will be key for Weber’s old legs. He’s never been fast, but his hockey sense, good positioning and his physical strength and attributes are still there. He was recently named in the NHL’s top 16 defensemen in the league and who knows, he might find himself in the running for the elusive Norris Trophy.
Jeff Petry: Work on lowering that plus-minus stat. Only once since in Montreal, during the 2016-17 season, was Petry on the plus side (plus-3). He must make better decisions with and without the puck to be considered a top-pairing defenseman. Joel Edmundson might help straighten things up for Petry, who’s the Canadiens best skating defenseman after Victor Mete.
Ben Chiarot: Get more pucks through to the opposition’s net. Chiarot has been a very pleasant surprise to many in Montreal since signing with the Canadiens. He has worked his way up to the top pair, earning the right to be paired with Weber and face the opposition’s top lines. He likes joining the rush but his wrister is often blocked in the offensive zone. Getting more pucks through will generate more scoring opportunities for the forwards and pad his offensive stats.
Joel Edmundson: Develop quick chemistry, earn and keep his spot on the Habs’ second pairing. Having such a good defender, a guy with experience to be paired with Petry is key for the team. And that’s why Marc Bergevin signed him. If he can do what Chiarot has done since joining the Canadiens, he will be a great asset to the team.
Alexander Romanov: The Tsar has arrived and he must find a way to adapt quickly to the small ice surface and adjust to the speed of the game at the NHL level. The quicker he learns, the more Julien will be able to utilise him. One thing we know is that he will seek the big hit. Deciding when to go for it and when to lay off not to take himself out of the play is something countryman and former Habs’ defenseman Alexei Emelin couldn’t do. Here’s hoping he learns quickly.
Nick Suzuki: Avoid the sophomore year jinx. Suzuki has progressed faster than anticipated and is penciled in as a top-2 centres on the team, just ahead of Kotkaniemi for the time being. Finding consistency in his game will go a long way to earn him more ice time. The good news is that he should be playing with Drouin and Anderson, a good combination of skills, size, scoring and passing abilities.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi: He had a rough second year, he will be the first to admit. KK’s resolution should be to be the playoffs’ KK and not last year’s regular season KK. Be physical and involved will go a long way for the young centreman, as there is no denying his skills’ level. He too will have good wingers to play with as he’s penciled in centering Toffoli and one of Lehkonen or Byron.
Phillip Danault: He’s working for a contract and he saw Anderson, Toffoli, Petry and his linemate Gallagher sign contracts with the team in the off-season. Take full advantage of his opportunities by being a good two-way player, taking key draws, are things he can do to earn himself a long term deal with the Canadiens. By doing so, he will help his team win games.
Jake Evans: So far, his only competition for the fourth line centre position seems to be Ryan Poehling, although Jordan Weal can also play centre. Being a right-hand shot and with two of the top-3 centres on the team being left-handed (Suzuki is right-handed), if he can continue to be responsible defensively and win his fair share of faceoffs, he will get ice time. He’s the type of player Julien likes so it’s up to him to continue earning his coach’s confidence.
Tomas Tatar: A true professional, Tatar is involved in the community and has been the most consistent forward on the Habs since being acquired in the Max Pacioretty deal. He too is working for a contract and while there is no doubt that he would love to stay in Montreal, they may not have the cap space to pay him. So he might just be working for getting more money elsewhere next year. Still a good enough motivation to perform.
Jonathan Drouin: I personally pick Drouin as the team’s most likely to have a breakthrough season. He has developed some chemistry with Suzuki in the playoffs and adding the size, grit and scoring ability of Anderson on his line could go a long way for him. He must come out flying out of the gates with the type of effort he put in at the beginning of last season. He may never be the straw that stirs the drink but he’s a key ingredient to it. The most talented left-winger on the team must take that extra step this year.
Artturi Lehkonen: Likely the most underrated forward on the team, at least by fans and media, Lehkonen will provide his usual physical and solid defensive play. His resolution will be to return to the guy he was in his rookie season by capitalizing on his scoring opportunities. If he’s placed on Kotkaniemi’s line, he should get plenty of scoring chances with Toffoli on the other side.
Paul Byron: He must overcome injuries and stay healthy. An expansive forth liner, it’s not impossible for him to steal the third line spot to Lehkonen, particularly if he finds his scoring touch. He must take good care of his body as when healthy, he’s one of the team’s best short-handed threat and at winning races for the puck. Even on the fourth line, he should have Armia to his right and he’s not too shabby offensively either.
Brendan Gallagher: The team’s top goals’ scorer, a leader by example, Gally only needs to keep healthy. If he does, his compete level will earn him some ice time. He must capitalize on his scoring opportunities however, particularly on the powerplay. With the likes of Anderson, Toffoli and even Armia pushing behind him for ice time on the right wing, the burden of scoring won’t all be on him. Gallagher should be the least of Julien’s worries however.
Josh Anderson: He says that he’s healthy. He needs to prove the few naysayers wrong by being the player that he was two years ago. He did play injured and eventually was shut down due to his shoulder last year. That’s why he only managed one goal. That type of surgery is usually very successful, as the player’s shoulder is often stronger than it was pre-injury. If he focusses on playing his style, his game, he will be a fan favourite in Montreal, making people forget Max Domi rather quickly.
Tyler Toffoli: He knows that he’s likely behind Anderson and Gallagher in the team’s depth chart. His resolution is to be the Toffoli from Vancouver, which will earn even more ice time. He will provide good secondary scoring and provide the team an option to move up the lineup when need be. He will likely be a shooting option on the left side for the powerplay, and should help improve that aspect of the Habs’ game. A stronger powerplay will result in more team wins.
Joel Armia: If one guy wasn’t thrilled about the Anderson and Toffoli acquisitions, it had to be Armia. He has just slid down to fourth line right-winger on the team. Armia needs to take the next step in his game offensively. He’s the best forward on the team at anticipating play, winning puck battles and one of the team’s best defensive forwards. His puck pursue and puck retrieval are his strengths so he must capitalize on his scoring chances. He too is working for a contract next season.
Michael Frolik: He could be on the Taxi Squad, although with a one-year, $750,000 contract, there’s no guarantee that he would clear wavers. For that reason, I think he will be the team’s 13th forward. He will be battling with Lehkonen and Byron for a spot in the line-up, and likely with Poehling for a spot on the team. His resolution will be to continue to be himself: a hard working, defensively responsible player with a never quit attitude. If he takes advantage of his chances while in the line-up, he could surprise many.
Corey Perry: Are are those old legs? His goal will be to try keeping up to the Canadiens’ speed. He’s the 5th right winger on the team’s depth chart so his resolution should be to get some jets for his skates. Experience, depth but likely for the Taxi Squad. Team friendly contract however.
Marc Bergevin: There is no doubt that he has done an amazing job during this off-season. His team is arguably the most improved team in the entire NHL. He has transferred the pressure of winning now onto his coach’s shoulders with the additions that he’s made. As in-seasons trades are almost impossible to do, he is said not to be done his shopping so keep a close eye on him.
Claude Julien: Claude’s resolution will be to balance his lifestyle, the pressure of winning games and the effect on his heart. With the episode he’s been through during the COVID-Cup playoffs, it should serve as a warning to find ways to take it easy while performing a job that’s very demanding. And while Bergevin has provided him with more quality depth, it comes with more pressure to win. His could be the first head rolling if the team doesn’t come out of the gates flying.
Kirk Muller and Dominique Ducharme: The powerplay and the penalty kill have been the team’s Achilles the past couple of seasons. It cost the team some games and therefore, some key points, contributing to the lack of success. They have more tools to play with now so the x’s and o’s must be in place, as putting the right players in places to succeed should be too. Hockey is a results-driven business and now is their time to show what they can do with the special teams.
If half of those people achieve their New Year’s resolution goals, the Canadiens will have a very successful season in this all-Canadian division and beyond. I personally believe that they will, as I have them surpassing the Toronto Maple Leafs, but right behind the Calgary Flames for top spot in the Canadian division. For the record, here are my standings predictions:
- Calgary Flames
- Montreal Canadiens
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Edmonton Oilers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Ottawa Senators
What are yours?
Go Habs Go!