Projecting Next Year’s Lineup: Part 1 – Forwards

Pacioretty Galchenyuk_Project Next Year's Lineup-Forwards

So here we are, just a bit over 2 months away from the drop of the puck to the 2015-16 NHL Regular Season. With this off-season being the most significant and most impactful of the Marc Bergevin era thus far, from the trading of PK Subban to the signing of Alexander Radulov, there is the utmost of pressure heading into this season for the “foxhole” crew. Especially after a disastrous season and missing the playoffs (do remember that the Habs did start the season 9-0), Habs’ fans and management will be very wary of any slow start to this upcoming season. In any case, barring any injuries or trades, here is what I project the lineup on opening night will be in Buffalo, starting out with the forwards.

Projecting Next Year’s Lineup: Part 2 – Defense & Price

Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher

We saw potential from this line at the end of last season, after Therrien finally put Galchenyuk at his natural centre position. This line just makes too much sense, that even Michel Therrien will have a hard time deciding not to put these 3 players together. On one wing, you got arguably the Canadiens’ best forward and captain Max Pacioretty, a 4 time 30+ goal scorer. And on the other side, you got Brendan Gallagher, the team’s heart and soul. Down the middle, you got the man you drafted in 2012 to rebuild your franchise, Alex Galchenyuk. It can be debated that Radulov could fit in Gallagher’s spot (potentially for the power play), but I feel that Gallagher style of play compliments Pacioretty’s and Galchenyuk’s to a tee. Max and Alex need a hard nose guy that can cause trouble in front of the net, as both play a more perimeter game.

Shaw – Plekanec – Radulov

Whether right or wrong, Michel Therrien always has a method of bringing in new skilled players to the team. From Thomas Vanek to Danny Briere to PA Parenteau and Alex Semin, none of these offensive players started out on the first line. There was always a “show me first and I will reward you” attitude with Therrien and offensive players. On the other hand, Therrien loves those grinding type of players, the likes of Brandon Prust and Dale Weise, and you can bet he’ll love Andrew Shaw. I feel that Radulov and Plekanec can have some sort of chemistry, as both play a style that can facilitate each other. While Shaw will bring a different dynamic and some scoring potential to this line. As well, I don’t see how Shaw signs a 6 year 24 million contract, just to play on the bottom 6. The Habs are committed to Shaw long term and who can argue when he’s a 2 time Stanley Cup champion.

Carr – Danault/Desharnais – Andrighetto

What to do with David Desharnais? It has been rumoured, that since last season’s trading deadline, Marc Bergevin has been actively shopping Desharnais to no avail. No team is currently interested in a 5’7 centre, that is too small to play in the top 6, but doesn’t have the defensive ability to play in the bottom 6. However, after trading away Lars Eller to Washington, and with a 3.9 cap hit in the final year of his contract, unless Desharnais is traded before the season, I feel Therrien will once again start him off as the 3rd centre. This line will be used as an offensive exploitation matchup (similar to last year’s Fleischmann-Desharnais-Weise lineup), with Carr and Andrighetto potentially adding some much needed secondary scoring. Don’t underestimate Carr here, as a “crash the net” type of player similar to Gallagher and Shaw, Carr was able to score 6 goals in 23 games (on pace for a 20 goal season) during his rookie season before a season ending knee injury. I do feel that Danault is the guy Bergevin really wants to thrive in this position. He has even come out and commented that acquiring Danault last year made Eller expendable. But until Desharnais is off the team, I can’t see Danault being played over him.

Byron – Mitchell – Flynn

I’m not sure what to think of this line, but it is the best of what remains. I’m kind of old school hockey, where I believe the bottom six, especially the bottom 3, should be a hard noise, grinding, in your face line, that can lay the smack down on opposing teams. The Byron-Mitchell-Flynn line doesn’t really ooze fear in opponents and in all honestly, 10 years ago, opposing team might be laughing at this as our 4th line. But this is the new NHL, a NHL where speed dominates, as shown by last year’s champion, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They didn’t really have a big 4th line that could ground and pound teams to submission, but rather they had a fast, skating line that drained and tired out the opposition. That could be the potential of this lineup, as all 3 players are reasonably fast and should use speed to their advantage.

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2 thoughts on “Projecting Next Year’s Lineup: Part 1 – Forwards

  1. I believe that Marc Bergevin is going to make a move before the start of the regular season because maybe a prospect like McCarron, Lekhonen, Hudon or Reway could make the lineup. I think that Bergevin could move Desharnais and a prospect like McCarron for a good prospect. I mean if MB thinks that Danault could be the team’s 3rd line center, it either means putting David on the wing or moving him for a pick. Why did I say that Big Mac could be moved? One, he could bring back a very good prospect and two, he will be nothing more than a third liner and he won’t replace Plekanec in the future. Honestly, I think that Will Bitten was an absolute steal at the draft and if he lives up to his potential, he will be the second line center. The top three centers for Montreal in the future might be Galchenyuk, Bitten and Danault which leaves no space for McCarron as he won’t be a fourth liner.

    Secondly, I think that Alex Radulov should be on the first line with Pacioretty and Galchenyuk because he is a good playmaker, something the Habs would lack on their first line if Gallagher was put there. You guys might tell me that Galchenyuk is a good playmaker but if you look at his stats from last year, he had more goals than assists. Not only is Radulov a good playmaker but he is a very good goal scorer and While Galchenyuk is a good goal scorer, he is also a pretty good playmaker. Pacioretty as well is qualified as a goal scorer but is also a very underrated passer finishing with more assists than goals. So basically you would have good passers and good goal scorers on the first line.

    Now the second line would consist of Shaw, Plekanec and Gallagher. I think that this line would be an absolute disaster for other teams to play against. One, Gallagher has shown that he has chemistry with Plekanec as he has played on lines with him and Galchenyuk or with him and Pacioretty having tremendous success with them. Two, Shaw played most of last year with two way center Jonathan Toews and while Plekanec isn’t as good of a two way center as Toews is, he has put up very similar numbers to him regarding points the last few years and even though Toews has the edge in that department, he has practically only played with talented players with the likes of Hossa and Kane while the only good right winger that Tomas Plekanec has played with is Gallagher. Plekanec’s numbers would totally increase if he played on a line with Kane. So while Shaw isn’t going to play with Toews next year, he could still deliver some offence on this line. Finally the main reason I love this line is because of the two pests who play on it: Shaw and Gallagher. They are two of the most annoying players in the league and having them on the same would tire opponents which could lead to goals as Shaw, Plekanec and Gallagher have all hit 20 goals in their career.

    The third line would be made of Lekhonen, Desharnais and Carr. Lekhonen is seemingly Montreal’s best forward prospect and put up very good numbers in the SHL, the third best league in the world. If Shaw hadn’t been acquired by Montreal he would’ve been in the top 6 but I’m putting him on the third line because he doesn’t have any NHL experience and could build up chemistry with Desharnais. Desharnais, while disliked by Montreal fans, can be a very effective third liner and we all saw it when he was playing with Fleischmann and Weise putting up 19 points in his first 22 games. I’m sorry hab fans, but I still think Desharnais is a player very capable of putting up at least 40 points. Now on the right side I was hesitant about putting Andrighetto or Carr there but I ultimately decided to go with Carr because he could very well score 20 goals in his first full season and could thrive playing with an established playmaker in Desharnais.

    Finally for the fourth line, I’d go with Danault on the left side, Mitchell in the middle and Byron on the right side. Danault could one day become the Marcus Kruger of the Montreal Canadiens. He is very mature defensively, has speed and can sometimes put up points and be aggressive on the forecheck and these are all qualities that any team wants in a fourth liner. Torrey Mitchell is the perfect 4th line center because of his speed, aggressiveness and clutch plays in the playoffs and he is the undisputed 4th line center. Finally you can’t just hand out a three year contract over a million annually to a player that won’t play and that is why Paul Byron is the one who completes the fourth line. He is an effective penalty killer, is the fastest player on the Canadiens and is a very good forechecker who can draw penaltys.

    The extra forwards to me are Flynn and Andrighetto because they can be effective players.

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  2. Thanks for the comment! I agree with you that I see Bergevin adding another piece to the puzzle, maybe not by training camp but definitely later on if we are going to make any type of playoff run. I would be hesitant on giving up McCarron though. He’s the biggest C we’ve had since the days of Bobby Smith. I think another year/half a year in the AHL for both McCarron and Scherbak will do them good. They are both raw prospects but the talent and size are definitely there for both to make it. With two 2nd round picks this year and next (from the Eller trade and our own), I think we could ship at least one and a young player like Andrighetto for someone decent. I like Ghetto last year but with Gallagher and now Shaw in the top 6, (+DD in the top 9), not sure if I want another under 5’10 player in the lineup (not to mention our soft 4th of Byron, Mitchell, Flynn). I haven’t seen Lehkonen play yet but I’ve heard the hype, so fingers crossed on him to make an impact (knowing that we’ve been disappointed before with overhyped prospects, Perezhogin, Chipchura, Collberg, Avtsin, etc.)

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