1. No surprise here, Carey Price’s health and injured right knee will be the topic of conversation though out the season. There are a lot of speculations lately, mostly from disgruntled fans and “haters”, that Price is becoming injury prone. From his pulled groin that knocked him out of the series vs Ottawa 4 seasons ago, to Chris Kreider running into him in the 2014 playoffs, to last year’s season ending injury, albeit not to his own fault, but Price’s lack of durability is concerning. Last seasons proved that Price is the Montreal Canadiens, and without their number 1 goalie, the Habs are a non-playoff team. It is reassuring to fans however, that Price has always proven to come back stronger after his series of injuries, including the Olympic Goal Medal and Eastern Conference finals run after his groin injury and his MVP year after the Kreider crash. Fans and management will be looking very closely at Price this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if management cuts Price’s game played down to around the 60 game mark.
2. Whether it’s fair or not, but the amount of pressure that will be put on Shea Weber this season will be astronomical. Coming to Montreal in return for fan favourite, PK Subban, the fans and media in Montreal will be comparing the two all-star defensemen all year long. How Weber plays for the Habs will be a hot topic of debate entering this season. If Weber can show fans why he is regarded as one of the main stalwarts on Team Canada’s blueline and provide the Habs with stability and toughness on the back end, it might lessen the blow of losing Subban to some. However, if the signs are true from last season’s playoffs, that Weber is on the decline because of his age, than this might signal the end for the Bergevin-Therrien regime in Montreal. It must be noted that no matter what he does and how well Weber plays, there will be some fans that can’t get over the fact of trading PK and will hold that against Weber.
3. Can Galchenyuk continue from last year’s breakout? There’s no question about it, last season was the breakout year Habs fans were looking for from Alex Galchenyuk. Cashing in on 30 goals and 26 assists, while playing in all 82 games, “Chucky” displayed glimpses of elite level talent down the middle that the Habs have been lacking of. Entering his 5th NHL season, there will be increase pressure asserted to Galchenyuk this year, as he will no doubt be given the reigns to the top center position in the lineup, centering the Habs’ top winger and team captain, Max Pacioretty. Galchenyuk’s career and style of play can be compared to former 2nd overall pick, Tyler Seguin. In Seguin’s 4th and 5th year, he put up 37 goals in each season and 84 and 77 points respectively. The fans and management will be looking and hoping for similar production numbers from the talented Galchenyuk.
4. How much of an impact will Radulov be? The Habs’ prized free agent signing on July 1st, Alexander Radulov, will be asked upon to carry the offensive load on a team that lack pure offensive players (with the exception of Pacioretty and Galchenyuk). Even though he dominated the KHL, there will be question marks circling around Radulov however, as this will be his first NHL season in 4 years. The game has changed since his days as a Nashville Predator, a much faster pace and younger style of game. It will be interesting to see how Radulov will cope with the speed and physicality of the North American players and the longer 82 games (+ potential playoff games) of the NHL compared to Russia. Never actually cracking the 30 goal mark in his NHL career, I expect Radulov to pot in anywhere from 25-30 goals this year, while maintaining out of Therrien’s dog house. The 1 year contract will be crucial for Radulov’s future, as if there are signs of another fallout with the team, it could be Radulov’s last stay in North America.
5. It’s been evident the last couple of years that the once prominent rear-guard for the Montreal Canadiens has tired out towards the end of the season and into the playoffs. How will Markov’s old legs hold up will be an interesting question for the Habs. At the age of 37, Markov is entering the final few years of his career and can (should) no longer be asked to play 20+ minutes on a nightly basis. Whether the fault lies on Therrien’s minute distribution, or Bergevin’s lack of ability to acquire depth on defense, but an ideal scenario would place Markov as the #3 defenseman on a cup contending team. Unless a younger defenseman like Beaulieu or Pateryn takes the opportunity by the horn and supersede Markov in the depth chart, there will be question marks raised if Markov’s level of play decline towards the end of the season and into the playoffs. The Habs will need a healthy and fresh Markov if they are hoping for any extended playoff run into the Spring.