In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Sixteenth up are the Montreal Canadiens who are in their 102nd season as an NHL team. They missed the playoffs the last two seasons after previously making the playoffs in all but one year between 2007 and 2017.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 14th
- Goals for Rank: 13th
- Goals against Rank: 13th
- PP Rank: 30th
- PK Rank: 12th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 14th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 8th
- Atlantic Division Standings: 3rd
- Coach: Claude Julien (Technically sixth season with the Canadiens; 161-139-10-37 regular season; 6-11 playoffs; Career 627-409-10-139 regular season; 63-51 playoffs)
On offense, they averaged the 3rd most shots for of any team. Max Domi really took a step forward scoring 28 goals and 72 points, I’m not sure if it is sustainable at a 13.8% shooting but it was an impressive year. To some degree this team lacks a star but it makes up for that with depth. Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi are all above average players but none of them stars per say. This team is good at creating shots but clearly needs a massive step forward in the power play if they want to step forward.
Defensively, they averaged the 13th fewest shots against. They have a solid top four between Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Brett Kulak and Victor Mete. These four were a collective +40 last season while also amassing 112 points. I would put their top four defensemen as top eight in the NHL and they were able to create production up front as well. It’s a good mix age wise going from 21 – 34 with Shea Weber providing solid experience and leadership in the back as the Captain of the team.
In net, I have a hot take. Carey Price signed an eight year extension totaling $84MM on July 2nd 2017. Since he signed that contract his last two seasons have been two of the three worst seasons over the last nine seasons. He started with a rough 2017-2018 season where he had 3.11 GAA and .900 SV%. Last season’s 2.49 GAA and .918 SV% was similar to a few seasons going back a ways but I am nervous that at the age of 32 we are seeing the decline happening. Last season he was 12th in GAA and 11th in Sv% and I think going forward we will see more “average stats” where he falls in the 12th- 18th range of goalies.
Behind the bench, Claude Julien is a decorated NHL coach. Currently in his 18th season as a head coach, Claude has a Stanley Cup to his name (2010-2011 Boston Bruins) and across the 17 previous seasons he coached he made the playoffs in nine times. He is 15th in regular season wins among coaches all time and has proven over the years he is a strong coach and very capable of bouncing between Boston and Montreal riding both sides of this rivalry.
- Ben Chiarot
- Jordie Benn
- Andrew Shaw
- Tomas Plekanec
Prospects and Picks
Cole Caufield — It is early to say he is the top prospect in their system. It’s especially early to say that a 15th overall pick in the most recent draft could be that but I think the 5’7 very talented Cole has a great knack for scoring. He will join the University of Wisconsin-Madison this season and he has some learning yet to come in his game but he showed some excellent pedigree while on the U-18 team where he scored 100 points across 64 games. He has a gold medal while on the U17 team and a silver and bronze on the U18 team.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Artturi Lehkonen — The 55th overall pick in the 2013 draft will be entering his fourth year with the Canadiens. I feel that he and Jesperi Kotkaniemi both underachieved last year. Both had a scoring percentage under nine, both are talented but playing more third line minutes and both have a strong hustle involved. I think Artturi cracks 20+ goals and a career high 40+ points this season. Most importantly, I think he gets a few power play points (of which he had none last season for the first time in his NHL career).
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$77.5MM Spent; $4MM in Cap room; 25 players signed.