Montreal Season Review

Since no one has done this already, I decided I would finally break out and actually submit an article for once. This may end up a tad long, but I hope it’s worth a read.

This was a season that started out with many so-called “experts” predicting Montreal would finish out of the playoffs. A strong 5-2-0-0 start tailed off quickly and it began to appear as though these experts may have been right. However, a strong second half of the season had Montreal finishing 11 games above .500 and the number 7 seed in a very strong Eastern Conference was their’s.
One of the biggest improvements was made in early June when the Habs replaced general manager Andre Savard with former Montreal captain and former Dallas Stars GM Bob Gainey. Gainey made an early statement by telling fans to stay home if they were going to continue to boo defensemen Patrice Brisebois. Brisebois responded with 31 points and a career best +17 rating. Gainey filled some of the major holes by picking up eventual fan favourites Darren Langdon and Steve Begin in the waiver draft, thus adding some much needed grit and energy to the line up. With Gainey on board we also got a chance to see some of Montreal’s future as he took us towards a bit of a youth movement by sending veterans Patrick Traverse and Karl Dykhuis to the minors for the majority of the year. He got rid of underachievers such as Randy McKay, Mariusz Czerkawski and Donald Audette. We were able to see a number of players playing in some of their first games in the NHL. Late season acquisitions of Jim Dowd and Alex Kovalev were also very key in Montreal’s playoff run.

Here, now, is my review and rating of the players that appeared in a Montreal uniform this year.

Forwards

Donald Audette 21GP 3G 5A 8P -4

Audette started the season with the Habs but after only 8 points in 21 games, his contract was bought out. He eventually signed with the Panthers putting up similar numbers to what he did with Montreal.

Josef Balej 4GP 0G 0A 0P -1

Balej got to play 4 games with the Habs this year, but spent the majority of the season in Hamilton. He was traded at the deadline to the New York Rangers for star forward Alex Kovalev. He put up 5 points, including his first career NHL goal, in 13 games with the Rangers.

Steve Begin 52GP 10G 5A 15P +6

B+

Picked up in the waiver draft, Begin became a fan favourite quickly by hitting everything that moved. At 5’11” and 185 lbs, he isn’t one of the biggest players in the league, but he played with a ton of intensity and was the centre on Montreal’s “energy” line. While his numbers were not significantly better than his previous career high, they were quite an improvement from ’02-’03.

Jan Bulis 72GP 13G 17A 30P -8

C

Still only 26 years old, Bulis still has not yet reached his full potential. He is a great checking forward, but was too often used as a top-line winger. 30 points was ten off of his total from last year, and his plus/minus rating dropped from a +9 to a –8.

Andreas Dackell 60GP 4G 8A 12P +8

C-

While his 60 games was the fewest he has played in a season throughout his career, Dackell’s 12 points was less than half of last year’s total of 25, which was his previous career low. He has, however, been a solid checking line winger for Montreal throughout his stay there.

Pierre Dagenais 50GP 17G 10A 27P +15

A+

Dagenais was reunited with former line-mate Mike Ribeiro for the first time since junior when they combined for 258 points in a single season. His 17 goals would translate to about 28 over the course of a full 82 game season, this would have led the team. He nearly doubled his previous career high point total, and helped get Ribeiro back on the right track offensively.

Jim Dowd 14GP 3G 2A 5P +6

B

Dowd was a deadline pick-up, and he provided some much needed playoff experience to a relatively young Montreal team. He was the right handed centre that Gainey had been looking for. Having comeback twice from down 3-1 in a series last year with the Wild, he likely played an important role in the locker room in Montreal’s comeback against Boston.

Gordie Dwyer 2GP 0G 0A 0P 0

Dwyer played most of the season in Hamilton. His only stats in Montreal are his 2 games played, his 7 penalty minutes, and 6:32 average ice time

Benoit Gratton 4GP 0G 1A 1P 0

Gratton is another player that spent most of his time in Hamilton. He continues to put up solid numbers in the AHL but can never seem to stick in the NHL

Chris Higgins 2GP 0G 0A 0P 0

Higgins was fortunate enough to make the team out of training camp, but after seeing very limited ice time, he was sent down to Hamilton and proceeded to put up an impressive 48 points and a +16 in his rookie season in the AHL.

Marcel Hossa 15GP 1G 1A 2P -3

Hossa is a player with a ton of potential, but doesn’t show a lot of drive. He has shown he is capable of putting up some solid numbers, but he can also disappear for extended periods of time as he did this year. How many chances will he get in Montreal? I can see the Habs trading him in the not-so-distant future, unfortunately I can also see him exploding much the way John LeClair did after Montreal traded him.

Joe Juneau 70GP 5G 10A 15P -4

C-

Juneau’s numbers continued to slide again this year, down to a career worst 15 points. He is expected to announce his retirement sometime during this off-season, and even if he doesn’t, it is unlikely he will be back with the Habs next year.

Chad Kilger 37GP 2G 2A 4P +2

D

At 6’4” and 225 lbs, Kilger should be, at the very least, a solid, punishing checking forward. Unfortunately, he was one of the least physical forwards during the games I have watched over the last few years. His 4 points in 37 games isn’t all that impressive either. He would occasionally show some solid offensive talent when put on a line with Koivu, but it never lasted. I’m glad he is finally gone.

Saku Koivu 68GP 14G 41A 55P -5

A

Once again, injuries prevented Saku from playing a complete season. His ppg was slightly better than team leading scorer Mike Ribeiro, but he also had an unimpressive -5 rating. He always saves his best playing for playoff time, where he now has 21 points in his last 23 playoff games. What’s more impressive is that he was the leading scorer in the playoffs with 11 points in 11 games this year, while playing with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and a bruised lung. His playoff performance is what makes me up his rating from a B+ to an A.

Alex Kovalev 12GP 1G 2A 3P -4

B

Based on his regular season alone, Kovalev should get a rating of, at best, a D-. One of the most talented players in the entire league, and he only put up a total of 45 points in 78 games. After missing some time with an injury just after the trade, he was all but invisible, eventually working his way down onto the fourth line. He finally hit his stride in the playoffs and was possibly Montreal’s most valuable player in their round 1 upset of Boston. 10 points in 11 games over two rounds in the playoffs had him among the scoring leaders.

Darren Langdon 64GP 0G 3A 3P -2

B

Langdon’s 135 penalty minutes led the team, but was his lowest in a couple of years. All in all, he did a solid job as Montreal’s enforcer, and was a definite upgrade from the past few we have had *cough* Dwyer *cough* Blouin *cough*. Well-liked by his team-mates, and being from Newfoundland, he most likely made the adjustment much easier for rookie star, and fellow Newfie, Michael Ryder. He even scored his first goal in 3 years, and it was a big one.

Yannic Perreault 69GP 16G 15A 31P -10

B-

Yannic was the best faceoff man in the league…again. He had his lowest point total since ’96-’97, when he only played 41 games. However, he was a serious scoring threat when he was put on the Koivu line. Played an important role in Montreal’s first round upset of the B’s. UFA this year, I’d like to see him back after what he did for Montreal in the playoffs, but I find it unlikely that he will be resigned.

Tomas Plekanec 2GP 0G 0A 0P 0

Plekanec spent most of his time in Hamilton where he put up 66 points and a +21 rating in his second year in the AHL.

Mike Ribeiro 81GP 20G 45A 65P +15

A++

Still only 24, this former junior superstar (292 points over two seasons) is finally looking like he is going to live up to his expectations. Ribeiro’s major problems have been his size and defence. He spent the off-season getting into the best shape of his career, and bulked up to an incredible… 177lbs. Oh well, at least he addressed the defence issue, with a +15 rating, he was one of Montreal’s best all-around even strength players.

Michael Ryder 81GP 25G 38A 63P +10

A+

Many players taking the same route to the NHL as Ryder, would have quit a long time ago. He wasn’t supposed to make his junior team, he wasn’t supposed to make his AHL team, he ended up spending time in the ECHL, and he wasn’t supposed to make the Habs, but he continued to work hard and prove everybody wrong at each level. He isn’t necessarily an extremely skilled hockey player, but he works incredibly hard. He was the leading scorer among rookies, and is one of two players with a legit shot at winning the Calder this year, Andrew Raycroft obviously being the other one.

Niklas Sundstrom 66GP 8G 12A 20P +3

B-

Sundstrom had a similar year to last year, aside from missing a number of games. He was a solid defensive winger again this year, able to shut down some of the better players on opposing teams. He plays similar to Dackell, but with more offensive talent.

Jason Ward 53GP 5G 7A 12P +3

B

Ward gets a B mostly for reaching a career high in games played at the NHL level with 53. He has been putting up solid numbers in the AHL with the Bulldogs, but due to injuries hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself at the NHL level. He was a solid checker during his time with Montreal, and showed some serious offensive potential in plays like his penalty shot goal late in the year.

Richard Zednik 81GP 26G 24A 50P +5

A

Zednik reached his career high in points, albeit with a slight drop in goal production. He was Montreal’s leading goal scorer for the second year in a row. Not really much else to talk about, other than he was on Montreal’s top line with Koivu and Kovalev through most of the playoffs.

Defensemen

Francis Bouillon 73GP 2G 16A 18P +2

B+

Bouillon has spent the last few seasons up and down between the NHL and the AHL. This year he reached a career high in points at 18. This was his first full season in the NHL since ’99-’00 when he put up very similar numbers to this past year. At 5’8”, the obvious knock against him is his size, but he doesn’t back down from anyone. He isn’t afraid to battle in the corners for the puck and mix it up with players much bigger than himself. We even got to see him drop the gloves with 6’1” Tim Taylor in game four against the lightning. Possibly the most underrated player for the Habs.

Patrice Brisebois 71GP 4G 27A 31P +17

A-

Brisebois responded incredibly well after Bob Gainey gave him a vote of confidence by voicing his displeasure with the fans that were booing him. His 31 points was only 6 off his career best and his +17 was a career best, and quite impressive considering last year he was -14 and 3 years ago he was a -31.

Karl Dykhuis 9GP 0G 0A 0P -2

Dykhuis spent most of the season in the AHL along with Patrick Traverse. It was nice to see Gainey give the young d-men a shot this year.

Ron Hainsey 11GP 1G 1A 2P +3

Hainsey made the Canadiens out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal before being sent back down. He had 31 points and a +15 rating after being sent to Hamilton.

Mike Komisarek 46GP 0G 4A 4P +4

B-

Komi played very well during his time with the Habs, I didn’t get to see him play a whole lot outside of the playoffs though. During the playoffs he came in to replace the injured Quintal, and played so well that Julien wouldn’t take him back out of the line-up when Quintal was ready to return. He made some rookie mistakes during his time with the Habs, but it’s all part of the learning process, he looks like he’s got a very bright future in Montreal.

Andrei Markov 69GP 6G 22A 28P -2

B-

Markov had a slight drop in production, and though his plus/minus dropped considerably, he has been continually improving every year. He is a more complete 2-way defenseman than he was last year when he put up 37 points. We can only hope he doesn’t turn into another Malakhov.

Stephane Quintal 73GP 3G 5A 8P +10

C+

This year’s 8 points was the first time since ’90-’91 that Quintal has found himself in the single digits in point production. However, this is also the first time he has had a positive plus/minus rating since ’97-’98. He provides a lot of veteran leadership, but he is not nearly as physical and intimidating as he once was. He plays a solid defensive game, and provides some stability on the back end of a young Montreal defence, but it looks as if this could be his last season.

Craig Rivet 80GP 4G 8A 12P -2

C

Rivet is capable of being one of Montreal’s best defensemen, and at times he showed that this year. But his production dropped off from 25 and 22 points in the last two years to 12 this year, and his plus/minus dropped into the negative as well.

Sheldon Souray 63GP 15G 20A 35P +4

A

Souray became Montreal’s number one defenseman this year after missing all of last year with a wrist injury. He was putting up some very solid offensive numbers and actually surpassed his career TOTAL goals scored, but then he went down with another injury and his production tailed off. If it weren’t for the knee injury, Souray would likely be a nominee for the Norris Trophy, and would have an excellent shot at making Team Canada for the 2004 World Cup.

Goalies

Jose Theodore 67GP 33-28-5 6SO 2.27GAA .919PCT

B+

Theo rebounded nicely after a disaster season last year. His 67 games played matched a career high, and his 33 wins set a new career high. His GAA and SV PCT were much improved over last year, but there is still room to improve based on his numbers 2 years ago.

Mathieu Garon 19GP 8-6-2 0SO 2.27GAA .921PCT

B+

Some say Garon is the best backup in the league. I’m not saying he is or he isn’t, but he put up some pretty darn good numbers for a backup this year. He matched Theo’s GAA and had a better SV PCT.

Don’t know if this needs to be included, but I got all my stats from http://www.canadiens.com/eng/stats/redirect.cfm?sectionID=habsRosterCurrentStats.cfm&displayID=2 and http://www.tsn.ca