When the 2007-2008 edition of the Montreal Canadiens hit the ice for their season opener on October 3rd ( Canadiens vs Hurricanes), Habs fans will be witnessing a team in transition, an organization that is re-defining its future strategy. In the fourth year of a five year plan, Bob Gainey can’t be satisfied with last year’s results of missing the playoff and regressing the progress of team’s development. Gainey has signed 8 new players to contracts which doesn’t include the signing of prospects like Pavel Valentenko or Sergei Kostitsyn so he has made some changes heading into this season. There has also been some departures like Souray, Bonk and Johnson to name a few but Gainey has to look further into the future and extend his 5 year plan by a year or two. Habs fans will not like this extension but we must come to the realization that the 2007-08 Canadiens will have their hands full just to make the playoff let alone win the Stanley Cup.
Like most Habs fans, I want to see the Canadiens win the cup every year like they use to in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but when I see big name UFAs like Briere, Gomez or Smyth avoid signing with the Canadiens and salary cap restraints depleting team rosters, then you have to come to the conclusion that Bob Gainey needs to re-evaluate the roster. He needs to find that balance between a youth movement and veteran stability which will keep the team competitive yet at the same time allow its young prospects to develop at the NHL like the Anaheim Duck did this year with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Justin Penner and Travis Moen( yes, I realize that these player did some time in the AHL but not 2-3 seasons like some of the habs prospects).
When you look at the current Canadiens roster(http://canadiens.nhl.com/team/app?service=page&page=TeamPlayers&type=roster), there does seem to be that balance but I would like to see Gainey/Carbonneau add a couple more young and hungry prospects to the opening day roster. If players like Ryan O’Bryne, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D’Agostini, Mikhail Grabovski and Jean-Philippe Côté play well enough during pre-season and training camp, then one or two of them should make the Habs. I admire the Garth Murray’s of the hockey world but does he bring anything more to the rink than any of the afore mentioned forwards. I think not!!
Last year’s youngsters helped and at times carried the team to the brink of the playoffs with their energy and enthusiasm. Why not add more of these elements to the 2007-08 Canadiens roster while at the same time giving these players much needed experience for future successes? As I see it, it certainly wouldn’t hurt our playoff chances.