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10-06-2003, 06:57 PM
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Russian Fan
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Russian Fan's Habs Season Preview

It's a new era coming in MTL, after hearing those *infamous* 5 year plan by Reggie Houle & Andre Savard, it's now a new 5 year plan with our ex-superb captain of the glory day : BOB GAINEY.

2003-2004 is still a split decision between the management, on one side we hear our President Pierre Boivin said this team need to make the playoff & on the GM side Bob told the media that it's not a certainty that the Habs will make it but the progress of the team is the most important right now.

This summer came to a clash between some fans impatient to see some young blood with the team & others feel that this should try to get some big UFA's & put this team a step higher that the tradition used to show us.

This season should provide some answers to one of this biggest fan base of the NHL. Can the youngblood step up & be ready for the big show ? Hossa, Ward, Ryder, Ribeiro, Komisarek, Hainsey will have chance to prove that they can do good thing for the club in the present time & most of all for the future.

GOALTENDING : B+

Jose Theodore : start the season as the clear #1 but will it stay the same at the end of the year ? Theodore is probably the only piece the Habs can trade if they want something big in return. But right now , there no sign of rumors & Jose showed in the pre-season that the family affairs are personnal & the hockey is to be professionnal , especially in MTL. If Martin Brodeur can win the CUP with a divorce running in the same, Theo can do the same this season with the Habs.

Mathieu Garon : @ 24 years old, Mathieu Garon is now ready to shine as the backup for an NHL team. Most fan think that he's physical status & his technical abilities can make him to outplayed Jose Theodore someday. Garon prooved that he can do well for 10 games , can he do the same thing for 25 ? 30 ? 35 games ? His tenure should indicate if the Habs have a chance to battle for a spot in the playoff.


DEFENSE : C-

Andrei Markov : @ 24 years old , Andrei is now mature & considered a proven NHLer. Now the question is can he accept the pressure of being the #1 defensman for this team ? After a career year in 02-03, Markov is known as a very offensive defensman. Even if he's defensive abilities are somewhat a bit overrated , Markov is now the #1 for this team & now the fans expect even more from him this season. A 50 pts season ? Doubtful but not unreachable.

Patrice Brisebois : entering his 14th season with the Habs this season, Patrice is now trying to win the fans to his cause. He bulked up this summer & he is willing to be a bit more physical than the previous year. The question regarding Patrice is : can he be 100% effective for 82 games ? Patrice is known to play injured or not for this team, his heart his tatooed with the Habs logo but can he stay away from being injured ? Good thing can be expected from Patrice this season but if he doesn't deliver , it's gonna probably mean his last season with this team.

Craig Rivet : After 2 full season of 82 games , Rivet didn't play with a wrist 100% healed in 02-03. His offensive numbers is what expected from him (25-22 PTS last 2 season) but his physical & defensive abilities was lacking last year & the coaching staff hope the REAL Rivet will show. Is it a pipe dream to think his wrist is 100% healed this season ? If not dont be surprised if he's the target of the fans this season because of this huge contract he got last year to prevent FREE AGENCY.

Sheldon Souray : playing only 86 games in the last 2 years made the fans really see that we need a healthy Sheldon in the lineup to make this defense a lot better in the intimidation aspect of the game. Souray is the mean S.O.B every team want on their team but hate to play against. Souray was lucky to continue his NHL career when Paul Laus had to retired from an injury same as Souray.

Stéphane Quintal : HEART & SOUL of this defense, he maybe not as talented as the for up there & probably the next to be describe but Stephane redeem himself in the last 2 years by demonstrating to the team & the fans that his trip to NY & Chicago change him completely to know where you feel happy in life. Quintal is probably the #5 of this team but as the season will go , he's gonna be pushed to save his spot. If he played like last year, expect Quintal to stick with team as a silent leader for the team. If he lost a step during the summer, it probably means the last of him with the Habs this year.

Francis Bouillon : For the 1st time in his career , an NHL coaching staff show the desire of keeping him on opening day & even better , protecting him from the waiver draft. Every will always wonder WHAT IF if he was 6 foot 3 , he would be a monster & a star for this team. But let's get back to reality, this unstoppable player Bouillon will fight for his life night in , night out for the team. Opponents will underestimate him & that's probably the best thing that can happen for Bouillon. That wont prevent him to be constantly on the bubble but Bouillon will rarely cost the team & will surprise each game with his motivation & willingness to pay the price in his zone.

Mike Komisarek : The KID who everybody want him with the big club. With an outstanding 02-03 season with Hamilton, Komisarek will try to proove to the coaching that an AHL trip is not necessary & rounding his game can only be made if he is in the NHL. Komisarek can probably be an effective defensive-defensman but if the coaching wants him to be more confident with his offensive game, maybe an AHL trip will happen to Mike the TERMINATOR Komisarek.

Ron Hainsey : Another that many fan feel he wont reach his potential in the NHL & have a sticker on his back call lazy. Ron Hainsey can help the Habs on the PP but the question mark on him is can he not be a liability with the big club @ 22 ?. If Hainsey can do the little thing & provide a couple of goals with the team, Hainsey have a chance to stick with the team but he will probably made a couple of trip Hamilton-Montreal this season.


FORWARDS D

Saku Koivu : The guy where the staff, media, fan count on him to be the catalyzer of this offense. One of the very good playmaking abilities in this league with close to a PPG last season. Saku is an inspiration for this team with the energy he brings every shift. Healthy will always be a concern for everyone but his # of game played will have an immediate impact how where this team will rank at the end of the season.

Richard Zednik : Breakthrough with a 31 goals season, Zednik is expecting to do the same with the team in dire need of scoring. The question mark on Zednik is can he be something else than a scorer ? Can he help his line to produce more ? With 19 assists only, Zednik will need to raise this total to have a better production from the 1st or 2nd line.

Jan Bulis : After 6 NHL seasons, Jan got finally the recognition of being a true NHLer. But the question for fans is which Bulis is the real Bulis ? Some claim that he will be an excellent 2-way player on the 3rd line & 2nd line when injuries & some feel that he can step up & he be a succesful top 6 player on this team with good offensive #'s while providing an excellent defensive coverage.

Yanic Perreault : Winning the NHL FACEOFF award for a 4th straight (or is it 5 or 6) , Yanic all throughout his career never gain the recognition of being a true top 6 NHLer because of him defensive abilities or lack there of. Yanic get on the wrong side with fans after having 2 straight poor 2nd half season. In his last year of contract , can we expect like so many NHLer to have close to a career year ?

Mike Ribeiro : An outstanding junior player that as of today never came as a regular NHLer. With a superstar vision of the game, his overall game & skating abilities never gave him the chance to shine & receive a good chance as a top 6 candidate with the Habs. Once again this season the battle inside the fan will continue. Can he step up & outplay Perreault for the 2nd line spot or will he fade away like all of his pre-season shining ? Ribeiro can be an immediate contributor of the Habs compete for a playoff spot.

Donald Audette : After disappointing a few GM's, coach's & fans in the last 2 seasons. Audette is now facing the challenge of fighting to stay an NHLer because like Luc Robitaille, he can be only effective as a top 6 player on a team. If he can put the puck in the NET when the season begin, Audette will probably be buyout next summer. But again, an effective Audette is another indication of if the Habs can compete for a playoff spot.

Niklas Sundstrom : A very underrated player or a victim of his own defensive abilities success ? Niklas tried to be the most complete player season after season & when he became so good at it that he became the go to guy to check the better line. And so on his offensive reputation came to an END & is now labelled as a great 3rd checking line center.

Jason Ward : a 1st round (11th overall) in 1997 , Ward proove to many impatient staff & fans that patience is a virtue that could payoff someday. After an outstanding AHL 02-03 season, Jason is now ready to contribute offensively & probably defensive with the big team. His 6'3 & 203 pounds is exactly what the smurfs .....sorry..... the Habs need to not be intimidate by bigger opponents. No definite role was given to Ward as of today & it's good to see that Ward can be a top 6 players at time & be an effective 3rd liner as his 1st full season.

Marcel Hossa : Another 1st rounder that is very close or is he actually ready to be a full time NHLer ? Hossa made the fan believe that there's not doubt he got the skills to be a productive player at the NHL level but his lack of consistency made the non-believers think that maybe he doesn't have the heart & desire to be a good top 6 players. Marcel is another player that can influence directly the battle for a playoff spot.

Michael Ryder : Some people before training camp already felt that he should be in the lineup as soon as opening. Those people hit it right in the coffin as he become a wind of fresh air. Like Jason Ward no definite role can be given at this point of time but no doubt that his energy should push other teammates to do the same.

Joe Juneau : Not a fan favorite due to his Therrien Era where he log to many minutes just to check the 1st line opponent. Juneau can be a good teachers for the lot of youngblood coming into town this season. Sure many people would like him to see gone but Juneau is one of the few that have the smart to help the young player how to be effective & responsible in his own zone while providing some offense at time.

Chad Kilger : Many people give up on him & will be satisfy with a 4th or 3th line role if he brings energy & the physical aspect of his game. Which Kilger can we see in the future ? Near 27 years old Kilger will need to accept the role that the coaching staff will ask him to do. Since he's a very coachable player, Kilger will provide what is ask from CJ.

Andreas Dackell : Another not so fan-favorite to stay with the team. Many feels that instead of making the club progressing he handicaped a young players spot with the team. But the question before opening is : can a young player do the little things that fans didn't see like Dackell ? Until the coaching staff will have a clear answer at this question, Dackell will stick as bubble everyday NHL player.

Tomas Plekanec : Another player that will benefit as this present time to get a cup of coffee of the BIGS. Plekanec is another player that bring energy to a team & have a chance of being with the team in the 2nd half of the season depending of the standing in the EAST.

Christopher Higgins : getting all the praise from the VETS as a guy who can do the little things that fans usually dont see. Higgins will get a cup of coffee of the regular season because he's playing his heart out every game & do what the coach want him to do. That's why he played as a bottom 6 player in the pre-season, to check if they can count on it as a 2 way player.

Steve Begin - Darren Langdon : No comments as they just arrive & not sure to stick with the bigs.

COACHING C-
Right now, Claude Julien can't be called a regular coach at the NHL level & even if he succeed at other level right now, we need to see if the players will buy into HIS system & for HOW LONG ? Can he keep everyone satisfy ? Can he let the kid progress without making any vets unsatisfied with less ICE-TIME? That's the kind of things CJ will be judge by fans, medias, players & the GM !

GM : B
Right now it's tough to put a letter on how Bob Gainey is a the Habs GM because his days with the Stars can be reflected with his current role which he have a smaller payroll , no impact player à la Modano. Gainey made some good move & some not so good move. It's up to debate but let him give a B.

INTANGIBLES : C
As of today , there are too many IF too considering the Habs as a legitimate playoff contender. Too many thing need to fall into the puzzle to make this team 8th in the EAST. While other weak team get better, the Habs are relying on the youngblood to push this team. Healthyness is also a concern already with Zednik, Kilger, Bouillon & Koivu injured. Even if it's light injuries, it made them a step below every 100% player who benifits of having a pre-season.


PREDICTION :
13-14th spot in the EAST with 27 wins 41 losses 10 Ties 4 OTLosses 68 PTS


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