that we were one player away from being contender, if that was the case then why didn't we just sign free agent to solve the problem, If I remember correctly Koivu was Our third line Centre Men, and team had enough talent to make the playoff, was money the issue, as I recall it Houle had roughly $30 M to work with, I'm bringing this up because I really wish we don't make similar mistake when our young guys are ready as even then we'll probaly have some weakness holding us back, every team wanting to make next step ussually makes big free agent signing to make team better, something Colorado and Detroit have been known to do they trade for established assets every year or make free agent signing and knowing we won't have as much depth at the time management will probably have to coughup some money to make this team contender, I'm not saying Use Rangers approach but atleast sign someone who can make the difference, we haven't had good players coming in montreal for a long time now!!
They were a coach, a couple strong defensive defensemen, a #1 defenseman, and a forward with leadership and grit away from being a legitimate contender.
That said, when Houle initially took over, he had a very strong but dysfunctional team. Why Corey ever put a man with no hockey management experience in charge if beyond me. Houle's first problems were Turgeon sulking, and Roy sulking. Big egos to have to deal with.