The Montreal Canadiens 2011-12 season proved to be one of the most frustrating and embarrassing seasons ever in Canadiens storied franchise’s history. Finishing last in the Eastern conference, and 3rd last overall, and with the NHL lockout still in effect with no signs of ending anytime soon, seeing 2012 end couldn’t come too soon. So I wanted to compile a top 10 list of positive signs from 2012, and what Habs fans can look forward to in 2013 (pending lockout ends one day soon).
The Montreal Canadiens The top 10 positive signs for 2012 (in no particular order):
Lars Eller four goal outburst: On Jan 4th, 2012, Lars Eller performed the Lars Eller show scoring four goals and picking up one assist as the Habs trounced the Winnipeg Jets 7-2 at the Bell Centre. Not bad for Eller considering earlier in the season against the Jets, Eller was benched! Eller’s four goal game was the first by a Canadiens since Jan Bulis performed the feat back in 2006.
Habs beat Red Wings 7-2 on Jan 25: Who would have thought with the Canadiens struggling so badly in 2011-12, and with Stanley Cup contenders Detroit Red Wings coming to town that the Canadiens would blow them out like they did? Well that’s exactly what happened back on Jan. 12, 2012 when the Canadiens exploded to a 6-0 lead and won 7-2. One of the very few on-ice highs for the Canadiens in 2012.
Andrei Markov returns to action: On March 12, 2012, Andrei Markov returned to action after almost 16 months off due to injuries. Prior to his comeback game in March, Markov, had played in only seven games in the last two seasons suffering from two major knee surgeries and another arthroscopic procedure. Markov finished the 2012 season talking a regular shift. These last few months during the lockout, Markov has taken a regular spot with Vityaz Chekhov in the KHL showing signs that he has indeed fully recovered.
David Desharnais surprising season: Last season was David Desharnais’ breakout season in the NHL. At 5’7, 177lbs not many pegged Desharnais as a No. 1 Centre on any team. But that’s where Desharnais found himself centring Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole for most of the season and tallying 16 goals and 44 assists. A far cry from Desharnais’ previous NHL highs the season prior, his rookie season, when in 43 games, Desharnais recorded 22 points.
Max Pacioretty’s comeback season and breakout year. On March 9, 2011 Max Pacioretty’s hockey reality came to a crashing halt when he was viciously hit by Zdeno Chara. Pacioretty’s season came to an instant end, suffering a season ending severe concussion and breaking his neck, coming just a few millimetres from being paralyzed. But Pacioretty was determined to make a full recovery. Pacioretty finished the 2011-12 season with career highs in goals (33) and assists (32), and leading the Canadiens in team scoring with 65 points. Pacioretty capped off the season winning the Bill Masterton award, awarded to the player that best exemplifies qualities of perseverance, team spirit and dedication to the sport of hockey.
Firing of Pierre Gauthier: With the Canadiens worst record since the 1940’s. The writing was on the wall for Pierre Gauthier to be fired. Under Gauthier’s short tenure as GM, he fired assistant head coach Perry Pearn hours before a hockey game. Soon after, team head coach, Jacques Martin was fired too. And on Jan 12, 2012, Pierre Gauthier also managed to trade Mike Cammalleri during a hockey game forcing Cammalleri to leave part way into a game verses the Boston Bruins giving a new meaning to dysfunctional organization. Prior to end of the 2012 season, on March 29, 2012 Canadiens CEO Geoff Molson announced that Pierre Gauthier was relieved of his duties as the team’s general manager,.
Hiring of Marc Bergevin: After an exhaustive four-week search for the next General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens, the list wound down to two candidates; Pierre McGuire and Marc Bergevin. On May 2nd, 2012, Team President Geoff Molson announced that Marc Bergevin would become the club’s 17th General Manager in club history. Bergevin wasted no time putting his team in place. Gone were the days of the Canadiens GM performing all the player development and player personnel moves. Scott Melanby was hired as Director of Player Personnel. Martin Lapointe was hired as Director of Player Development. Bergevin also added another assistant GM in Rick Dudley. And the scouting department under Trevor Timmins was expanded. What remains to be seen is how Bergevin’s hiring of new head coach Michel Therrien will play itself out.
Drafting of Alex Galchenyuk: The Montreal Canadiens had the third pick overall in the 2012 Entry Draft and they selected centre Alex Galchenyuk. This season, Galchenyuk is dominating his last season junior hockey with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, and Galchenyuk is also competing in the 2012 World Junior Championships playing for Team USA. It can be argued that the Galchenyuk pick represents the best non-goalie draft pick the Canadiens have selected since Saku Koivu back in 1993.
Tomas Plekanec thriving in Europe: On Sept 15, 2012 when the NHL announced that there would be a lockout as both the NHL and NHLPA failed to reach a negotiated settlement for a new CBA, Plekanec was one of the first players to decide to play in Europe during the lockout. Playing in his native Czech republic for team Kladno, in 32 games Plekanec is second in scoring with 46 points. And should the lockout end soon, Plekanec would be in mid-season form. Although Plekanec just suffered a slight setback injuring his ribs and should miss one week.
Canadiens prospects in the AHL: With the lockout now over 100 days strong, the Canadiens have focused on stock piling their AHL farm club with prospects. Never have the Canadiens been loaded with this much depth and prospects in their farm like they have this season. Although Aaron Palushaj , Blake Geoffrion, and Louis Leblanc have already played in the NHL, they are getting additional work in the AHL due to the lockout. And providing tutelage to new comers Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, , Patrick Holland, Brendon Nash, Morgan Ellis, Jarred Tinordi. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see that from these names mentioned, at least three or four will turn into solid NHL players in years to firstname.lastname@example.org