Friday, August 28, 2009

The Montreal Canadiens Prepare for 2009-2010 Season

This article was first published in the August 28th edition of Main Street Week - page 5, and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by www.laurentianlife.com to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The Montreal Canadiens Prepare for 2009-10 Season

According to the calendar, summer has rolled through our part of the world, even though it was difficult to find summer amongst the rain. As we say goodbye to August, National Hockey League training camps are set to begin in a few weeks and the Montreal Canadiens and the twenty-nine other teams in the league are preparing to hit the ice and begin the long journey through another hockey season.

The keyword in Montreal going into the season is new. With a new ownership group in place, new Head Coach Jacques Martin at the helm, a yet to be named new captain and numerous changes to the line-up, it will take some time for this group of players and coaches to find some chemistry. The organization hopes the changes will enable the team to move on from the disappointment of last year's playoffs and a first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins and find their way back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Canadiens play the first of seven pre-season games September 17th against the Florida Panthers, Jacques Martin’s former club, quickly followed by two games, September 18th and 19th, against Alex Kovalev and the Ottawa Senators. The line-ups will be a mix of new and returning players in these early games as Martin and General Manager Bob Gainey evaluate the team and decide which players will begin the year in Montreal and who will head for Hamilton to play for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate to start the season.

The first game against the Panthers will certainly have a different feeling for fans searching for Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Mike Komisarek and the other unrestricted free agents that Gainey sent packing at season’s end. The loss of Koivu and Kovalev will be the most emotional for fans of the bleu, blanc et rouge. Both players were stars in Montreal for many seasons and seeing Kovalev in his Senators sweater and Koivu in the colours of the Anaheim Ducks will seem unnatural.

As in life, so it is in hockey, change is inevitable, especially in Montreal where Cup crazy fans demand more of their favourite players. Entering the hallowed Montreal dressing room this year will be forwards, Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen. Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill will join the defence and fans hope they will bring stability in the defensive zone and allow Carey Price to reach the next level as he enters his third season in the Montreal net.

This year, Price must step up as Gainey’s goalie of the future as he enters the final year of his contract. Back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak also enters the final year of his contract and management will have to decide their plans for the duo as the season unfolds. Gainey also signed free agent goalie Curtis Sanford in the off-season and there is only room for two goaltenders at the NHL level, so someone will have to start the year in Hamilton.

After a summer of changes, all thirty NHL teams and their fans will wonder, is this our year to bring home the Stanley Cup? In Montreal, the more things change, the more they stay the same and fans are desperately hoping their team brings home a 25th Stanley Cup. It will certainly be an interesting season to come. Have a great sports day everyone.

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