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Monday, September 14, 2009

OGA SPR: The Montreal Canadiens - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Montreal Canadiens - the 16th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The MONTREAL CANADIENS as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) click the link to better understand OGA's proprietary Curve

Last Season VS the PQC: On Goal Analysis correctly called the Montreal Canadiens 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) at Game 10 on November 1st, 2008! What we didn't say was 'swept in first round.' No, the Boston Bruins were the ones who made what should have been 'a series for the ages' nothing more than a bitter pill to the end of a glorious centennial season that came undone shortly after Montreal hosted the All Star game.

While the Habs were at +3.5 against the Curve by the end of their tenth game, they would then nosedive to playing 0.5 points below the PQC until Game 30. A huge swing up by Game 30 (+2.5) and then another huge swing down by Game 60 (-2.5) meant the team OGA called IN by Game 10 had to squeak into the post-season to keep us right.

But that's what our Playoff Qualifying Curve is all about - evaluation over the 10-game furlongs. And we're right almost 90% of the time.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: Again, Montreal put the OGA PQC to the test last season. They ended their regular season at half of a point below the Curve and finished at 4.65. The team average (since the lockout) now sits at 4.74.

What is most interesting is the consistency by which this team opens strong every season. Since the lockout, the Canadiens have played above the Curve every season until about the Game 40 mark. Halfway through and the consistency is through.

For the second half of the seasons, Montreal has been all over the map with point swings both well above and well below the PQC.

When mining the depths of Montreal for fantasy hockey players, consider this as you may have the upper edge on your competitors if you take some players here early on and offer as trade-bait midway through the season when their performance may falter. More on the fantasy side later...

But Habs' fans hope to see this season break the trends due to some big changes in the birthplace of NHL hockey during the summer.

  • Big moves over the summer in Montreal as Bob Gainey went against some of the conventional wisdom and provided the club with the shakeup it needed...and may have found the future is now in Montreal.
  • Some big names are gone from the roster, too as the Canadiens enter camp. Favorite Captain Koivu (of the Sako variety) was not re-signed and Alex Kovalev was also welcome to explore other pastures. Two big names in Montreal that are now playing elsewhere left some fans wondering about the overall strategy. They then saw defenseman Mike Komisarek go to Toronto and Chris Higgins traded to the Rangers. Bruiser Tom Kostopoulos left for the Hurricanes.
  • To remake the team, defense was bolstered as a priority by adding size and puck-moving, proven players in: Hal Gill (PIT), Jaroslav Spacek (BUF) and Paul Mara (NYR)
  • Offense was given a kick in the pants with speedy additions of: Scott Gomez (NYR), Mike Cammalleri (CGY) and Brian Gionta (NJD) and the gritty Travis Moen (SJS)

The Montreal Canadiens made a big splash early in the off-season with a roster overhaul after having not met last season's centennial expectations. GM Bob Gainey acquired a complete top line of new skaters. Judging fantasy performance for this newly assembled squad means looking to the past...as well as waiting for the future.

The Sure Thing: Andrei Markov (D). Was second on the team in scoring last season as a defenseman with 64 points (12/52) with 7 of his goals coming on the PP. Every fantasy team needs D-men and those absorbing PP time like Markov are always necessary for a strong team. Markov will also be sharing the ice with newly acquired puck-mover, Jaroslav Spacek on the power play. Pick Markov for your D early on if you can.

TrustyRusty: Scott Gomez (C). One of the new 'marquis' names added during the off-season, Gomez is coming off of a rusty season in New York. But he's been a trustworthy fantasy player for so long, he gets to keep the title here. And having signed a 7-year deal in a city that is, er, passionate for success in hockeydom, you better believe Scott knows what's at stake and is ready to regain form centering the top line. Look for a much bigger points total this season as compared to last.

Up and Coming: Guillaume Latendresse (RW). In 56 games last season, he posted 26 points (14/12). While the jury may still be out on whether or not he's upwardly mobile on this team, the expectations are big and Guillaume is a confident player, anxious to contribute. He can play on either wing and will most likely do so on the second line, ensuring PP time and plenty of ice.

Under the Radar: Max Pacioretty (LW). He's big (6'2", 200lbs) and tough and has sure hands. He's poised to enter the season as a third-liner but may crack the top 6 and might just be as close to a 'sleeper' as Montreal has in the lineup.

The Watchful Eye: Ben Maxwell (C). Ben might just make the team out of camp. If not, look for a call-up, potentially even early in the season, should the ice be thin at center in Montreal. He has a lot of offensive promise and the reinvented Habs will be experimenting with chemistry in their lines. The situation is ripe for a break-through.

The Crease: Carey Price. With Jaroslav Halak nipping at his skates, the former first-round pick has had a bit of bumpy road in Montreal. No pressure there. But Price seems to be handling it all much better as he matures and is ready to backstop this team into the playoffs. Is he a goalie high on the list of draft choices? Perhaps if you are a Habs fan. Others are a little leery after having gotten less-than-expected production from Price. He's a middle of the pack pick, but not part of the bottom 15.

Mad Scientist: Brian Gionta (RW). While Michael Cammalleri, also acquired during the summer, might seem an obvious choice for the fantasy roster, he can be streaky and there is always an adjustment period to a new team. But having Gionta playing wing-man to Gomez reunites a lethal combo from the NJ Devils' organization a few seasons ago. With the instant chemistry possibilities here, the Mad Scientist scouring Montreal for fantasy players might consider, instead of favored Cammalleri, grabbing Gionta or Gomez....or both in deep leagues.


Will the Montreal Canadiens be in contention for the playoffs again this season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow is the Nashville Predators Season Preview Report by Big Tex. The Frozen Pill will be back Friday previewing the New York Islanders.

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Big Tex said...

Good reporting there, FP! I wonder just how much the major offseason renovations to the lineup will impact the Habs' traditional strong start? Perhaps this is the year they start slow and gather steam as the season rolls on...

Olivier said...

Interesting preview.

Two comments:

- Pacioretty is a LW, not a C. Never been one, and don't think they'll try him there.

- The post lock-out habs with the Koivu/Kovalev/Markov core were power play first teams whose 5 on 5 capabiliyies solely rested on the goalies shoulders. Martin seems determined to change that, so we'll see how this can impact the fast-start proclivities of the team.

Frozen Pill said...

Thank you, Olivier for the comments and the correction for Pacioretty...not sure what happened there. Will fix it in the post.