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By Pierre LeBrunThe Montreal Canadiens are hoping not to follow in the footsteps of the New York Yankees by dampening a historic season with a flop. So, while the Yanks closed out historic Yankee Stadium by missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993, the Habs hope their 100th anniversary will instead be mirrored by a season to remember. And perhaps a first Stanley Cup since 1993? On paper, at least, they have a club that once again will contend for first place in the Eastern Conference and possibly long playoff run. Shrewd drafting and developing are paying off for a Canadiens team that seems to be deep at every position. The window of opportunity is now, and it just so happens to be a hugely important year in the team's history. "We've been trying to move up as quickly as we could," Canadiens GM Bob Gainey told ESPN.com. "And most of those were [player] projections, in the past, without any real support. Certain players, I think, gave us support for our projections last year. And that's why expectations are up
"Following that, yes, I think there's good energy in our city with our fans for our team and for the season," Gainey added. "With the last few pieces, the players have to become a team and they have to become a good team because the competition will be there to test us."
By Jay FeasterThe biggest improvement in Montreal is the commitment the club made to anointing Carey Price as their goalie of the present, and future. Bob Gainey is one of the most confident, proud and high-character general managers in the game, and Montreal benefits from his decisiveness and leadership. When he determined, rightly, that Price could handle the load in net, he dispatched Cristobal Huet for a draft pick at last season's trade deadline. When he realized Mats Sundin felt he would be doing the Canadiens a favor by thinking about playing for them rather than recognizing the opportunity Montreal was presenting to him in its 100th season, Gainey withdrew his offer and moved on to Plan B. No GM does it with more class, dignity and stealth than Gainey. The additions of Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang will help an already potent offense, particularly if Alexei Kovalev remains committed to the team concept. Tough guy Georges Laraque will see that Montreal's talented players have plenty of room to operate, and the blue line can both defend and chip in with offense, when needed. Repeating as Northeast Division champs and topping the East are real possibilities. Jay Feaster served as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2001-02 season before resigning last season. He is a contributor to ESPN.com.