Habs: Prefecting the transition game
With a new GM, the Canadiens are in for another year of changes.
The Montreal Canadiens are like a once magnificent battleship. They once ruled the NHL waters like no other, but the years have taken their toll and no number of coats of paint can disguise the fact that deep beneath the decks there has been a pervasive rot eating away at the structure.
Here are the questions that need to be answered as the club prepares to open camp:
Theodore got a new contract out of that wonderful season, but fell several rungs last season, getting off to a slow start and never fully recovering. His performance slipped and the Habs went right along with him, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. He allowed himself to be distracted by the attention and publicity during the offseason and never got into top shape.
While Theodore has reportedly renewed his commitment to conditioning -- goaltending coach Rollie Melanson said Theodore is in the best shape of his career -- another distraction looms. According to media reports in Montreal, Theodore's father and four step brothers were arrested for allegedly being part of a loansharking ring, though police have stated Theodore is not involved and is not under investigation. The controversy wasn't eased when a French-language paper ran photos of Theodore partying with members of the Hells Angels.
Can Theodore put all the controversy aside? Or will Gainey be faced with his first difficult decision early in his tenure: stick with Theodore or trade him?
Youngsters Jason Ward and Marcel Hossa will surely make the team this year and they give the Habs some size and some skill, but it remains to be seen what kind of impact they can have. Ward was leading the American Hockey League in scoring when he was called up late last year. Hossa, who had six goals in 36 games with the Habs last year, could wind up playing with Koivu and Zednik on the Habs' top line. All concerned will have to try and boost a power play that was 28th in the league last year with just 44 goals or only one every second game.
Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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