.....it was a very interesting year. The team gelled down the stretch on their way to a President’s trophy, plenty of award nominations, and being Stanley Cup favorites. However this regular season success masked more than a few issues that I feel contributed greatly to their early playoff exit.
1. All the new guys: this roster had a major overhaul from its 2013 predecessor. Just think about this for a minute. By the end of the season this team included as regulars quasi rookies Smith, Soderberg, Miller, Bart, and Krug. Throw in other new guys Eriksson, Iginla, and Johnson, and others along the way that played more than a few games (Spooner, Sweethands, Fraser, Mez, Florek, and superstar Potter) and fully a third of the roster comprised players that had not played a full season with the team. That’s quite the change-over from a team that went to the finals the previous year, almost McDonald’s-like employee turnover.
2. Injuries: the partial reason for all the newbies were injuries along the way. Seidenberg, McQuaid, Kelly, Paille, and Eriksson all missed substantial time during the regular season and into the playoffs. Yes, all teams have injuries which is why proper replacements are so important...on to the next point.....
3. False sense of security pt. 1-Yet the team did very well down the stretch so when the deadline came PC only made minor moves; Mez and Potter. This is reminiscent of 2013 when the only additions were the underwhelming Zanon, Motteau, and an out of shape and over the hill Rolston. Neither pick up played particularly well down the stretch and into the playoffs. Yet, it hardly seemed to matter at the time because the B’s were crushing it in the regular season. Habs picked up Vanek and Weaver, both of which proved to be shrewd moves.
4. False sense of security pt. 2-remember the opening lineup at the start of the playoffs? It included three first year d-men as well as Florek on the third line and Caron on the 4rth. Of the teams left standing thus far, how many have three quasi-rookies on their back end? Answer: none. It was high risk that did not pay off, and CJ admitted as much in his presser. How many rookies did the Habs start on their back end? One, and he was only added the last 2 games...playing minimal minutes.
So, what is my point? I think this team overachieved in the regular season to such an extent that fans, media, and the team itself almost forgot exactly how much turnover this roster had. Really, did anyone seriously talk about 3 quasi-rookies on D and think it may be problematic for a deep playoff run? What teams are left that had a comparable amount of turnover? None of course. It was high risk but necessary due to injuries and cap issues and it simply did not pay off in the end.
That said, the youngins gained experience, some of the dead wood has been exposed and next season will be much different.