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2021-22 Montreal Canadiens Preview: New-look roster seeking repeat performance

The Canadiens’ roster for the 2021-22 season is a far cry from the one that pushed the team to the Stanley Cup Final — does that change their cup chances?

Brendan Gallagher #11 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on July 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens captured our hearts with their Cinderella Stanley Cup Final appearance, then swiftly lost our trust upon drafting Logan Mailloux, along with Marc Bergevin’s presence in the ongoing Chicago Blackhawks lawsuits. While the Canadiens’ off-ice movements will be under a microscope, their on ice performance this next season remains a question mark too.

Where they left off

Where the Canadiens left off may not be where they start in the 2021-22 season. Last season, the Canadiens held a record of 24-21-11, placing them fourth in the Canada-only North Division.

The only team with a negative goal differential (-9) to make playoffs in the division, they were the heavy underdogs, and went down 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. After coming back to win the series in a shocking upset, they steamrolled the rested Winnipeg Jets 4-0, who had just swept the Edmonton Oilers, before taking a six-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

They crawled their way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning through heart and Brendan Gallagher’s sheer determination to not let any injury stop him. The team deserved to be in that Cup Final, no questions asked, but whether or not they can return this year is another story.

2021 Entry Draft

Unfortunately the Canadiens’ entry draft was dominated by their surprising (and distasteful) drafting of Logan Mailloux. I won’t go into too much detail (having already covered how President Geoff Molson and the Canadiens management perceived the decision), but Mailloux was charged with defamation and offensive photography in Sweden and fined for his charges prior to the draft, and had renounced his availability.

Despite his charges and the outrage of fans, and Mailloux’s own choices, the Canadiens drafted him anyway at 31st overall, a decision that began a maelstrom of well-deserved criticism for the Canadiens’ management.

The next player the Canadiens took in the draft was forward Riley Kidney, at 63rd overall. Kidney is a center with an offensive punch and great vision. He’s more of a passer and play-maker than a goal scorer, but he can still score relatively consistently. He played 33 games with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2020-21, where he scored 13 goals, 25 assists, 16 penalty minutes and a +9 rating.

The entire list of Canadiens’ players are as follows:

  • Round 1 (31st overall): Logan Mailloux
  • Round 2 (63rd): Riley Kidney
  • Round 2 (64th): Oliver Kapanen
  • Round 3 (87th): Dmitri Kostenko
  • Round 4 (113th): William Trudeau
  • Round 5 (142nd): Daniil Sobolev
  • Round 5 (150th): Joshua Roy
  • Round 6 (191st): Xavier Simoneau
  • Round 7 (214th): Joe Vrbetic

Roster

The Canadiens’ roster for the 2021-22 season is a far cry from the one that pushed the team to the Stanley Cup Final.

Inimitable and beloved Captain Shea Weber is on LTIR with no real return date (if he returns at all), and goaltender Carey Price, who was hilariously unprotected in the Expansion Draft will be joining Paul Byron and Mike Hoffman on the injured list, as all three failed their physicals due to injury.

Playoff performer Corey Perry signed a two-year deal with the Lightning, which proves that if you can’t beat them, you should join them, and Phillip Danault signed a six-year, $5.5 million average annual value contract with the Los Angeles Kings. Both Perry and Danault are bigger losses than you might think. The Canadiens are an emotional team, who play their best hockey when the locker room is in sync with each other. Perry and Danault are energetic room guys, and while Perry excels in the playoffs but isn’t a regular season standout, and Danault had a down year, they were still significant tools in the Canadiens line-up.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi was successfully offer-sheeted by the Carolina Hurricanes, where the winger signed a one-year, $6.1 million contract with the ‘Canes when the Canadiens decided not to match the offer. In return, the Canadiens received two draft picks from the Hurricanes. The entire offer-sheet deal was petty and ridiculous, and surprisingly successful. Kotkaniemi had been a healthy scratch at times, and it was clear there may be some friction caused by the amount of ice time he had been allowed. The 21-year-old played 56 games for the Canadiens last season, tallying 5 goals, 15 assists, 12 PIMs and a -1.

If there’s one bright spot to the Canadiens’ lineup, it’s the return of Jonathan Drouin, who had taken a leave of absence during a road trip to Alberta last season in April. Drouin spoke openly about his reasons for doing so, which was insomnia caused by anxiety, a problem he had been surviving with for a long time that had come to a head last season. I can’t thank Drouin enough for speaking publicly about mental health this past season; unfortunately, mental health stigma is still alive and well in hockey, and the more athletes who speak candidly about their experiences, the better equipped the sport becomes in discussions around mental health.

Here’s what Daily Faceoff thinks the lineup will look like:

Forwards

Tyler Toffoli — Nick Suzuki — Cole Caufield
Jonathan Drouin — Christian Dvorak — Josh Anderson
Joel Armia — Jake Evans — Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen — Cedric Paquette — Mathieu Perreault

Defenders

Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov — David Savard
Ben Chiarot — Chris Wideman

Goaltenders

Carey Price
Jake Allen

What can we expect in 2021-22?

We can expect the unexpected; the Canadiens’ roster is a totally different look and we’re back to our regularly-scheduled divisions. I’m expecting the team to struggle a bit out of the gate, as they readjust to their new line up and account for the players who are beginning the season injured, but they should, as the Canadiens typically do, pick up their pace towards the middle and end of the season. Will it be enough to break into the playoffs again? Who knows.

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens will meet twice in the regular season, all in the month of October. They’ll first meet on October 19 at Bell Centre, and again on October 28 at SAP Center.