"We surprised people last year because we got a lot out of kids like Krejci and [rookie right wing Blake] Wheeler," Julien said of the team's jump from an eighth-place conference finish two years ago. "We'll see if those kinds of young players—Wheeler again, [defenseman Matt] Hunwick—can do the same thing."
If they do, the Bruins will be sorely disappointed if this time they cannot extend their season past the second round.
LAST SEASON 41-30-11 (8th in East); lost in first round to Boston
KEY ADDITIONS LW Mike Cammalleri, D Hal Gill, RW Brian Gionta, C Scott Gomez, D Paul Mara, LW Travis Moen, D Jaroslav Spacek, Coach Jacques Martin
KEY LOSSES D Francis Bouillon, LW Chris Higgins, C Saku Koivu, D Mike Komisarek, RW Alex Kovalev, D Mathieu Schneider, LW Alex Tanguay
You are playing five-card draw. You have an ace, so you discard the rest and take four new cards. Will your gambit work? Tough to say. That's the Canadiens' outlook.
G.M. Bob Gainey let 10 unrestricted free agents walk, restocking with skilled forwards and a remade defense. Goalie Carey Price predicts Montreal will have "good chemistry," an assessment as offhandedly damning of the old dressing-room mix as it is praise for the newcomers.
Gainey says the key is former Ranger Scott Gomez (above), who averaged a mere 15 goals over the past three seasons and who has, gulp, five years and $33.5 million on his contract. (Gomez, generously listed at 5'11", could center 5'7" Brian Gionta and 5'9" Mike Cammalleri on the Lilliputian Line.) If Gomez does not regain his brio, the G.M. has saddled himself with a contract that limits his flexibility.