COACH Jacques Martin (3rd season)
LAST SEASON 44-30-8 (6th in East); lost in first round to Bruins
KEY ADDITIONS G Peter Budaj, RW Erik Cole
KEY LOSSES G Alex Auld, D Roman Hamrlik, D James Wisniewski
AFTER RIVALING THE Sabres as Lilliput's Team (four of their top six forwards were under six feet tall), the Canadiens added bulk by signing 6'2", 205-pound winger Erik Cole. In 34 career games (including playoffs) against Montreal, Cole has averaged 0.53 goals per game. That qualifies him as a Canadiens killer of a different sort than, say, Montreal center Scott Gomez, who had seven goals and 31 assists last year while sucking up more than $7 million of cap room. "Adding [Cole] and getting back [winger] Max [Pacioretty, who was lost for the season with a concussion last March] gives us more size and depth," says captain Brian Gionta (below). "It'll help us five-on-five"—the Canadiens ranked 26th in even strength scoring last year—"and should also make the third and fourth lines stronger."
Montreal has rebuilt its blue line in front of goalie Carey Price (.923 save percentage, 2.35 GAA), but much depends on the rebuilt right knee of defenseman Andrei Markov, who's coming off his second ACL surgery in seven months. The club re-signed him for three years on June 23, but he labored in camp. The defensive burden could shift to Josh Gorges, who's also returning from knee surgery, and the irrepressible P.K. Subban. A 25th Stanley Cup will be a tall order.
COACH Lindy Ruff (14th season)