A lot has been made about the fact the Canadiens lost a good dose of leadership in the offseason with the departure of Corey Perry and with Shea Weber set to miss the entire season. Then came the bombshell (or was it?) that franchise player Carey The Price is Right would also be out for the foreseeable future and it felt like Humpty Dumpty had officially fallen off the wall.
But little (or not enough) has been made about the team's speed. Or lack thereof. The defense is anchored by an all-star defenseman. There is no doubt that Jeff Petry belongs amongst the NHL's elite. But after that, we have a collage of d-men who are career 4th/5th on most depth charts. True, Joel Edmundson had a solid season and was fabulous in the playoffs. Chiarot raised his game as well. But neither are fleet of foot, and let's be honest, both were exposed in the Stanley Cup Finals against the speedy, agile, Tampa Bay Lightning. Some seem to have forgotten that Chiarot struggled mightily during the season last year. After that, you have recent addition David Savard; certainly, a serviceable player who brings experience and grit, but not a top 3/4 d-man at this stage of his career. These d-men, on top of lacking mobility, are also, at best, questionable in the puck-moving department.
The third pairing consisting of Alex Romanov and Chris Wideman is sure to give coach Dom Ducharme an acute ulcer by Christmas. Romanov, despite having significant upside, and being a physical specimen, seems to be drastically lacking hockey IQ and defensive awareness (positioning). Heck, let's call a spade a spade, he appears to be a fry or two short of a Happy Meal. Despite his young age, his coaches appear to be getting frustrated, as they are clearly unable to instill in him their advice and recommendations. Wideman? Likely to be another one of Bergevin's short-term, roll-of-the-dice projects. I doubt he finishes the year in Montreal.
The Canadiens may boast the most depth, and perhaps even talent on the wings in the entire NHL. And Nick Suzuki / Christian Dvorak should be a solid one-two, defensively responsible combination at center. But aside of Anderson, Caufield, and perhaps Evans, the Canadiens are also lacking foot speed throughout their group of forwards.
Being slow is one thing but when you also can't count on a group of D who are adept at hitting forwards on the fly with quick, heads up passes, then you are really operating at a snail's pace. This looks to be the team's Achilles heel, ahead of the potential concerns at center or the fact they don't have an established number one goaltender in nets (should Price not return from his f̶r̶u̶s̶t̶r̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶d̶r̶a̶f̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶S̶e̶a̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ mental health break).
Chef Bergevin seems to have concocted a strange mixture of ingredients in the hopes of building something ownership and fans can deem to be palatable: build from the branches (see "wingers") and not by the root or trunk (strong up the middle with a modern, mobile, puck-moving D corps). Time will tell if this makeup can breed any sort of success.
Another thing that has become evident during Marc Bergevin's tenure as GM is that building a team organically through the draft and developing those young players is not engrained in the Canadiens organizational DNA. And clearly, this coming season in Montreal at least, defense does not appear to be the name of their game either.