Honey, I shrunk the Canadiens
The 1993 Canadiens were not the best team in the league by any stretch. But they had an identity. Hard work, commitment to defense, size (and of course, St-Patrick). When Serge Savard and Jacques Demers were fired in the fall of 1995, the new management began to change the team's identity.
They wanted a more offensive team. A team built on speed and agility. Size and defense suddenly seemed to have been thrown to the wayside. The Canadiens even had a line called "la ligne des Schtroumps" (smurfs to be exact) which consisted of 3 diminutive forwards: Saku Koivu, Valeri Bure, and Oleg Petrov. Not only was this a younger roster with more kids, but it seemed like someone had pressed start on the Shrinking Machine. They were certainly an exciting team for a stretch but never went very far in those playoffs when they faced a much bigger, more experienced, and physical team in the NY Rangers (players like Messier, Beukeboom, Momesso, Kypreos, Berg really wore the Canadiens down).
Let's fast forward to the Bergevin era. The team of the last few years also boasted big defensemen, an elite goaltender, character players, in general, a blue-collar group (for the most part), with conservative coaching staff. Hey, as they say, birds of a feather often flock together and the team certainly resembled the management group (Bergevin, Mellanby, Lapointe....). Sit back, rely on good old Carey Price (the same way the early 90s teams depended on St-Patty) and hope for the best.
Jeff Gorton seems to be taking a page from the NY Rangers team he helped build: speed, offensive talent, puck-moving D. We've seen pickups like Rem Pitlick and Kyle Clague. And we can tell that the type of roster they are aiming for will be drastically different than what we have seen these past few seasons. To be honest, it's where the game is going, no one will question that. But it will be important not to swing too far to the other end of the pendulum.
Players like Suzuki and Caufield can only perform to the best of their abilities if they have space. Josh Anderson provides that. Regardless of age, or potential trade value, they need to keep a player like that. A roster with too many smallish, or say, less physically imposing players (Dvorak, Drouin, Pitlick, Byron, Gally ...) would wear down easily over the course of a long season. For every offensive-minded player, you will also need to protect them by adding bigger, defensively aware ones. The same way on defense, you will need to surround younger, mobile, puck-moving defensemen with more rugged, and experienced vets. And just because you would have a team capable of scoring more goals, does not mean the goaltender position should be overlooked. The Habs will still need a top-end netminder the same way teams like Tampa Bay do.
Some of the ingredients that helped propel the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Finals must be sprinkled into the future makeup for this team to be successful. Let's hope the new management will strive for balance rather than shifting completely to a different model.