Two seasons ago, the Canadiens were lousy because, presumably, there weren't enough French Canadians around. Last season, suddenly, they were very good. In fact, they won the Northeast Division and were the two seed in the East. Did they take advantage of a shorter season and the higher variance stemming from that? Perhaps, but they were still quite good. Then, they got beat soundly in the playoffs by Ottawa, but the Senators were finally healthy, which hurt the Habs. They will look to rebound from that bad postseason loss, but will they be able to do so?
First, a few positives. P.K. Subban is still around, and he won the Norris last season. He is very good, and still has room to grow. Carey Price will almost certainly be better. He only had a .905 save percentage last season, which is well below his usual numbers. A couple rookies, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, impressed, although Gallagher may take a slight step back this year. Hey, they still have folks like Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec as well, too. They also added the bought out Danny Briere, giving them some more offensive depth.
On the other hand, Andrei Markov was finally healthy last year. Can he do that again? It is certainly possible, but is it something you want to rely upon? Without Markov, they just really have Subban to provide offense from the point. They also lack a truly top notch forward. I like Pacioretty, but he isn't a great player, and I don't think this team necessarily has the offensive depth to do without an elite forward. Briere is there, but he is older and was bought out for a reason. I don't see the talent of a division winning team here.
That doesn't mean the Habs can't contend for the playoffs. I definitely see Price rebounding, which could make a significant difference. They have a few good players, and Galchenyuk and Gallagher could increase their value. The new division is slightly tougher, potentially, with the addition of Detroit, and with their being eight teams in the division now. I think Montreal returns the playoffs, but they may have to head on the road for round one.