Claude Julien is back in the city where he finished his last season in a hospital. With a slimmer face and slimmer body following the heart episode he experienced last August, he feels ready for his 18e season in the National League.
His team has also changed its face. The only difference is that she gained weight instead of losing it.
The Canadiens head coach had just arrived in Toronto when we spoke at the end of the afternoon yesterday. He was in high spirits.
He and his boss Marc Bergevin are approaching the season which begins this evening with an optimism shared by a large majority of fans.
Beware of easy deductions!
Last week, Julien went so far as to say that there is no reason not to think that his team cannot go all the way this season.
His statement made the headlines of Newspaper with a mention saying: Cut out and save for later…
” Warning ! I didn’t say we’re going to win the Stanley Cup, ”he corrected when I reminded him of his quote yesterday.
“There is a difference between saying that we have a chance to win the cup and saying that we will win it. There will be 30 out of 31 teams that will be disappointed at the end of the season. “
Really good everywhere
No one can deny that the Canadian has a significantly improved training. Bergevin and Julien have high expectations.
“We feel that we have strength and depth,” said Julien.
The word “really” came up in every analysis he made of his staff.
“We really have two good goalies,” he said.
“It will be very useful to us with a schedule of 56 games spread over 116 days.
“We really have a big defense. Not only is she tough and capable of being belligerent, she has the mobility to carry the puck.
“On the attack, we’re betting on four really competitive lines. We even have enough to form a good fifth line with experienced players Corey Perry and Michael Frolik. “
Trust in the three young people
If the arrival of Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen should provide the solidity that Bergevin wanted to give to his team, we are especially excited to see how Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov will fare.
It has been a long time since we saw three young players so promising in the formation of the Habs.
Kotkaniemi had a two-part season last year. Suffering from what is known as the second-year scum, he was trying to get by with the Laval Rocket when the pandemic broke out. He recovered admirably well during the Stanley Cup tournament.
As for Suzuki, he gives the impression that nothing will disturb him in his second season in the NHL.
“I tend to agree with that,” continued Julien.
“There are players who exude a certain maturity and a certain confidence from a young age. This is what we see with Suzuki. He is calmer than other players his age (21).
“I’m not saying he won’t have less productive times. But he’s not a panicking guy. He’s the type to find a way out. I am convinced that he will not suffer the sophomore jinx [guigne de la deuxième année]. “
Not intimidated, the young
The former defender Julien was full of praise for Romanov either.
“His behavior is really impressive! He said.
“You can tell he enjoys playing hockey. He’s really turned on and he’s confident in his abilities. We played him in our second unit on the power play. If he feels he’s in a better position than a veteran on the other side to shoot at the net, he’s not shy about doing it. “
Before leaving Julien, I wished him good luck.
“Our fans deserve to be given a good season,” he replied.
“They’ve been waiting long enough. “
A good season would have the effect of a balm in these apocalyptic times.
Guhle compared to Bouwmeester
Marc Bergevin spent Monday preaching the good word on television and radio. He was in good shape too.
On TSN radio, he touched on several topics with host Tony Marinaro. He said, in particular, that he had already tried to obtain Josh Anderson before making his acquisition last October.
He also spoke about defenseman Kaiden Guhle, the Canadiens’ first choice in the last draft. He compared him to Jay Bouwmeester, whose long NHL career came to an abrupt end last February due to heart failure during a game with the St. Louis Blues.
Third choice of 2002
Drafted third in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, Bouwmeester was a sober, yet highly effective defenseman.
In 17 seasons with the Panthers, Flames and Blues, he scored 88 goals and totaled 424 points in 1,240 games.
Measuring 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 206 pounds, he could be sturdy, but without going overboard. He was penalized over 79 minutes in a season.
Guhle, who is 6 feet 2 inches and 186 pounds currently, shows statistics noticeably similar to those compiled by Bouwmeester, when the latter was playing in the Junior Western League.
Sixth with Vigneault
The 18e Claude Julien’s season as a coach in the NHL places him sixth, on a par with his good friend Alain Vigneault, in terms of longevity among his counterparts on the circuit.
Joel Quenneville, starting his 24e season, comes first, followed by Barry Trotz and Paul Maurice, who are at their 23e, John Tortorella, for whom this is a 20e season, and Peter Laviolette, who comes in fifth place (19e season).