Anyone who knows anything about ice hockey and the NHL knows that the Montreal Canadiens have a diehard following that’s close to unrivaled throughout the major leagues of North America.
Since the 2014/15 season, the only team to have a higher percentage home attendance has been the Chicago Blackhawks, who somehow manage to get around 110 percent of their stadium capacity each season. But, then again, the Montreal Canadiens regularly achieve over 100 percent, with an average attendance of 21,199 in 2017/18.
This season, the outlook is somewhat bleak for the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL for many reasons, and yet there’s no doubt that the crowds will turn up to every home game and create one of the greatest atmospheres in Canadian sports.
Not looking good for the Canadiens
Source: The Hockey News, via Twitter
Despite the team now boasting 13 former first-round draft picks in their ranks, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t expected to experience much success this season. The Habs had many holes to fill during the offseason, including strengthening the defense, getting top goaltender Carey Price a respectable backup, and filling the long-lasting need for a top-six center, or even two top-six centers if they could. Unfortunately, many of these needs were neglected in the summer.
It would be a surprise to see free agent signings Matthew Peca and Michael Chaput put up numbers worthy of a top-six center role while re-signing Tomas Plekanec certainly doesn’t improve the lines. Xavier Ouellet will help support the defense, but they’ll still struggle on the blueline without Shea Weber until his return in mid-December.
It seems as though the Habs have embraced their downward spiral and have shipped off captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights. In exchange, they got a slick center prospect in Nick Suzuki and regular goal scorer Tomas Tatar. They’ve also used their lofty first-round draft pick (third overall) to address a team need by getting center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The 18-year-old Finn has impressed in preseason, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be the top line center that the Canadiens desperately need this season.
Even fans of the worst NHL teams have something to cheer about
Source: Sportsnet Stats, via Twitter
The Montreal Canadiens have had a woeful offseason in which attempts to better the team for 2018/19 were minimal, if not nonexistent. To give a better outlook of Montreal’s prospects for the upcoming season, the Habs are at +4000 in the NHL betting odds just to win the Atlantic Division, with Canadian rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs leading the running at +160. Worse still, the long-time basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres are at +3500 to achieve the feat.
However, they still have plenty of star players who can produce exciting performances every night. First and foremost is Carey Price. While Price is on the ice, there’s always a chance for the Habs to snatch a win. Tatar is a recognized 20-plus goalscorer over the last four seasons, and Brendan Gallagher often lights the lamp. Plus, when Weber returns, there’ll be thunderous hits ringing through the stanchions on every game night.
Young guns by the likes of the traded-in Hunter Shinkaruk as well as Victor Mete, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Scherbak, Jonathan Drouin, Jacob de la Rose, Max Domi, Artturi Lehkonen, and maybe even Kotkaniemi will all be looking to impress the sell-out crowds, so expect some fireworks from them.
Simply put, regardless of the level or aspirations of the team, the Montreal Canadiens will always earn a sell-out crowd which always turns up in full voice. They’ll be the underdogs in almost every matchup, so the crowd will get behind their team to spur them on and go all-out when celebrating their precious wins.
Being sat amongst Habs fans in Centre Bell or a local sports bar is one of the most thrilling experiences there is in Canada – and certainly one of the most Canadian.