An interesting piece at The Hockey Writers, with the thesis that the Canadiens having lost a trio of leaders and veterans in Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Daniel Brière, their fans should expect a small step back in the standings. Nothing too novel in that article, no insights that we haven’t beaten to death. I agree with most if not all that the author writes.
One point he misses in his thesis though, is that the brain trust did plug in Manny Malhotra as the fourth-line centre. So yeah, Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec are the last men standing of the old guard, but they do get help this season with the UFA centre, who was constantly lionized by the Vancouver press when he was a Canuck, about being unfailingly professional, tireless in his efforts, and a great guy to have in the dressing room.
Brandon Prust is another player who has reached that phase of his career, the veteran who’s seen it rain and can steady the ship, can lead the way, and who seems to be very popular with his teammates.
Also, Mike Weaver will be on hand, and he seemed to be a veteran ‘glue guy’ last season, so he can pitch in when the waters roil a bit and we hit a losing streak.
So we lose some veteran players, but now allow Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, P.K., and Brendan Gallagher to take the next step and assume the reins, and they’ll have veterans and trusty lieutenants to help out, unlike the situation in Edmonton.
It's always risky to see a team as a pure mathematical sum rather than an organism with mutually dependent systems. To view the departure of Brian, Josh and Daniel as a pure loss, a discrete amount of leadership to be subtracted, with no repercussions or feedback loop elsewhere, is maybe simplistic.
I prefer to see a team as walking on a treadmill, with some members staying at the forefront and keeping pace or even gaining, while some others lose the pack and risk falling off the back. To manage a team properly, you need to know when to add youngsters or give them more rope, and when to cull veterans who are holding the group back.
I'm confident that while some trusty veterans have been lost, others will step forward, and the young veterans will expand their role and contribution, and shoulder part of the load that Brian and company used to.