Competing for the first ever BEARD Hockey Stanley Cup and championship title belt is going to get 'biblical' if GM Lennart Westman has anything to do with it.
As you walk into the Canadiens locker room and see the inscription on the wall, you understand that this is a team that is really prepared to go all the way already in this first historical season of BEARD Hockey.
The biblical quote sends a message to the players as well as the competition, a message that tells you they expect every single member of the organization to go the extra mile to reach their goal - to win the Stanley Cup and build a dynasty.
The quote from Matthew 22:14 reads ”Many are called, but few are chosen”.
We asked GM Lennart Westman on what grounds he thinks his team is the 'chosen one'. After all there are quite a few really competitive teams out there, especially in the Eastern conference, where the Habs will be fighting for a place in the playoffs to begin with.
”We acknowledge that with that quote. There are indeed some strong contenders, like Detroit, Nashville, New Jersey, Ottawa, Tampa, and Vancouver, just to mention a few. But we believe that with the acquisitions made in the off season we have brought in mental and physical strength to separate ourselves from the rest in the end.”
Montreal has been one of the by far most active teams in the offseason bringing in no less than eight players to the pro roster. The acquisitions of right wing Mikko Rantanen and netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy without a doubt meant a lot to Westman.
”The ownership was very clear on the expectations as I was hired. The goal is to win the Cup already this year. We are ready to pay a price for that, meaning that future picks and prospects could be used without completely giving up the future. That’s why it pleases me that our two biggest trades brought in players that will contribute for many years to come."
"Rantanen and Vasilevsky will both be RFA’s as their current contracts run out and we will be able to resign them for as long as we and they like.”
The other pro players brought in during the pre season were wingers Jeff Skinner, Patric Hornqvist, and Lemieux, defenders Nikita Zaitsev and Radko Gudas, and recently, center Jay Beagle.
It’s quite obvious that what Westman was looking for here was more hard working, hard checking players. But was it worth the price of losing for instance skilled defender Vince Dunn?
”You forget the change of Dunn for Gudas was a part of the Vasilevskiy deal and with the package of Vasilevskiy and Gudas, I think we improved our chances to go all the way."
"Both Gudas and Zaitsev are strong defensive D-men, exactly what I think we need behind Petry and Leddy. With Skinner and Hornqvist, we get both grit and scoring ability and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both compete with the snipers. Aho & co will be more focused on shutting down by the opposition."
"Finally, Beagle and Lemieux are more traditional role players expected to win faceoffs (Beagle) and dig in hard, helping us wearing the opposition down.”
While losing a lot of future picks and some younger players like Jack Hughes, Dunn, and Tobias Bjornfot, the Habs GM still feels the future looks exciting.
”We have invited no less than ten really young and talented players to camp for testing. We also might have yet another really exciting center coming in, as we actually will go to another team’s camp to evaluate him.”
Really? That’s exceptional and never before been heard of! You’re actually invited to evaluate another player on their grounds?!?
”I never did this myself before either, but we have built a good and trustful relation with this GM and have what we may call a "gentlemen's agreement" allowing us to go there and take part of their test results regarding this player.”
Truly amazing. But maybe it just proves that the Montreal franchise will indeed deliver this year.
As many are called, but few are chosen!