Considering the historic season of their netminder, the Montreal Canadiens' second-round exit - and inability to build on their trip to the conference final the season previous - was viewed as a failure in the eyes of most.
But it can be contended, and justly so, that Carey Price's superhuman brilliance squeezed every ounce of success from a roster that remains undeniably flawed four months after season's end.
Marc Bergevin, perhaps a bit spooked by dealings of two deadlines ago, failed to aid his toothless forward fleet with a major splash this offseason. And with Max Pacioretty, the team's lone forward capable of striking fear into the opposition, having suffered a significant knee injury while training, the questions are as glaring as ever.
Piercing brightest: Could just a slight dip in goal result in a significant and unwelcome upshot?
Though it's difficult to imagine Price surpassing the genius that made him the toast of Las Vegas in June, there's no evidence to suggest that he won't strap his teammates back onto his shoulders and lead them to a third straight 100-point campaign.
In fact, Price, who's massively improved his personal statistics in each season since hooking up with Stephane Waite, appears as hungry as ever. Here's what his goaltending coach had to say about him last week:
Winning the Cup is the most important thing to Carey. I know he's happy about those awards, and I'm very proud of him, but the only thing he wants is the Cup. He wants to win so badly. He just hates losing. That's what makes him so good. When you hate something, you'll do anything you can to avoid it.
So, with a virtual lock in net, the Canadiens opt to roll the dice up front.
Montreal's two key acquisitions this summer, Alex Semin and Zack Kassian, are both talents, in a vacuum. But both were run out of town by their former clubs this summer after failing to even flirt with their potential.
And even if they're successful in Montreal, they're only capable of providing marginal gains. They can't satiate the hunger intensifying in Montreal, where the most decorated franchise in NHL history is amid a Stanley Cup drought approaching a quarter-century.
That burden will remain Price's to bear.
|Max Pacioretty||Alex Galchenyuk||Brendan Gallagher|
|Alexander Semin||Tomas Plekanec||Dale Weise|
|David Desharnais||Lars Eller||Zack Kassian|
|Jacob De La Rose||Torrey Mitchell||Devante Smith-Pelly|
|Andrei Markov||P.K. Subban|
|Alexei Emelin||Jeff Petry|
|Nathan Beaulieu||Tom Gilbert|
While Price is the great equalizer, P.K. Subban is the definition of X-Factor.
There are but a handful of players who can thrill like Subban. There are fewer still who can compare toolboxes. And when he provides those bursts of spectacular, he transforms the Canadiens into something different, something far less pedestrian.
With a stronger supporting cast on the back end this season, and pressures from his megadeal no longer dominating the narrative (though a change in lettering on his sweater could have a similar effect), Subban should be able to inspire his teammates and the Canadiens faithful even more than he did in posting career-best totals last year.
Another question, only recently answered, centers on fourth-year forward Alex Galchenyuk, who will shift to the middle in a move that will likely see him play with Pacioretty, not behind him.
If he's able to make a seamless transition and survive the center-ice position in the defensive end, Galchenyuk can provide that needed offensive kick from in-house, and, perhaps more importantly, bring widespread balance to the lineup.
He was drafted to be a No. 1 center, and in order to have everyone in the lineup playing where they belong, Galchenyuk must find a way to thrive in the position set out for him.