The whole point of a major renovation is to one day run out of major things to fix.
When the last of the heavy jobs is finally crossed off the list, there's time to tinker and set to work on the marginalia.
That's the best way to describe the Montreal Canadiens, a team whose main training-camp storylines involved the third-line right winger, seventh defenceman and backup goalie.
It's not to say these players have no importance; it's just that they occupy bit parts in this particular play.
Uneventful early falls, by the way, are a comparatively new thing for the Habs.
For the past half-decade it seems like they've entered every season with boldface question marks hovering over one crucial thing or another: starting goaltending, or the top line, or the diminishing form of veteran pillars, or the contract status of a star player.
There is no such fretting this year.
"I'd say it feels pretty good," said a smiling David Desharnais, who will shoulder the bulk of the top-line centre minutes alongside leading scorer Max Pacioretty, who is looking to improve on his 39 goals of a season ago. "At this point we've had guys showing what they can do for three, four, five years, we made it to the conference final last year and we know what we have here. I think it's encouraging."
It's not as if there haven't been changes. Hockey's a business, but while occupying a stall in an NHL dressing room requires players to become inured to teammates coming and going – "I'm not running a boys' camp here," general manager Marc Bergevin said pointedly on Monday – that doesn't mean it's easy.
Goaltender Carey Price admitted he's a little bummed at seeing his backup and running mate Peter Budaj leave town; the Habs will turn to 25-year-old Dustin Tokarski to fill the post.
"Everybody says it's part of the business, but it is a tough part of it," Price said. "This past six months has been pretty tough, I've lost three of my good buddies – well, four now – and it's not a fun part [of the business]. But at the same time you have management making moves to make the team better. It's not up to us to argue that just because you're friends with a guy."
Bergevin told a news conference that he didn't talk to Price to clear the decision to move on from the 32-year-old Budaj – which in hindsight was thoroughly predictable given Tokarski was tabbed when Price was hurt in the conference final. But he did call his star goalie before the news became public.
It's a minor example of how highly the club regards its most important player.
Budaj's apparent desire to leave – La Presse reported he asked for a trade after the playoffs – didn't cause so much as a ripple during camp, although given the dearth of controversies or roster battles, it could have.
Not even the training-camp niggles suffered by centre Lars Eller and newly arrived veteran winger P.A. Parenteau have moved the needle into the red – both are expected to be ready to go for Wednesday's season-opening game.
To expect the Habs to replicate or improve on last year's run to the ante-room of the Stanley Cup final may be unreasonable, but they are the oddsmakers' favourites among Canadian NHL teams, and they clearly get the sense their championship window is opening a little wider.
It's one reason why younger players such as Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, and Tokarski are being given promotions; now is time to see how much they can give, and in Galchenyuk's case, the answer should prove pivotal for this season's hopes.
While commiserating over the departure of likeable veterans Budaj (dealt to Winnipeg on Sunday, waived on Monday) and Francis Bouillon (released from a professional try-out on Monday), Eller observed that "this is a tough roster to crack."
From all appearances, KHL free agent Jiri Sekac has managed to stick – his arrival, likely on Eller's line, has bumped incumbent wingers Michael Bournival and Travis Moen down the pecking order, although both should be on the 23-man roster when it is sent to the league Tuesday afternoon.
So, too, should defencemen Beaulieu, whose playoff performance last spring always hinted that he would be the next prospect in line, and Tinordi, who despite an indifferent camp has apparently showed enough to start the year in the NHL. Beaulieu can expect to feature more prominently – and possibly deliver more impact – than any rookie since Galchenyuk in 2013; he'll get second-unit power-play time and could well feast on being matched up with opposing fourth-liners.
Beaulieu is a major upgrade on the aging but willing Bouillon.
Now all that remains is for the team to play a real game; Wednesday's date with Toronto should help determine whether the serenity of September and early October is merely fleeting.
"It's a good vibe around here … the challenge is a little different this year. Now it's up to us young veterans to fill the vacuum," Desharnais said. "It should be interesting to watch."