The Dees missed the finals last year but were much improved from their disaster 2019 as they looked a finals team during parts of the 2020 season, but as can be the way with Melbourne, they were also made to look miles off it at times.
Christian Petracca had a break-out season as a full-time midfielder and he was able to solidify himself as one the league's best players. His ability to win the football and hit the scoreboard made him very hard to stop.
They were unable to bridge the gap between their best and worst football, an all-too-often seen Melbourne trait. That simply can't go on should they wish to play finals.
Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Jake Bowey (Draft), Bailey Laurie (Draft), Fraser Rosman (Draft).
Kyle Dunkley (Delisted), Corey Wagner (Delisted), Josh Wagner (Delisted), Harley Bennell (Retired), Mitch Hannan (Western Bulldogs), Braydon Preuss (GWS).
Off-season grade: B-
The Dees brought in a a key-forward they desperately needed and did it for a basement price. Ben Brown comes in to take control of the struggling Melbourne forward line.
Melbourne had no issue with getting the ball to their forward line last year ranking 7th for inside 50's, but did so with little system. Too often teams were able to hold the Demons out and eventually hit them going the other way.
They didn't lose too much although Mitch Hanna looks like a good one that got away, a struggling forward line can ill-afford to lose such a smart goal-scorer.
Brayden Preuss left for greener pastures but Luke Jackson will cover that void and they managed to hold on to Clayton Oliver despite numerous rumours surrounding his future.
Rounds 7-10 looms as a huge month for the Dees, they need to play finals this year and to do that they need to beat the teams below them. No longer can Melbourne start a game as favourites and get beat.
In this month they play North Melbourne, Sydney, Carlton and Adelaide. Other than the Carlton game they are all but certainties to start favourites in these games. The North and Adelaide games are on the road but that's no excuse in earning the four points.
If Melbourne lose two of these they will immediately be behind the chasing pack at the home turn, and it'll be the same old Dees.
B: Michael Hibberd, Steven May, Jay Lockhart
HB: Trent Rivers, Jake Lever, Adam Tomlinson
C: Christian Salem, Angus Brayshaw, Ed Langdon
HF: Bayley Fritsch, Sam Weideman, James Harmes
F: Kysaiah Pickett, Ben Brown, Jake Melksham
FOLL: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca
I/C: Jack Viney, Luke Jackson, Jayden Hunt, Neville Jetta
Strengths and Weaknesses
No denying the depth of Melbourne's midfield, they are stacked in the engine room and are a very good ball wining team. Led by Clayton Oliver and Petracca, who are spoon fed by skipper Max Gawn, the Dees have no issue winning their own footy.
They're developing a good defensive lineup, led by Jake Lever and Steven May. The pair are the pillars of the Melbourne defence and have made the Dees a tough nut to crack.
But their clear issue is their forward line, you just don't know where the goals are coming from, they rely heavily on midfield goals which is ok but they don't have a reliable key forward who will bag them a safe 35-40 goals a year outside of Brown. Their mid-size forward line relies on good foot-skills and that's an area the Dees struggle in.
Melbourne have the ability to play finals but they are too hard to have any confidence in, whether it be their poor foot skills or their mental fortitude that gets in the way, who knows?
But they can't play finals if they are going to lose games they shouldn't. Their forward line is another worry, no Brown or Sam Weideman for the early parts of the season may see them in trouble early and unable to recover.