The Montreal Canadiens have avoided using the word ‘rebuild’ when describing their current situation, but regardless of whether it’s labelled a retool or a reorganization, the odds makers agree the team is in for a difficult 2022-23 campaign.
Six different outlets have released their points projections for the upcoming season, and while the projections vary slightly, the consensus seems to be the Canadiens are headed for a bottom-five finish in the league standings.
None of the outlets predict the Canadiens will finish last, though The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and Money Puck project a 31st-place finish, while the Daily Hive and Evolving Wild have them finishing 30th overall.
Ineffective Math is a little more bullish about the Canadiens’ chances, projecting 83 points and a 28th-place finish.
The projections average out to 76 points, with a 74-point median.
As is usually the case, health will play the biggest factor in the number of points the team can accumulate, and while reaching the 70-point mark would be a significant improvement over last season’s results, it’s fair to say the playoffs are essentially out of the question according to the numbers.
Seeing as there was a planned exodus of talent at the trade deadline and throughout the summer, the projections should not come as a surprise, but they do confirm the Canadiens are in great shape to once again participate in the Draft Lottery.
With players such as Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, and Adam Fantilli available, the team is likely to add a highly-touted impact player at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville this summer.
Both NHL.com and ESPN agree Nick Suzuki is likely to lead the Montreal Canadiens in scoring, though they disagree about his projected totals. ESPN projects Suzuki will improve upon his 61-point performance last season by scoring 76 points, whereas NHL.com thinks he’ll see a slight dip in production, finishing with 60 points.
With Martin St-Louis behind the bench for the entire season and natural progression factored in, there are healthy odds Suzuki will improve upon his 2021-22 totals, but there’s also the matter of roster turnover, leaving the Canadiens with a questionable blue line that may struggle to generate controlled breakouts, and thus mitigate some of the scoring chances Suzuki will create this season.
Cole Caufield is the next player to appear on both lists, with a 55 and 54-point projection, respectively. ESPN predicts a 29-goal season, which would be a very respectable output from Caufield, but with four goals in five preseason games, Caufield seems poised to prove them wrong.
Somewhat surprisingly, rookie Juraj Slafkovsky features third for the Canadiens on NHL.com’s projected point list, with a very respectable 45-point prediction, however, ESPN is taking a much more conservative approach with 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games.
Slafkovsky has progressed significantly since the start of rookie camp in September, but given his status as a full-time member of the Canadiens still hanging in the balance, splitting the difference between both projected totals seems like a wise bet.