The Montreal Canadiens have been a very exciting and surprising team to start the season, but they’re still missing a few key pieces.
They have the high-octane forwards, they have the steady defence, and they’ve gotten some good goaltending, although the future of that position is still unknown.
Given the style the Canadiens would like to emulate on the ice, certain pieces will need to be added to their core in order for Montreal to become a perennial contender.
With the last 16 games in mind, here are the areas the Canadiens will likely need to bolster down the line to ensure they can eventually take the next step in their rebuild:
Despite all this surprising success, the most glaring thing the Canadiens seem to be lacking is a bonafide play-driving top-pair defenceman to support the Canadiens’ forwards and act as a dual threat from the blue line.
This isn’t a shade toward Kaiden Guhle, who could possibly top out as a top-pair defenceman, and has played a stellar, responsible style, all while chipping in offensively where he can.
For the Canadiens to have long-term success, Guhle will eventually need a partner on the right side who will possess the dynamic skill set necessary to quarterback a successful power play, generating a high ratio of chances in favour of his club and logging 23+ minutes a night.
The Canadiens haven’t had a successful power play since the days of Andrei Markov running the man advantage, and have been in desperate need of such a player to help them optimize their efficiency in such critical situations.
It’s easier said than done, as those types of defencemen are hard to come by in the NHL, but it’s something that Jeff Gorton has previously mentioned as a priority for the organization to acquire, via trade or through the draft.
Over the last two years, Nick Suzuki has established himself as the unquestioned No. 1 centre on the team.
His hot start to the season, on top of seamlessly carrying the weight of the Canadiens’ captaincy, has pretty much cemented his spot within the club’s hierarchy, but there are still questions as to who will eventually be the other top-six centre moving forward.
The plan still appears to have Kirby Dach slot in as the No. 2 centre down the line, but his instant chemistry with Suzuki and Cole Caufield may well indeed force the Canadiens to rethink their long-term strategy, or at least prepare for the possibility that Dach could be the missing piece on the top-line and not Suzuki’s running man.
By having options for the role of second-line centre, the Canadiens could shift some players around without necessarily hurting the depth of the club or its needed strength up the middle.
As of right now, Sean Monahan has done an admirable job playing at centre in Dach’s stead, but it’s unlikely that he will be in the cards on a long-term basis, given that his name is already being discussed for the upcoming NHL trade deadline.
Acquiring or drafting that bonafide No. 2, that could also shift between wing and centre, would give the Canadiens the needed firepower to keep up with the top teams in the league, moving them from a one-line team to an offensive powerhouse.
All In Due Time
Neither of these positions needs to necessarily be dealt with in the immediate future, as it’s better for the Montreal Canadiens to find long-term fixes to these roster holes.
But, as the Canadiens continue to build toward a better and brighter future, those two major positions will have to be filled if they are to keep up with the top teams in the league.