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Guhle Has Been Good For Habs, Here’s How He Could Be Better

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Montreal Canadiens defenceman Kaiden Guhle

With a quarter of the regular season in the books, Canadiens rookie Kaiden Guhle has certainly been a busy defenceman.

It’s the perfect time to evaluate his results and opine on possible changes that could improve his overall numbers.

Production

As it stands, thanks to a strong start in the offensive zone that has led to one goal and seven assists, the rookie is on pace to earn 33 pro-rated points this season.

If Guhle can maintain his current scoring pace, he will end up being the 5th most productive rookie defenceman in Montreal Canadiens franchise history, behind Chris Chelios (64 points), Tom Kurvers (45 points), Guy Lapointe (44 points), and P.K. Subban (38 points).

What’s more, all eight of Guhle’s points have come at even strength. There are no guarantees he can keep his production level up, but if he does end up with 33 even-strength points, he would finish the season as the most productive rookie in Canadiens history with equal forces, ahead of Lapointe (30 points), Chelios (28 points), and Petr Svoboda (24 points).

If we even the playing field by filtering for games played, Guhle still figures among the top-10 Canadiens rookie defencemen with 0.4 points per game.

Usage

Thanks to his role, which usually involves facing the opposing team’s best players, Guhle is on pace to be one of the most utilized rookie defencemen in team history. With 20 minutes and 22 seconds of average ice time, only Subban and Stephane Robidas received more ice time as rookies.

In other words, when it comes to traditional statistics, Guhle fits the bill as a legitimate contender to be considered for the Calder Trophy.

He’s also looked great when playing against players such as Sidney Crosby.

A quick look at Crosby’s heatmap in their first meeting, which involved Guhle facing the Penguins captain in over 15 of his total 24 minutes, reveals the rookie defenceman can shut down some of the best players on earth.

Guhle ended up controlling almost 70 percent of the shots against Crosby’s trio that night.

Flip Side

But there is a significant red flag in his game.

Statistically speaking, Guhle, particularly when used alongside David Savard, has produced very underwhelming numbers.

For example, they’ve managed to control a little more than 40 percent of the shots, and a lot less than 40 percent of the high-danger scoring chances.

In an ideal world, they would not be facing an elite level of competition, and that has surely led to a downtick in possession metrics, but there have been situations throughout the season that could lead you to believe Guhle is not the issue on the top pairing.

The eye test gives us our first clue.

Savard has an affinity for lying face down on the ice to block passing lanes and shots. In a vacuum, it’s a sound strategy, but hockey is better understood as a series of events rather than individual situations.

A blocked shot may mitigate a scoring chance initially, but more often than not it leads to chaos in the defensive zone.

An immobile defender is a vulnerable defender.

With that in mind, it would be unfair to pin all their problems on Savard’s play.

Simply put, he’s done as well as anyone could have expected in a role that is not suited to his skill set.

But the fact remains Savard has only enjoyed two seasons throughout his career in which his team controlled more than 50 percent of the shots when he was on the ice.

With the Canadiens, Savard has controlled a little over 40 percent of the shots, and that includes 62 games worth of data points that did not involve Guhle.

Options

But something interesting happened in the very limited games that featured Guhle alongside a different defensive partner.

When playing with Jordan Harris, Guhle’s numbers improve significantly. In a little under 20 minutes together this season, which is admittedly a low sample size, the pairing has controlled almost 60 percent of the shots and 80 percent of the high-danger chances.

The same phenomenon occurs when you evaluate Guhle’s numbers beside Arber Xhekaj. Again, it’s a very limited sample size, but when the two rookies were on the ice together the Canadiens once again controlled over 60 percent of the shots.

Xhekaj, Guhle, and Harris all shoot from the left side but shot balance should never trump overall puck control when it comes to roster decisions.

Savard performed admirably as a stop-gap measure while the Canadiens’ blue line was mired with injuries, but if the team expects him to eventually produce encouraging underlying numbers, keeping Kaiden Guhle away from his most familiar defensive partner would be a wise decision.


(All Montreal Canadiens and Kaiden Guhle statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)

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Billy739

Karlsson,Jones ,Roy or Durzi would be ideal trade targets to boost Ghule’s play. Right now he’s playing with a quality #4-5 guy who any Contender would covet. That said he’s really got no upside on top pair beside Ghule.

Karlsson would makes some sense if we were to move Anderson and Armia in the deal to make it work MTL can live with his contract easily enough until the final year. SJS retained i think 30% on Burns really not getting a huge return due to the limited market so if they’d RS on Karlsson it shouldnt cost an arm and a leg.

Jones longterm given our lack of #1 RD players makes a ton of sense but will cost the most to land out of all the above mentioned.

Durzi right now could land a 1st round pick and a top quality prospect or a 1st round pick , 2nd round pick and a Kappanen ,Kidney or Norlinder level prospect .

Roy can be had for an equal value LD like Savard or Edmundston but would be a lateral move at best to acquire a non french speaking frenchmen from America(then again Boullion was the same and has been in MTL for like 20 years outside his 2 years in NSH)

If you’re looking a big impact now Jones is the move to make.
The rest are summer deals or just wont make a dent big enough to notice.

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