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Montreal Canadiens Top 3 Questions Heading Into 2023

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Montreal Canadiens forwards Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield

As the Montreal Canadiens welcome the new year, they’re preparing to enter into the phase of the schedule that can only be described as a difficult home stretch.

Recently, the results have caught up to their underlying numbers, therefore it’s fair to assume the team will focus on growth and improving upon glaring weaknesses from here to their final game of the regular season.

Let’s take a look at three situations worth monitoring in 2023.

Cauzuki

Martin St-Louis has been tasked with balancing the idea of having any semblance of a functional first line with spreading his limited talent throughout the lineup.

And though it’s clear Kirby Dach is the best fit alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, Sean Monahan’s injury has essentially neutered the rare moments in which the Canadiens received secondary scoring, which has led to Dach being used to anchor the second line.

Unfortunately, as soon as Dach is removed from the top line, things get ugly at 5v5.

For example, with Dach, the top line controls over 55 percent of the shots, and roughly 50 percent of the high-danger chances, whereas their numbers drop to 44 percent of the shots and just 20 percent of the chances when Dach is reassigned.

Is Juraj Slafkovsky, one of the few players that have not received an audition, get a chance to prove his worth on the top line?

The odds will improve once the Canadiens unload a few players at the trade deadline, but for now, it seems unlikely.

St-Louis may also decide to break up his duo, in an attempt to open up more options in his top-six, because as it stands, the roster construction has handcuffed his lineup decisions.

Lose Hard For Bedard

Not only did December yield the worst underlying numbers of the season, but the Habs will also face the most difficult strength of schedule in the league.

Seeing as the Habs have allowed 20 goals against in their last three games, they’re entering the home stretch of the season with the momentum of a peg-legged pirate attempting to complete a triathlon.

And that’s fantastic news, at least in the long term.

Can they continue to nosedive?

If so, the Canadiens have a legitimate shot at drafting generational talent Connor Bedard, who is presently setting the 2023 World Junior Championship on fire.

Longstanding Logjam

It’s a poorly kept secret that Kent Hughes has been trying to trade some of his many overpaid wingers, in a bid to finally alleviate the pressure faced by St-Louis’ and the overcrowded lineup when it comes to day-to-day operations.

Players like Josh Anderson, Sean Monahan, Joel Edmundson, and others have been linked to various teams around the league, but Hughes is well known for sticking to his guns throughout negotiations.

Hughes also likes to set the market price, as he did last season when he traded Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames for several assets, including a first-round pick, as well as the trade that sent Ben Chiarot to the Panthers, for yet another first-round pick.

If the market remains stagnant, will the Canadiens’ GM force the issue by making the first big move ahead of the trade deadline?

As he’s one of the general managers with the most decisions regarding player personnel, don’t be surprised if he is the first to stoke the NHL’s trade market fire.

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Habs WJC

The three teams with the worst records as the New Year begins and their winning pct. are ; Chicago .286 , Anaheim .324 , Columbus ..342 . For the Habs to break into the bottom three worst as season’s end they’ll need to play at a .255 percent winning rate the rest of the way . I can’t imagine this team falling so low over their last 45 games , that would make for a collapse like the team went through before MSL took over that he coaching duties last year . Barring a lucky lottery draw , Bedard should be staying somewhere in the Midwest to Western states after this year’s draft in Nashville.

John Spearing

our schedule is literally the toughest of all teams in the 2nd half of the season… both the Hawks and Ducks have much easier schedules than us…
Furthermore with a 2nd ticket from Florida, our current odds are actually 7.5% (Habs pick and the odds will increase as we slide) plus another 6% (Florida pick – I hope they stay bottom 10)
those current odds combined give us 13.5% chance of the 1st pick, same odds as the 2nd worst team which currently tie us with the Ducks and already give us better odds than the Jackets

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