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Canadiens Should Consider Splitting Up Caufield And Suzuki

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Montreal Canadiens

One of the most encouraging developments for the Montreal Canadiens this season has been the emergence of Kirby Dach as a dominant possession player.

Regardless of who Dach plays alongside, he tends to produce fantastic numbers, much like Brendan Gallagher did in the past.

To give you an idea of his impact, we can simply look at the results from Thursday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.

The Canadiens only controlled 47 percent of the shots at 5v5 (34-38) and 33 percent of the high-danger chances (6-12), and yet, Dach’s line, which featured Mike Hoffman and Josh Anderson still managed to generate a healthy amount of offence, seeing as they almost had a 65 percent advantage in shots.

You can repeat the experiment almost every night.

Dach continuously improves the underlying numbers of his linemates, owing to his penchant for quickly driving the play up the ice with control of the puck.

That last part is particularly important.

A controlled entry doubles the chances a team will take a shot or score a goal.

And while Dach’s great debut bodes well for the future, it also highlights a red flag on the Canadiens’ top line.

Caufield And Suzuki

You’d be hard-pressed to argue Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are not the most important players on the Canadiens roster, but despite their very healthy results from a production point of view, there’s a major red flag in their numbers.

Without a player like Sean Monahan or Dach providing crucial time and space in transition, the pair tends to get outshot and outchanced by a significant margin.

To give you an idea of the Dach effect, we need to take a look at their underlying numbers since the start of the year.

While playing with Dach, Caufield and Suzuki have held a 52 percent advantage in shots and a 51 percent advantage in high-danger scoring chances, resulting in an expected goals-for percentage of 50.5 percent.

Without Dach, the numbers drop dramatically, to the tune of 41.7 percent in shots, 22 percent of the high-danger chances, and a little over 30 percent of the expected goals.

In other words, the Canadiens’ best players are spending a lot more time defending than attacking, using up precious energy that should be used in an offensive role.

This leads us to the next question.

Is placing the team’s best offensive tools on the same line a wise approach?

With just two of the 10 top-line combinations put together by St-Louis producing positive underlying numbers, you could argue that by placing their offensive eggs in the same basket, the Canadiens are making life easier on opponents and limiting the potential of their young stars.

As Dach transitions back to being a centre, splitting up the duo would add a little more balance to a lineup that lacks depth, and perhaps reveal surprising chemistry.

It would also give younger players an opportunity to prove their worth, without the pressure of living up to Dach’s impressive start with the Canadiens.

It’s an experiment worth pursuing, at least temporarily.

All Montreal Canadiens statistics and heatmaps are 5v5, via NaturalStatTrick.com

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habbernack

IMO Roy is a more complete player than Cole. I am not dissing Cole, but watching Roy in the Jrs shows that he can play PP, PK and 5×5, center and wing. What would he be like along side of Nick I wonder. I think Ylonen’s shot from the left side is just as deadly as Cole. I think he’s better defensively, bigger and fast so maybe try Cole with Dach to see if he can score without Nick. Can’t tie his contract to just playing alongside of Nick.

Last edited 15 days ago by habbernack
Tyrone

Considering that the goal should be to improve our odds of landing Bedard as much as possible, I’m all for experimenting the heck out of the remainder of the season. I don’t care how crazy the idea is, go for it. Now is the time to try anything and everything. Having said that, I believe there’s merit to keeping Suzuki and Caufield together to work through all the bad analytics. They’re still young and they’re going up against the best lines on the competition every night. What better way to learn how to deal with finding success despite being up against the best, than actually playing against the best? I don’t care what their numbers are. We’re rebuilding and developing. Like I said earlier, I’m all for experimenting, but isn’t this also an experiment? I’m perfectly fine breaking up the duo for a while, but I’d rather see them stay together and get their on-the-job training now, when there isn’t pressure to win vs later on when we actually are trying to fight for a playoff spot or more. That’s why I’m all for throwing our young D in every single situation regardless of who they’re up against. That’s why I’m happy to see Montembeault play game after game. If now isn’t the time to find out all these answers, when would it be better? Best case we develop our kids into being future champions, worst case is we lose a lot and end up with a generational player as a result. It’s win-win imo.

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