Canadiens Weaknesses Exposed Since Cole Caufield Injury
The Montreal Canadiens are already feeling the impact of Cole Caufield’s season-ending surgery.
There’s no doubt Caufield possesses a rare skill set which has allowed him to become one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, particularly at 5v5, and his absence leading to a downtick in offensive production was to be expected.
However, it has also revealed the significant lack of shooting talent on the Canadiens roster.
Martin St-Louis’ team has scored just five goals at 5v5 in three games without Caufield, with three of those goals coming thanks to the excellent work from the fourth line.
The remaining goals belong to Kirby Dach and Josh Anderson.
It’s worth pointing out that Nick Suzuki, who has received the bulk of the defensive coverage from opposing teams, has nine shots in that time frame, almost doubling the output from the next Canadiens player on the list. He’s a little unlucky not to have found the back of the net.
But the biggest red flags arise when we evaluate the team’s results with, and without Caufield.
The Canadiens were already one of the worst teams in the league in a few important statistical categories, including shot share (GF%), expected goal share (xGF%), and high-danger shot share (HDCF%).
When it comes to controlling shots, expected goals, and quality scoring chances, the Canadiens rank 31st, 31st, and 30th, respectively.
To get a better idea of where the Canadiens have struggled, we can take a look at the team’s raw totals.
Again, the Canadiens did not have great underlying numbers, to begin with, but the juxtaposition between their raw numbers with and without Caufield is rather telling.
The Canadiens have dropped from 26th overall in terms of shots for per 60 minutes (CF/60) and shots against per 60 minutes (CA/60), down to 31st in both categories.
Their expected goals for per 60 metric took the biggest hit, resulting in the worst projected offensive output in the NHL, at just 1.75 xGF/60.
To put a fine point on the results, if not for the play of the fourth line, the numbers would actually be much worse.
Of course, there are other factors to consider in addition to Caufield’s injury, and correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but one thing has become abundantly clear: the Canadiens need to add more talent up front, with a focus on players who display high-end shooting talent.
With that in mind, the 2023 Draft will provide an opportunity for the team to bolster their goal-scorer potential, and though it’s always wise to draft for needs, there’s absolutely no doubt the team should be looking for players that can follow in Caufield’s footsteps.