Investigating Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki Recent Scoring Drought
There’s been a lot of ink spilled when it comes to Nick Suzuki’s scoring drought.
And while it’s easy to point to his recent production as a reason to doubt his overall potential, it’s important to look at the context in which Suzuki has struggled.
First off, we can’t declare Suzuki is injured, even if he did recently mention he wasn’t at 100 percent.
Given that the Canadiens have several players who are not participating in practice but are participating in games, it’s safe to assume there’s no room for more players at the infirmary, as evidenced by the team running with 11 forwards for a significant stretch of their schedule.
Regardless of whether it’s due to an injury or overuse, Suzuki is showing significant signs of fatigue.
On top of it, he’s also playing in a situation that does not complement his skillset.
As we’ve seen throughout the season, Suzuki is better off playing with teammates that can generate scoring plays off the cycle, players like Sean Monahan or Kirby Dach.
He’s a player that likes to use his vision and anticipation to control the flow of the game, opening up passing lanes as well as time and space for his linemates.
You’ll notice Suzuki is at his best when he spends a lot of time in the offensive zone, putting an onus on creating sustained pressure while forcing the defencemen to adapt, thus creating chaos.
Both Rem Pitlick and Josh Anderson have fantastic speed, but their offensive awareness is limited to generating chances off the rush, which mitigates Suzuki’s value.
Pitlick and Anderson have benefited from Suzuki’s defensive awareness and his ability to control the neutral zone, and have enjoyed a recent uptick in scoring, but it has not been a two-way street.
It’s also worth noting that with the endless stream of injuries, Suzuki is receiving the bulk of attention from opponents in recent weeks, which has made life easier on players like Dach, but much more difficult for the team’s best scorer.
By The Numbers
Suzuki has not registered a goal since Jan.14, but is it a matter of bad luck, or is he truly on a steep decline?
His on-ice results have suffered the most. Before the goal drought, Suzuki controlled close to 50 percent of the shots while he was on the ice. Since? A little over 37 percent, which points to a clear chemistry issue with his linemates.
He’s also controlling 10 percent fewer of the high-danger chances, connoting there’s a problem in the process, not just the results.
But linemates aside, what about Suzuki’s individual results?
He’s taking more shots than ever, well over one extra shot per 60 since he last scored, and consequently, his individual high-danger shots have been more frequent, connoting he’s taking it upon himself to change his results, rather than picking his spots as he had throughout the start of the season.
However, you’ll note he’s taking fewer shots from what I like to call the ‘captain’s cabin’. In previous games, he had the luxury of picking his shots and finding his favourite spot on the ice.
With a depleted lineup and questionable wingers, he simply cannot afford to pick his shots, as evidenced by the game against the Detroit Red Wings, in which Suzuki had five shots, none of which were inside the hash marks of the right faceoff circle.
There’s also a certain normalization of his shooting percentage, which was elevated to start the year, but given he’s taking more shots and generating more quality chances than before, I’d argue the drop in production is probably closely linked to his usage, rather than his shooting percentage imploding. A dip in shooting percentage was to be expected, a complete collapse, on the other hand, was not a reasonable projection.
To put a fine point on the changes in his game since the drought began, Suzuki has participated in as many rush attempts in the last seven games as he had in the previous 43, which, as previously explored, is not a situation that puts his affinity for controlling the pace of a game to the forefront.
There are limited wingers available for Suzuki, and with Dach flourishing on the second line as a centre, it’s doubtful we’ll see him back on the top line any time soon.
But as it stands, playing with two players who prefer to create off the rush is simply not a good fit for Suzuki. He’s taking more shots, but he’s not getting to the areas on the ice which led to his scoring uptick earlier this season.
The lack of chemistry, combined with potential injury, an inflated shooting percentage, and a dearth of talent throughout the lineup are all factors when it comes to Suzuki’s scoring drought.
However, they’re also factors that have very little chance of repeating in the future, making Suzuki’s scoring drought in the last week an unfortunate situation, but not one that’s worth losing sleep over.
Few players have proven their worth to this organization as quickly as Suzuki did, and it would be a shame to doubt his potential due to a difficult stretch, especially when we keep the context in which he struggled in mind.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick
Man, if there are “fans” being critical of Suzuki, they need to give their heads a shake. He’s the youngest captain in the history of the game’s oldest, most storied franchise, during a rebuild, on a team decimated by injuries right now. He’s exceeded expectations for this year imo.
He was named Captain by the Front Office, it’s usually the players who vote their captain, not here sadly. He’s not rally the players choice is he?
Have you ever played hockey? Well your captain spends 1 min 40 seconds, 2 minutes on the PP many times. They finally have analysts calling this guy out for doing this, Yeah, thee youngest captain ever in the franchise has shown signs (look at the film) of being the most selfish, self centered player I have ever seen in the NHL. I wish Tortorella would coach him one night.
He’s also the only centerman who spends more time sending his winger to chase the puck while he hides as far away from the bench on the wing. He rarely chases the puck when the opponent has it. That’s his job, not Caufield’s, Anderson’s or Dach’s. Chasing the puck and covering the center of the rink is the center’s job, not the wingers.
The C has a lot to learn and a whole lot more to prove. Why is he always hiding on the wing as far away from the bench in the defensive zone? We get that he doesn’t want to fight for the puck, he has teammates who can do his dirty work. That’s who I think he is, a very talented, self centered, selfish player. His teammates know that, they did not vote him there, he’s Gorton’s boy.
Suzuki stats in the NHL:
Tota is 118 points and -64 +/- for his career. When he’s on the ice, we are at a disadvantage because for his 118 total points, they let in 182 points. That is not winning hockey.
Can he be fixed? I believe so
Is he talented? Yes
If you were his coach, how do you bring him along? Be careful, players know what favoritism is and who gets it.
Choosing a team captain is about voicing your opinion on who you would go to war with and fight for. The clowns that run this team have deprived the team players of the privilege to pick their true leader. That is sad.
I’m not blaming Nick for this, he’s a kid and maybe a great kid. The guys who created this mess should explain how they made it happen. When stuff like this happens, don’t expect players to bleed for the team because Gorton and gang don’t believe the players are smart enough to pick the best available candidate to represent them with the C.
I played hockey for 14 years and have watched it for over 40+ years. I hear what you are saying. Not sure why you are so angry/aggressive about it though. Gorton & Hughes we’re brought in to modernize our franchise. In today’s game, the captain is far more likely to be the most talented player on the team, being paid the most, and signed for the longest term. They’re a figurehead for the franchise in the community. It has little to do with on the ice anymore. A letter stitched on a jersey doesn’t hold much value in the dressing room. Like you said, the guys in the room know who the leaders are. When Weber was finished and the debate about a new captain began, I predicted that Suzuki would be given the C, but felt that Gallagher had earned it with all his blood & sweat over the years. He should have gotten it when Pacioretty did instead. But, that’s water under the bridge now. To me, Gallagher epitomizes what we feel a captain represents. Unfortunately, due to his age, injuries and relationship with referees, he didn’t stand a chance of getting the captaincy in today’s NHL. My guess is that HuGo would move him and his contract in a heartbeat if they could. As for Suzuki’s leadership, he’s not a ra ra kinda guy leading the troops into battle. Many of the vets here now and recently departed spoke about his leadership qualities during the playoff run to the finals and also the year before. He was a captain of his junior team as well. He’s our best player and will the the senior statesman on the team once all the older guys are eventually put out to pasture. He’s hear for the long haul, so that’s why he was chosen to represent the team. I’m sure his squeaky clean image also helped in the decision, as the Canadiens have always been very image conscious (unless of course when they draft a guy like Mailloux (but that’s a whole other can of worms 😁).
I’m not angry at all. I just call them as I see them. I’ve played (a long time ago lol) and watched hockey since the 50’s and I’ve never seen anything like what our Captain is doing. The only other guy that I know of is Alex Kovalev that Torts left on the ice for 9 minutes (with the Rangers) to teach him a lesson.
I expect a captain as being the guy that leads by example and if they follow his lead we will have the fewest line changes in the history of the NHL. Carbonneau and Tremblay stated that 40-45 seconds is what it takes to spend your energy and one of them told about Suzuki staying 3 solid minutes at the end of a loss to the Sens (ended up 5-0 iirc). They actually said he abuses his time on the ice (regular and powerplay) because I figure people started talking about it. I remember being frustrated by his play last year for doing the same things. I’m sorry but I expect my captain to be a leader, not a self centered selfish player. I expect him to bleed for his guys. He’s not doing that, he seems to be doing his best to avoid contact. A centerman skates chasing the puck and covering the middle portion of the rink. He’s often sitting on the wing and letting his wingers do the dirty work. To me it’s obvious.Leading has nothing to do with ra ra. Being -64 in your career should be humbling enough to get you to figure things out and get on the positive side. When he’s on the ice, we know we will be outscored and these numbers do not lie. Blood, sweat and tears do not come from a player who stays 3 minutes on the ice in 1 shift, plays the power play for 1 min 40 s and 2 solid minutes (it’s on tape)… Imagine if they follow his example.
Right now, I don’t think he gives a flying f**k about anyone else and St-Louis better do something about it because now the reporters cannot cover up for him anymore. He should apologize to his teammates for his selfish conduct
He’s -64 for his career because he’s been tasked with going up against the top centres on the opposition since he was like 20yrs old while playing on a bad team decimated by injuries for 2 years running. He’s got lots to learn yet, just like every other prospect we have coming. The expectations on him right now by some people are unrealistic.
As for his shift lengths, there are so many factors at play, you can’t just look at a stat sheet and know the whole story. Were we hemmed in our own zone for a long time? Was there an icing that prevented him from being able to come off? Does the coach want him out there that long because he’s the only one with the vision needed to distribute the puck? Who knows? We can respectfully disagree with each other on this one. Nice chatting with you though. 😁👍