Canadiens Contract Watch: Gurianov Struggling In Final Games
Montreal Canadiens forward Denis Gurianov started his tenure with his new team on the right foot.
He scored five goals and three assists in his first 13 games, a rather encouraging start for a player that is trying to find a new home in the NHL.
The question in everyone’s mind was whether it was a permanent resurgence in production, or simply a temporary increase in offence due to a renewed sense of urgency.
Gurianov’s goal tonight pic.twitter.com/G78LtqO9Uq
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 19, 2023
Unfortunately, Gurianov has been held off the scoresheet since the last time we checked in on him, though, it must be said that the majority of the players on the Canadiens roster have struggled to generate offence. .
To give you an idea of the dearth of offence, Nick Suzuki and Brendan Gallagher are the only players who managed to earn four points in the last five games.
By The Numbers
The first thing that jumps out from the numbers is Gurianov’s shot rate.
It started as one of the best on the team in the first few weeks he joined, at 9.3 shots per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time.
But in the last five games, Gurianov has only managed to take six shots at 5v5, which gives him a rather underwhelming 5.45 shots per 60, less than Jake Evans (6.45 S/60) and Mike Matheson (5.83 S/60).
Consequently, his individual expected goals per 60 number has plummeted, going from 1.02xG/60 to 0.35xG/60, the lowest expected goals among all forwards in the last five matchups.
Simply put, he’s not shooting very much, which means he’s losing his greatest strength: offensive production.
What’s more, his underlying numbers have also taken a significant plunge relative to his teammates.
Gurianov’s relative shot share has dropped from 2.4 rel.CF% to -11.3 rel.CF%, which is the difference between a player making a small positive impact and a player who gets outshot significantly any time he’s on the ice.
His relative expected goals also took a big hit. He was already in the negative during his first two weeks with the team, at -1.01 rel.xGF%, but he’s been producing below-replacement level numbers since, with a paltry -13.4 rel.xGF%.
In other words, when Gurianov has been on the ice in the last five games, he’s hurting his team’s ability to win. He’s far from the only player on the roster with negative relative numbers, but for a player that is desperately trying to get an opportunity to write a new chapter in his career, they’re far from acceptable results.
If anything, they reveal the other side of Gurianov, the side many Dallas Stars fans discussed on the day of the trade.
He runs hot and cold, and those cold streaks seem to last rather long.
Of course, consistency tends to be a buzzword in the NHL.
Truth be told, other than Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, very few players enjoy year-long consistency.
But in Gurianov’s case, the juxtaposition between his good and bad games reveals a gigantic chasm in value.
Part of it has to do with his linemates. Playing with Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia isn’t exactly conducive to producing great production or underlying numbers, however, it must be said Drouin has been one of the most productive players on the team since the new year.
Gurianov is the type of player that needs linemates that will create time and space for him, and though the Canadiens have a few of those on the roster, most notably Suzuki, it’s rather difficult to project the team’s captain spending the bulk of his time trying to light a fire under Gurianov.
He’s already tasked with driving all the team’s offence in a season where the vast majority of his support made its way to the injured reserve.
We can’t arbitrarily take away the production we saw from Gurianov when he first joined the team.
He’s a sniper that has natural shooting talent, something the Canadiens lack in their arsenal.
However, it’s starting to become clear that was more of an oasis in the desert than something that would develop into sustainable secondary or tertiary production.
His defensive awareness will never be elite, which means Gurianov must provide offence to become a useful player on the roster.
He still has five games left in the schedule to prove his worth, and again, we must remind ourselves he’s playing on one of the worst teams in the league, which makes judging his value a little more difficult.
But all things considered, it’s starting to become apparent why the Stars were willing to move on from the 25-year-old forward.
He has all the right tools to make an impact in the NHL on a nightly basis, but the willingness to engage isn’t always there. It’s not a matter of consistency as much as it’s a matter of providing a legitimate effort with every shift.
His qualifying offer of $2.9 million annual average value is a gamble, albeit not one with significant risk. But if Gurianov continues to limp to the finish line, Kent Hughes and Co. will have to figure out a way to sign him to a deal that would allow the Canadiens to extract some value from the contract.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick
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