There’s no denying Cole Caufield is one of the most talented snipers in Montreal Canadiens franchise history.
But despite outscoring the vast majority of the league’s best players during even-strength play, the 22-year-old still faces an unreasonable amount of criticism regarding his long-term potential.
Only two players managed to score more goals per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time than Caufield last season: Jared McCann (Seattle) and David Pastrnak (Boston). That means Caufield had a higher goal-scoring pace than almost every player who is considered to be elite.
Armed with a brand new eight-year contract that will pay him an annual average value of $7.85 million, Caufield should be brimming with confidence, which bodes well for both the Canadiens and the Wisconsin native.
But with the new contract will come heightened expectations, and seeing as Caufield underwent major surgery on his shoulder this spring, there’s probably going to be a renewed push when it comes to criticizing his play.
Fortunately, Caufield has a lot of experience when it comes to proving those who doubted him wrong. Hell, he’s built an entire career out of it.
— Nathan "Grav" (@NathanGraviteh) January 16, 2023
Very few expected Samuel Montembeault to become the Canadiens’ most trusted goaltender last year.
Jake Allen was fresh off a decent season, at least relatively speaking, whereas Montembeault had yet to finish a season with a save percentage over .900.
And while it may not seem fair, seeing as goaltending development takes longer and any manner of legitimate analysis regarding their play is few and far between, there are still several question marks regarding Montembeault’s long-term potential.
Fortunately, the Canadiens will only have to pay the 26-year-old $1 million next season, giving them enough runway in which to properly evaluate whether they want to invest in his future, or if his emergence in 2022-23 was simply a flash in the pan.
It was very tempting to list Juraj Slafkovsky, especially since his rookie season did not go according to plan.
But the major issue during Slafkovsky’s first year in the league was inconsistent usage rather than a lack of effort, which bridges the gap nicely to our final member of the Canadiens with something to prove next year.
Martin St-Louis has done a solid job since taking over as the head coach of the team in 2021-22, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue he’s been given all the tools necessary to see tangible improvements in various areas of weakness.
Granted, the Canadiens are a more entertaining team since his arrival, which has kept the Bell Centre full, but there have been little to no tangible improvements when it comes to the team’s underlying numbers.
And that’s fine.
Or, at the very least, it was fine last season.
But now that he is entering his second full season as head coach, the pressure will mount as the margin for errors is reduced.
As long as general manager Kent Hughes finally solves the logjam up front and avoids placing his team in a salary cap situation that would mitigate St-Louis’ options as a coach, we should start to see some small, but noticeable improvements throughout the roster.
— Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) June 27, 2023