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Canadiens Using Dach On Slafkovsky Line For Important Reasons



Montreal Canadiens Juraj Slafkovsky

Juraj Slafkovsky has been the most discussed player ever since the Montreal Canadiens opened their training camp this season.

Though to be more accurate, Slafkovsky has dominated the discussion since the Canadiens selected him with the first overall pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Those who disliked the pick from the very get-go have only entrenched themselves in their original argument. The same can be said about those preaching patience.

That’s almost always how it goes when there are two clear and distinct sides debating a topic.

In Slafkovsky’s case, it has led to a discussion that has lacked any semblance of nuance, a much-needed aspect when discussing any type of sport, particularly hockey.

Resetting The Narrative

In a sense, both sides are right.

It’s safe to say that almost everyone agrees Slafkovsky’s first year in the NHL did not amount to much in terms of long-term development. He dealt with injuries, a suspension, and inconsistent usage, which is enough to derail any rookie season.

I’d also venture to say it’s fair that some fans want to see more from a player who was chosen first overall.

It was a very weak draft year, mind you, but the fact of the matter remains that when a team makes the first pick at the draft, fans will (rightfully) expect a high-impact player in the lineup the very next year.

Consequently, we also have to remember the caveats that were attached to the pick, which, again, was made in a weak draft year.

General manager Kent Hughes clearly labelled Slafkovsky as a project.

Now, that doesn’t mean that fans cannot expect the project to provide some early returns, and that certainly has not been the case, but given that Slafkovsky is once again slated to be the youngest player in the lineup, the calls for patience do not ring hollow.

However, for Slafkovsky to succeed, he will need to be put in a position to succeed by Canadiens management, which is yet to be the case.

Some may argue that the responsibility to find Slafkovsky ice time falls square on head coach Martin St-Louis’ shoulders, and there’s something to be said about the fact that he received the lowest ice time among any big-name rookies in the Canadiens lineup over the last two decades,

But it was also quite clear that Slafkovsky was not ready to play in the NHL last season.

There were a few exceptions, but overall, his level of play did not merit an increase in ice time, and thus, St-Louis’ tentative use of Slafkovsky is easily explained.

With that in mind, the responsibility to find him an ideal situation is up to Hughes and Jeff Gorton.

If the Montreal Canadiens cannot secure top-six minutes for Slafkovsky on a line that produces encouraging underlying numbers, they should not hesitate to assign him to their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.

Last season, Hughes explained that the team discussed assigning Slafkovsky to the AHL, but opted not to due to the fear that if he struggled, he’d receive an unreasonable amount of criticism.

Damn the torpedoes.

And damn the perception.

Everyone is well aware of the situation.

Slafkovsky needs minutes, and it doesn’t matter where gets them.

Besides, if a first-overall pick cannot produce encouraging results in the AHL, there are bigger issues at play than perception.

A New Hope

Fortunately, it’s much too early to panic.

When Slafkovsky was playing alongside Josh Anderson and Alex Nehwook, it was quite clear that the line combination did not do him any favours. Being paired with two of the fastest players in the lineup is a good way to make a player like Slafkovsky look out of place.

But something interesting happened the moment that Slafkovsky was used on a line with a centre who excels in transition.

We’re dealing with a small sample size, but both games in which Slafkovsky played with Kirby Dach and Rafael Harvey-Pinard resulted in very strong underlying numbers.

Against the Senators, the line controlled 90 percent of the shots and 100 percent of the expected goals. In their game against the Maple Leafs, the numbers weren’t as spectacular, but they still managed to finish the matchup by controlling almost 60 percent of the shots and 53 percent of the expected goals.

In other words, for the first time in a very long time, Slafkovsky enjoyed a significant advantage in shots and scoring chances while he was on the ice.

It immediately led to an uptick in confidence, not to mention more high-danger scoring chances. We have to consider that neither the Senators nor the Maple Leafs iced their strongest lineups, but those decisions were out of Slafkovsky’s control.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

Dach is the new Brendan Gallagher.

For those who are a little too young to remember Gallagher at his best, for over half a decade he was the player in the lineup who made a significant positive impact regardless of the line on which he was used.

He was the hockey equivalent of a cheat code.

A plug-and-play solution to most of Michel Therrien’s forward-lineup problems.

Dach has many of the same qualities. He’s yet to produce as much as Gallagher did in his prime, but he’s already acting as St-Louis’ cheat code, solidifying the roster by immediately improving his linemates, as evidenced by how quickly he improved the underlying numbers of the top line, which featured Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

Of course, most expect a first-overall pick to stand on his own.

And that’s not the case for Slafkovsky.

At least not yet.

And perhaps not ever.

But thankfully, the Dach Effect (™) could be exactly what Slafkovsky needs to find his rhythm.

It’s much too early to proclaim the Canadiens have two solid lines, but if the Dach-Slafkovsky experiment continues to yield strong results, the entire Montreal Canadiens lineup will be better off.

As will the entirety of the Habs fan base.

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I still would like to see a Dach with Slafkovsky and Anderson beast line have an extended test run. On the surface it looks like it could dominate the opposition. Worse case is it would be fun to watch. It might even slow Anderson down enough to allow him to actually make some plays.

John Smith

I love this trio. Anderson is a runaway train. It’s hard to imagine him deliberately slowing down. It’s not in his chimeraic powerhouse DNA. Btw. My other comment was directed at the Canadiens’ frustratingly mercurial fanbase. We must have posted our comments around the same time.

John Smith

Patience is a virtue. And most Montreal fans seem to lack it- myself included. If I were a farmer and planted corn seeds in say May, I would not get frustrated that the corn was not ready to husk in June.

Slafkovsky is a five year project.

You can’t rush a good thing. We fans, myself included, must expect incremental improvements for year two of this project.

If he comes up and down from Laval, so be it. if not, there is a very good reason. The Canadiens have an excellent brain trust. And I trust “farmer” Hughes to develop this unique player as I do this slow and painful rebuild.

The worst thing that we fans can do is stomp on this emerging “stalk.” With Slafkovsky, we have to resist the temptations of immediate gratification.




Shane Wright got sent back to Jrs

Alex Barrette

Being paird with deadweight didnt do him any good last season. You can’t except to produce numbers if you play with Evans Dvorak or Gally.

Playing with Dach will be great for him its the perfect match. Slaf is an Nhl player. He just needs more ice time and good teamates.


Slafkovsky needs Laval time. This could easily turn into another KK s-show. Beck and Roy are both further in their development but all the experts say it is good that they get more time at lower levels. Why not this kid? PR pride again?


In all fairness, yes it’s a tiny sample size, but slaf has looked better in these last couple preseason games than KK ever did with the habs. He’s got a loooong way to go but he looks far faster, more aggressive, stronger, and more skilled than KK did with us. I’d be fine if he gets sent down. It may help. But I think playing with Dach and other skilled players is also going to be a big help for him.

John Spearing

Seems a lot of fans and writers tend to forget how much longer it generally takes a big bodied kid to develop compared to smaller players…. Slaf is still a teenager… I am not worried at all about him.
Perhaps if we were a contender, playing him in the AHL would have made more sense and after the injury it did feel like a wasted year but hindsight is 20/20… you also need to keep in mind our AHL team was off to a terrible start last season and there was little protection for Slaf if he was sent down… sending Slaf down may have required sending Wifi with him just to look out for the kid – after all the AHL is loaded with fringe players trying to make a name for themselves and a big 1st overall pick is the perfect target for those fringe players to go after….
The difference between our 2nd and 3rd line will not be significant in terms of 5 on 5 ice time or talent – as long as Slaf can hold a top 9 role, he will continue to be developed on our terms


He’s only 19 years old. Look at jack Hughes first couple seasons. Be patient.


Timing is everything. Pretty sure the number 1 pick from this years draft will not struggle. Sighhhhhh


Slaf is not ready and needs time in the AHL or even Europe. He still looks like an awkward Junior call-up. Ironic that Gorton asks for patience. It is the Habs that don’t have enough of it. A few guys should be playing ahead of him. Ylonen, Roy, Heinemen and even Beck come to mind. Habs should also hang onto Primeau and protect him by waiving Allen, whose salary they don’t need and who probably won’t get taken anyway. They did it to Price and others, why not Allen? Why not Gallagher? Armia? Pezzetta? All players who the Habs could do without/who could be leaders in Laval/who could use a reality check.