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Canadiens Analysis

Top-3 Canadiens With Something To Prove Down The Stretch

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Montreal Canadiens Harvey Pinard

The Montreal Canadiens got an early start to their asset management agenda when they moved veteran Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2027 third-round pick.

It was a shrewd deal when you consider Monahan’s best years are behind him, even more so when you weigh the fact that the Canadiens ended up with two different first-round picks without investing any other asset than cash. Given the price of beer at the Bell Centre, you could even argue fans are the ones who made the deal possible.

Now that Monahan is playing in the Western Conference, there’s a surplus of ice time available, which will lead to opportunities for redemption as well as chances for younger players to show their worth as the team enters the most difficult stretch of the season.

Future Montreal Canadiens Centre Options

Alex Newhook’s impending return to the lineup is perfectly timed, as he will be tasked with absorbing heavy minutes in Monahan’s absence. However, Newhook has already established he can make an offensive impact while playing in the top six, as evidenced by his seven goals in 23 games before the injury.

You may scoff at that number, but despite not playing since Nov.30, Newhook is just one goal away from being tied for third in goal-scoring, a sobering reminder that the Canadiens don’t just need elite shooting talent in the lineup, but they also need players that can provide sustained secondary scoring.

A player like Jake Evans will have an opportunity to fill that role while convincing management that he possesses some semblance of offensive talent. Evans, 27, is a hard worker, but he’s also among the lowest-scoring centres in the NHL.

With just two goals in 49 games, Evans has matched his scoring output last season (2 goals in 54 games), an indication that his presence in the lineup does very little to improve one of the team’s glaring weaknesses.

Every NHL player has the ability to put forth an honest effort on a nightly basis, but they have to own a certain level of offensive prowess to become important players in a lineup that can contend for the Stanley Cup.

With prospects such as Owen Beck and Oliver Kapanen in the pipeline, Evans’ defence-only approach to the game is far from guaranteeing him a place in the lineup as the team attempts to build enough momentum to qualify for the playoffs next season and beyond.

Winger Impact

Evans is far from being the Montreal Canadiens who have struggled from an offensive standpoint.

With Monahan now playing for Winnipeg, only two players in the Canadiens lineup have managed to score 10 or more goals in 49 games this season: Cole Caufield (17) and Nick Suzuki (13).

Wingers such as Jesse Ylonen, Tanner Pearson, and Josh Anderson have scored roughly 0.5 goals per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time, well below what you could reasonably expect given their usage. Anderson, in particular, has done very little while getting more opportunities than almost any other player in the lineup.

He is clearly one of the players in the lineup with the most to prove, not only to the team but to himself, as well.

Will he fade down the stretch or will he be able to find another gear? The Canadiens will need good veterans to insulate the younger players during the rebuild. General manager Kent Hughes has suggested Anderson is the type of player who can help guide the youth movement, but before he can do that, he’ll have to re-establish his value in the lineup.

Unfortunately, Anderson’s lack of production pales in comparison to Rafael Harvey-Pinard‘s. Remember, Harvey-Pinard didn’t just play well down the stretch last season. He earned a contract extension by showing the type of intensity and skill that led to his call-up from the Laval Rocket in the first place.

To be fair, his 14 goals in 34 games last season were powered by a very high shooting percentage, which means a dip in production was to be expected. But as it stands the 25-year-old has scored just one goal in 22 games, quickly erasing all the excitement and encouraging numbers he generated in 2022-23.

Relative to his teammates, Harvey-Pinard has better possession numbers than most, but that alone will not be enough to pencil him into the lineup next season as a player who can help the team reach the next step in their rebuild.

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morrisk

I’ve given up on Anderson and don’t really care any more. He was NEVER worth that contract MB gave him. Crap, we should have just kept Domi…even at this point Domi is better.

Anderson should have been traded two years ago INSTEAD of Toffoli. Habs would have gotten way more offensive output and at a cost of $1.25M less per season! Dumb move, Hugo. Now we are stuck with him for the next 3 seasons…OMG!

Other than maybe Newhook, all the other players mentioned above are fringe to just slightly better than fringe NHL players right now. RHP and Evans were 7th rd picks, so really, should we call them out as players who “need to prove something”?

Honestly, its Hugo who needs to “prove something” at this point.

Last edited 20 days ago by morrisk
mikeysl

somebody urinate in your conflakes today?

Ghg55

The Toffoli trade got us heineman, mesar, and I believe volokhin. All three look like sold pieces so far. It also helped us get rid of scoring so we could fall further to get better selections, which is what a rebuilding team needs. Remember, Toffoli wasn’t producing the way he is now with us. We got a good return.

I agree Anderson should have been traded, but not INSTEAD of Toffoli. The whole point of a rebuild is to trade extra vets for picks and prospects. Why would we keep one of our best offensive (and therefore most valuable) trade pieces in Toffoli
As for Anderson, he can easily rebound next year, claw back some value and be traded then. Especially since the cap will go up like $4M next year, and will keep rising like that for years. In that environment, if he bounces back to a 20+g form (which isn’t crazy to think at all) his contract won’t be that bad. No, he wasn’t worth the contract at the time, but it’s not like he’ll need insane production to become worth it with the cap rising.

So far, Hugo has definitely proven themselves. The cap situation has been completely turned around. We’re in a position to actually be able to accrue cap space next year, which is crazy considering where we were. Their drafting has been incredible. I think they should have taken Michkov, but that’s one misstep. A big one considering our needs, but still just one. You could argue that taking Florian was another as he wasn’t on most boards, but Hutson in the second? Konyushkov? Fowler, volokhin, Engstrom, mesar, Beck, Dach and Newhook… that’s a lot of talent and only one was in the first round. Plus reinbacher isn’t exactly a bum.

Trades? I would’ve preferred more from the last petry one cuz we lost that retention slot for 2 yrs, but if anyone knows the value of a GM helping a player, it’s a GM who used to be an agent. Every other trade, at worst can be described as “meh”, and several have been fantastic. They literally just got 2 1sts for monahan in a way no GMs have before. It was brilliant.

I think we’re in good hands. We can complain about Michkov, or the petry trade (even though in total it brought a lot), but overall Hugo has been pretty great. As long as they lock down one of the top forwards in this upcoming draft, I have zero concerns.

I think fans are taking 1 or 2 imperfect actions and pretending like they represent the entire tenure. It just seems silly.

morrisk

I could not disagree with you more on just about everything above.

“The Toffoli trade got us heineman, mesar, and I believe volokhin. All three look like sold pieces so far.

Solid? Lets see if any one of them play 100 NHL games, let alone become as good as Toffoli ever did…

Anderson should have been dealt instead of Toffoli:

Save more $ on the CapToffoli much better offensivelyAnderson would have fetched the same late 1st rd pick two seasons ago“Toffoli wasn’t producing the way he is now with us”…

Toffoli stats with Habs:
89 games, 70 pts

Anderson can “Easily rebound”? NO WAY he bounces back to score 20+ goals next season. Why? HE’S DONE, and we are now stuck with him.

Just because you got a great deal the first time doesn’t equate to “free money” the second time around. Hugo made a great trade to get rid of Petry. Then made a strange deal to get him again, then let him go for peanuts the third time. Again, to obtain Monaham for a 1st rd pick was fabulous. Letting him go for FAR LESS than Elias fetched was not good.

Hugo has NOT been great so far. He grades a C. For every perceived great move or trade, he has followed it up by an equally questionable or disappointing deal.

And no, I did not think avoiding Michkov was a mistake. It was the right thing to do. Don’t want to wait at least three years for a headache/malcontent/locker room issue.

The ONLY reason why the cap situation seems to have been completely turned around is because of ONE player – CP on LTIR. Without that, if he were still playing now, at $10.5M per, we’d be in horrible shape. Hugo had ZERO to do with this very fortunate situation. He still has Gally, Anderson, Armia, Dvorak, and Savard all signed for at least one more season – that’s about $23M.

“Hutson in the second? Konyushkov? Fowler, volokhin, Engstrom, mesar, Beck, Dach and Newhook… that’s a lot of talent and only one was in the first round.” Every one of those players you mentioned (with exception of Dach and Newhook) has never played a game in the NHL. You have no idea how they will turn out. Stats say chances are they don’t turn out good or better. Even Hudson…no guarantee he turns out to be Q Hughes (and if he falls short, wouldn’t that seem like a disappointment at this point?).

Last edited 20 days ago by morrisk
Pierre B.

The goal scoring picture changes stangely when one looks at the goal/60 stat: Newhook, 1.102 g/60; Caufield, 1.085 g/60; Armia, 0.993 g/60; Roy, 0.838 g/60; Suzuki, 0.753 g/60; Gallagher, 0.705 g/60.