Under the Microscope – Nick Suzuki

When looking at the success or failure of a team, the performance of the team leaders is always scrutinized. In Montreal the situation with the Canadiens has been a little different from the norm because they have been in the midst of a complete makeover. It is a young team with a young leadership group and expectations have been kept to a minimum. That is fair.

But if the Canadiens want to escape 30 years of mediocrity some realities need to be addressed.

Enter Nick Suzuki, the captain of the team and the choice by management to build the team around. Over the past 3 seasons, Suzuki has impressively averaged the 4th highest 5v5 ice time among NHL centers and racked up the 35th most points among that group in the same period of time. In points per 60 among centers with more than 180 games played since 2020-21, however, Suzuki ranks 63rd. On the power play, he ranked 46th.

I know I am treading on sacred ground with some fans but it has always been my contention that Suzuki would a fine #2 center. From a points scored per 60 perspective, he would have ranked near the bottom of that group over the past 3 years.

Eleven games into the season the Montreal captain has yet to register a 5v5 assist. The points will come, but he has put himself behind the eight ball with respect to even strength scoring so far this year.

Among that same cohort he ranked 79th in face-off winning percentage. That has improved so far this year and I hope that improvement holds. It would make the rest of his job easier

Suzuki certainly brings other attributes to the table. He is obviously a leader and has embraced Montreal. It is hard to measure what that means to a team but it certainly important. But 1st line players are counted on to carry the burden offensively.

Yes, their are extenuating circumstances. He is one of the younger players in the league and hasn’t had a good right winger other than a brief stint with Kirby Dach. In fact, the entire team is young and still finding its feet. Suzuki has been given credit as a smart player, doing the best with what he has to work with. I can’t argue with that. But smarts alone don’t launch you into elite category and there are limitations to his game.

When Kirby Dach went down with injury the Canadiens lost their most skilled center. His size and reach gave him a big advantage. Dach was the best on the team at gaining the offensive zone. He also excelled at holding onto the puck while looking to make a creative play. Before his injury dropped him, I believe he was on the cusp of becoming a legitimate 1st line center allowing Suzuki to move into a role that really suits him. Now we have to wait until next season to see if that is the case.

In the meantime, I am keeping my expectations for Suzuki at a modest level. If he can score somewhere around 65 points we should be pleased. It wouldn’t be enough to get the Canadiens into the playoffs but it would be a solid contribution by the team captain.

You Remind Me of Someone…

By JD Lagrange – It is natural for human beings to make comparisons. Whether it’s for certain situations, or comparing people, our natural instinct is often to relate what’s around us to what we are more familiar with.

This explains why, in hockey terms, we often see young prospects being compared to past or current players. It doesn’t mean that the young player is or will become the veteran he’s being compared to. But in his style, role or demeanour, there are traits that remind us of others.

I was thinking about Jordan Harris the other day and he reminded me of an ancien Canadiens’ defenseman. But then I thought to myself that there are a few more who bring back memories as well. So I’ve decided to put them down, black on white, and share those thoughts with you, readers.

Jordan Harris

Not overly big, can get pushed around by bigger forwards at times. He’s a good skater, often makes the right play and flies under the radar most nights. He’s not as good of a shot blocker, but Harris reminds me a lot of Josh Gorges.

Justin Barron

He’s running a hot streak right now and an article I wrote prior to the season’s start seems to become quite valid. Not overly physical, often underestimated, even “forgotten” by fans and even media members, Barron is turning, style-wise, into Patrice Brisebois. Good play for the most part, puts up some numbers, but subject to the odd brain cramp from time to time. Here’s hoping that Habs’ fans don’t turn on him the way some of them did on Brisebois.

Juraj Slafkovsky

There have been plenty of attempted comparisons with Slafkovsky. At first, I thought of Robert Lang. A big forward, not overly physical but who uses his body well. But then, Slaf turned on the physicality from time to time. So now, I see more of a John LeClair, prior to him being traded to Philadelphia, when he was just starting to show signs of greatness. Decent skater, big body, some offensive flair, taking the body without necessarily putting anyone through a board…

Kaiden Guhle

If you follow me on social media or read my articles on this site, you won’t be surprised at all with this one. I wrote about it before in details, but I’ve seen he and Shea Weber play junior and I’m seeing the start of Guhle’s career. Personality, calmness, professionalism, low-key, he is a mini-Weber. The former Predators and Habs’ captain had a harder shot and was more intimidating physically, but Guhle is a better skater. All other aspects, however, are very much comparable.

Arber Xhekaj

I’ve seen people compare WiFi to Sheldon Souray. I don’t see it, as Shelley was a lot more offensive-minded. Some compared him to Lyle Odelein. I kind of like that one although I feel Arber has more offense in him. I kind of like the Ben Chiarot comparison, but it’s not perfect. I have to go outside the Canadiens’ organization to find the closest fit, in my humble opinion. Remember Marty McSorley? Tough as nail, decent skater for his size (and role), he can put up some points and okay defensively.

Cole Caufield

A lot of people would like to say Martin St-Louis as a comparison to Caufield. I don’t see that. Instead, I’m reminded of a smaller winger who spent his entire career in the Western Conference. That’s right, I see some Paul Kariya in Caufield. Definitely not the physical type, good skater, shiftier than we’re giving him credit for, also better passer than we believe.

Nick Suzuki

Truthfully, I’m still struggling to find a comparable for Suzuki. Some, including Jonathan Drouin, saw Patrice Bergeron. While I see why they would say that, I don’t know that he will reach Bergeron’s status. Right now (and that can change), I’m seeing more of a Kirk Muller or Ryan Walter. Quality player, leader, doing the little things right, put up points although not Elite.

So, what do YOU think? Are the above-mentioned players reminding you of someone else? Do you have other current players you like to compare to those of the past? Let us know in the comments.