By Bob Trask – One doesn’t have to look very far to find reasons for the Habs’ lack of success. Among NHL teams, the Montreal Canadiens currently sit dead last in goals per game. They also sit near the bottom for the most goals against per game. But for today, let’s focus on the offense, particularly the forwards who are expected to carry the bulk of the load when it comes to scoring.
A clue can be derived by looking at how the current lineup has fared during their entire careers. Not a single forward on the current team has averaged 60 points per season during their careers. If you weight their performance by putting more emphasis on what they have done this year, the expectation is for a season of slightly over 50 points for the Canadiens top scorer.
Of course younger players like Nick Suzuki could improve drastically on those numbers but the veterans are what they are. Jonathan Drouin is likely to be a 50 point player as is Tyler Toffoli. Someone like Brendan Gallagher is harder to read but he seems to be trending toward seasons where he amasses 40 points.
Cole Caufield is an example of the unknown. In 59 regular season and playoff games he as earned 25 points. Yes, there is potential for a lot more but it could take some time before we understand what that potential is.
In the Minors
The site Eliteprospects.com provides a great snapshot of every NHL team’s current depth chart including up to date stats, including the Canadiens.
A quick glance at the Laval roster reveals no big point producers in waiting. Players like Jesse Ylönen could become contributors but probably at the support level instead of as a driving force. If he was going to dominate offensively he would have likely done that in Europe and in the AHL by now.
Europe and the Amateur Ranks
Those draftees currently playing in Europe include Alexander Gordin, Oliver Kapanen and Jacob Olofsson. No one stands out there and Olofsson is unlikely to be offered a contract and Gordin is a long shot.
The crop currently playing in North America offers more hope but realistically speaking even those closest to reaching the NHL are two or three years away from become contributors. Joshua Roy and Sean Farrell stand out as the top prospects to become strong offensive contributors with Riley Kidney in the mix. Others like Jan Mysak, Xavier Simoneau and Luke Tuch could also surprise… but that’s what it would be, a surprise.
Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes are undoubtedly are in a tough spot. Unlike defense where the pipeline is filled with high quality prospects, there are no offensive phenoms close to being ready.
Players like Mike Hoffman, Drouin and Toffoli are unlikely to become 70 point scorers after averaging closer to 50 during their careers. Josh Anderson, Christan Dvorak and Gallagher should be counted on for about 40 points a year – anything more is a bonus.
That is hardy the stuff of championship teams.
The unknowns are what players like Ryan Poehling, Suzuki and Caufield could become. Each is at a different stage of their career and it remains to be seen what their individual ceilings are. At this point none of them stands out as an elite point producer.
The current roster to seems to be heavily weighted toward players who play “the right way” with less room for creative but maybe somewhat flawed players. There is an absence of players like Phil Kessel who could always score but couldn’t spell backcheck if you gave him all the letters.
Gorton has indicated that he likes an up-tempo game. You will see players make costly mistakes with that kind of approach but the pros can outweigh the cons. But it’s not like costly mistakes aren’t already being made by this team and there is zero offense to offset it.
Don’t be suprised if the Habs make an attempt to bolster that offense through the acquisition of a high quality prospect or two that are close to being NHL ready by trading one or more veterans. Draft choices are one thing but that’s playing the long game. In the interim, steps need to be taken to bridge the gap.