By Bob Trask – There has been a lot of debate whether Brendan Gallagher’s performance will rebound from his last couple of years, and if so, by how much. Throughout his career Gallagher has averaged 25 goals and 49 points per 82 games played. His most productive three season period was from the 2017-18 season through to the 2019-20 season where he averaged 31 goals per 82 games played. He was 25 years old when that stretch began and 28 years old when it ended.
Keeping those figures in mind, a study done by James Brander of UBC found that most forwards saw their offensive performance peak at around 27 or 28 years of age with some peaking as early 24 or as late as 32 years of age. Brendan Gallagher is currently 30 years old so we may have already seen his peak production.
Since the end of the 2019-20 season Gallagher has averaged 19 goals per 82 games played and if you include playoff games, he has scored fewer than 17 goals per 82 games in that same time span. Injuries, short summers to recuperate and the effects of the COVID situation had to have some impact but based solely on this study it may be wishful thinking to expect any more 30 goal seasons from Gallagher.
Martin St-Louis may be the coach that can help Gallagher return to form. He knows the challenges faced by undersized players in the NHL today and perhaps he can tweak Gallagher’s approach to reduce the pounding hi body takes during a season while allowing him to remain effective offensively.
Gallagher will also have a full summer to recuperate physically and mentally with five months between the end of one season and the beginning of another. It is impossible to quantify the toll that two short summers has taken on players and those who play a physical game, as Gallagher does, suffer the most from a short break.
The roar of the crowd is something that the Canadiens missed for good parts of the season. Hopefully everything will remain on track for the upcoming season and the noisy crowds at the Bell Center will become the seventh man and give Gallagher a boost.
We have already covered the impact of age on performance as well as Gallagher’s struggle with injuries and recuperation. But there are other factors that could come into play.
Gallagher’s shot is below average in terms of quickness of release, power and accuracy. Most of the time he needs to be in close to score but that’s where the physical abuse takes place. It presents a dilemma.
Kent Hughes and St-Louis prefer a fast skating, up-tempo game but Gallagher was never the most fleet afoot and age will only slow him down. That could impact his usage and Gallagher may find himself alongside players less gifted offensively compared to previous linemates.
Similarly, the Canadiens absolutely need to do something about their power play. It has become static, predictable and ineffective. St-Louis may envision a power play that is in constant motion, with creative passing and quick shooters. If that is the case Gallagher could see himself on the outside looking in with someone like newly acquired Evgenii Dadonov taking his spot.
While most of us hope for and expect a rebound by Gallagher from his 17 goals per 82 game production level, it seems overly optimistic to expect a rebound to the 30 goal level of production. A lot will depend on his deployment but a realistic range seems to be 20 goals on the low end (third line minutes with little power play time) to 25 goals on the high end (second line minutes with some power play time). Anything more than 25 goals should be considered a bonus.
None of this is a slight on Gallagher’s abilities; it is about setting expectations with respect to point production. He has been a warrior and his contribution to the team can’t be measured by goals alone. We need to remember that.