By JD Lagrange – Prior to season opening, Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes kept repeating to whomever wanted to hear that although his team was young and some players would stay in Montreal while others would have to perfect their skills in Laval in the American Hockey League (AHL), it wouldn’t be set in stone and there would be a player rotation. So far, with more than a third of the season played, we have seen none of it.
Of course, there have been injuries and, let’s face it, the young guys are, for the most part, impressing. There is no way that Kaiden Guhle, for example, should be going to Laval. But in spite of our love for Jordan Harris and Arber Xhekaj, they have things to work on. Yes, they can work on some of them at the NHL level but we’ve heard many times that this is not a development league. They could greatly benefit from slowing the game down one notch to be a bit more dominant and work on their flaws.
But they are making mistakes, lots of them. You also have others who aren’t performing at a level that justifies them staying in the NHL. Of course, the biggest issue is guys like Evgenii Dadonov and Joel Armia who are having a heck of a time this season trying to find their game. But Michael Pezzetta has not faired well this year. Yes, he does need to clear waivers but really, is anyone concerned that he wouldn’t clear?
We wrote recently about some very deserving players in Laval who should be getting their opportunity to show what they can do. None are more deserving than Anthony Richard, who is sitting second in the AHL’ in scoring’s scoring race, after a four-points night yesterday. He can skate, he can put points up on the board at the AHL level, he can kill penalties.
When you stop and think about it, what are the Canadiens struggling most with? Their power play is dead last in the NHL with a 14% success rate. Since December 5th, they are 0 for 20 with the man advantage, which included an 0 for 7 against Calgary. Last night against the Ottawa Senators, they had Dadonov and Armia on the second power play unit. These two wingers combine for two goals on the season! And at about 80% success rate, it’s not like the penalty killing is great either!
As we saw in our feature “In the System“, Jesse Ylönen continues to climb up the points-per-game chart week in, week out. He too can play on both special teams and he provides a right-hand shot for a one-timer in Cole Caufield’s office on the man advantage for the second unit, a role that he plays with the Rocket.
Unfortunately for him, Justin Barron got injured lately but he is also one deserving of a chance to show what he can do. I mean, can he really do worse than Chris Wideman out there? And he’s definitely a better option for the point on the power play as well. And if you’re not going to call him up when right-handed David Savard is on the injured list, when will you?
What is the organization’s reluctance to doing that rotation they said they would do? We’re not talking about permanent moves here. Yes, there are only so many call-ups you can make in a season and you have to save some for post trade deadline for sure. But with the Anaheim game being the 30th of the season, making some kind of change is past due… while we wait for a trade or two to be completed.