The Plan For Dach Taking Shape

By JD Lagrange – When Kirby Dach was moved to the wing to play on right wing on the Canadiens top line with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, they had immediate chemistry. The results made it difficult for the coaching staff to revert back to putting Dach at center, a position where they traded him to fill to start with. Even Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes had to answer some questions about it, and he confirmed that they still see the former Blackhawks as a center predominently.

When you had Sean Monahan, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans patrolling the center position, it made it easier for coach Martin St-Louis to leave Dach on the wing. But since Monahan has been on the injured list, the team has lost some quality down the middle. They have since tried Rem Pitlick and Jonathan Drouin at center but the experience has not been conclusive.

The plan

Watching the last few games, it is becoming clearer that St-Louis and the Canadiens are trying to find a way to continue developing Dach as a centerman, but by also remaining competitive and win hockey games. And it looks like we’re seeing a bit of a pattern, in the last few games.

They start Dach at center and play him there, on an offensive-minded line, for a couple of periods. Then for the third period, when the game is close and the Canadiens need more offense, Dach is moved back to the top line right wing position for the last 20 minutes or so of the game.

This way, he gets the much needed development time that he needs as a center, while also providing a good way for Habs’ management to evaluate him at that position. By moving him to the wing, it takes away responsibilities and allows the 21 year-old to play with the team’s top two offensive players, and have fun doing it. It seems to be the best of both worlds.

This is not a unique situation around the NHL. Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are natural centers and throughout their career, Malkin has moved to the wing from time to time, to load up a line for the Penguins. In Edmonton, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both centermen but every so often, Draisaitl moves to the wing on McDavid’s line. In both cases, sometimes they start games together, other times they start by centring different lines but change during the game. Seeing the production of these four guys, it’s hard to argue against that way of thinking.

We can expect this cycle to continue as long as Monahan is out of the line-up and if he’s traded by trade deadline, that kind of rotation for Dach could continue until the end of the season. For the player’s development, it’s not a bad thing.

EDIT: Although, as I write this, here were Martin St-Louis’ lines at practice on Tuesday morning:

Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Slafkovsky – Drouin – Anderson
Hoffman – Dvorak – Dadonov
Richard – Evans – Armia

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5 thoughts on “The Plan For Dach Taking Shape

  1. I never post here but this is one of the best opinion Habs sites around. Must say we agree on the majority of subjects including Monahan & Andersons value. Not every post but the majority. Great work team..:)

  2. While I generally agree with a high percentage of your takes on a variety of Hab-related subjects, I doubt there is much substance to your current theory about the Habs’ “40 minutes on, 20 minutes off” development plan for Dach at C.

    Returning Dach to center so early is, IMO, motivated by lack of options to actually form a 2nd line that successfully insulates Suzuki and allows him to better develop, something Monahan, to date, had done admirably well.

    The decision to resume playing Dach at C on the 2nd line showed zero return in the two attempts from St-Louis. As the games wore on, the head coach assessed that putting all of his eggs in one basket might present the only option to actually generate more offense!

    Not only was Dach not generating offense on the 2nd line, but Anderson was far from taking advantage of the opportunity to play with the team’s #1 pivot and its #1 scorer. It was a lose-lose proposition. Returning Dach to the wing was an easy choice.

    While it’s not out of the question that Dach might still be seen as having a future down the middle, I think, at this stage in his floundering career, it is more beneficial to see him rack up as many points as possible, even if it means getting those points on the wing.

    A confident Dach will surely make an easier transition back to center when it is deemed necessary.

    St-Louis’ opting for Drouin at C after some hints it might actually work is a clue that the head coach isn’t eager to resume the experiment with Dach at C.

    Plus, opting for Drouin as the 2nd line C might have the potential to kill two birds with one stone; you get a 2nd line pivot that lets Dach continue to complement the Suzuki line and you get an opportunity to regenerate Drouin’s trade value in the process.

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