By Bob Trask – The 2022-23 version of the Montreal Canadiens finished 26th overall in goals scored by NHL teams with a paltry total of 232 goals or 92 fewer than the high octane offense of the Edmonton Oilers.
Some point to the underwhelming point totals put up by first overall pick, Juraj Slafkovsky as a problem… but is that the real reason for an anemic offense. In an ideal world, Slafkovsky would have developed over the course of the season and added to his point totals, but expecting an 18 year old to carry your offense is unrealistic.
In fact, our expectations of all rookies should be tempered because history tells us the NHL is a tough league to break into and because we have no previous performance at that level to use as a comparison.
All of this merits a closer look at individual performances.
For the purposes of this comparison I extrapolated each returning player’s performance to what it would have been over a full 82 game schedule. It makes no allowance for ice time, power play usage etc. That production is compared to their average production over 82 games in their careers. Rookies are not included, as mentioned, because there is no basis for comparison.
The tables below display last season’s performance projected over a full 82 games and how that performance compared to each player’s career average.
So who on the team more or less equaled their career production levels, who exceeded it an who fell short. A score of 100% means the player equaled his career average, a score over 100% means the player exceeded his career average and those less than 100% fell short.
It is important to keep in mind that these are contributions to offense only and doesn’t consider other ways in which a player may have contributed in a positive or negative way.
A handful of players exceeded their career averages with respect to points produced. While David Savard is in this group, he isn’t counted on to produce points but it is still interesting to note that he did a little better than expected. Canadiens fans should be elated with Mike Matheson and Kirby Dach – two notable acquisitions made by general manager Kent Hughes. Can he pull another rabbit out the hat with Alex Newhook? Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield both continued to perform and improve. A healthy 80+ games from Caufield would give the Habs offense a real boost.
This group is a bit of a mixed bag. Jake Evans couldn’t hit the ocean from the beach last year when it came to putting the puck in the net but he garnered a few more assists than expected to offset the lack of scoring to some extent. Sean Monahan only provided us with a small sample size last year but he came pretty much as advertised and the Canadiens are hoping he can do it again. Josh Anderson and Michael Pezzetta provided no surprises with respect to their production. If we expected more out of them, that is our fault because they performed at almost exactly their career average.
Falling a Little Short
We can grind away at Christian Dvorak and Joel Armia but they are what they are. Yes, they fell a little short of expectations but Kent Hughes may be looking at the pair with the thought of keeping them around – at least until the trade deadline. Only time will tell.
The two veteran forwards, Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher, had to be the biggest disappointments offensively. Yes, Gallagher missed half the season but for the half he was playing, his production was way below his historical average. He did play injured last year and that probably affected production. Gallagher and the Canadiens can’t afford another year like that from the feisty forward. Hoffman just doesn’t seem to fit into the team’s long term plans and the Canadiens’ deep prospect pool makes him expendable. The trick is in trying to find a new home for him. Rem Pitlick is one of those bubble players who seems to excel in Laval but doesn’t quite cut it at the NHL level. Chris Wideman is another whose future with the Canadiens does not look bright.
No Longer with the Team
These three players each provided Canadiens’ fans with different levels of disappoint. Evgeni Dadonov and Jonathan Drouin projected to score a paltry 9 goals combined if each had played a full 82 games. Denis Gurianov may have showed more promise offensively but chose to try his luck elsewhere. It’s safe to say that none of this group will be terribly missed when it comes to scoring goals
A lot of the disappoint lies in what the veterans on the team brough to the table. Some are already gone and one or two more might not be with the Canadiens next year. With so many rookies on the team there is a chance for sophomore slumps but there is an equally good chance the rookies from last year will improve the performance in 2023-24. If you add in the potential production of Alex Newhook, the offense of the Canadiens could handily surpass that of the 2022-23 squad – and it needs to if the team is to have any on ice success.