By Bob Trask – The Montreal Canadiens offense was rather anemic in the 2023-24 season and it made me wonder what the average performance looked like across the league.
For the purposes of this article, I considered players who participated in at least 50 games during the season and I broke the ice time down in the following manner. The median number of games played for forwards was 75 games while the median number of games played among defensemen was 72 games. On average, the 7th defenseman played in about 36 games. I did not include shorthanded time on ice because scoring is relatively insignificant in this situation.
|Games||Even Strength||Power Play||Total|
|Games||Even Strength||Power Play||Total|
These numbers are generalizations only so take them with a huge grain of salt. For example, power play time for defenseman may not always go to the top pair, it might go to the best offensive d-man on the first pair and the best offensive d-man on the second pair. The same logic applies to forwards.
The number of games played is also an average and in real life the games won’t be divided up that equally. Last season, for example, Montreal’s top scoring winger only played in 46 games and only Nick Suzuki played more than the league average 75 games. On the other hand, the defenseman with the 7th highest number of games played participated in 49 games. Both cases indicate a revolving door of players at forward and on defense.
But just for fun, we will go with league averages.
There are a multitude of factors that will influence the team’s overall offensive production.
- A major consideration is how ice time will be allocated and to determine that, a guess at line combinations would have to be made.
- It is also assumed that each first line player will have equal ice time at 5v5, each second line player will have equal ice time and so on. That’s not what happens in real life but it serves our purposes here.
- Another consideration is how players will perform with the ice time allocated to them. With veterans some reasonable projections can be made but with rookies the sample size is so small that extrapolating performance will likely be highly inaccurate. Because Montreal had so many rookies last year the problem is exacerbated. But it’s all we have.
The projection for each veteran player will be based on a combination of his historical performance and his performance last season For rookies, last season’s totals will be considered but adjusted to compensate for added experience and for outliers like unrealistic shooting percentages The scoring totals will be for even strength only with an adjustment at the end for team totals on the power play and in short handed situations. And adjustment will also be made for production from the bench – those extra forwards and defensemen who are not regularly in the lineup.
One big assumption is that the veteran Mike Hoffman will not be with the team next season. And the rest of the roster is not finalized, so players that do appear on the list may find themselves elsewhere and there could also be unexpected additions to the roster. As I mentioned, there are so many assumptions and variables involved that it makes anything close to an accurate projection futile – but let’s have some fun anyway.
There are an almost infinite number of line combinations and defensive pairings. For the purposed of this exercise, here are my combos:
- Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
- Monahan – Dach – Anderson
- Newhook – Dvorak – Gallagher
- Harvey-Pinard – Evans – Ylonen
- Matheson – Savard
- Guhle – Barron
- Xhekaj – Kovacevic
As mentioned earlier, this will be 5v5 scoring only and playing on the first line or first defense pairing does not mean top PP minutes. Because the Canadiens are in a unique position defensively, the third pairing minutes are divided equally among Kovacevic, Harris and Xhekaj.
It remains to be seen whether or not these projections are realistic but I don’t believe that they are overly optimistic. The 271 goals would have put the Canadiens 15th in the league, between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Carolina Hurricanes – not bad company to be in. It is also a healthy 39 more goals than they scored last year and only 8 goals shy of what the Toronto Maple Leafs put up on the scoreboard.
Some jaws will undoubtedly drop when they see Nick Suzuki’s totals but it needs to be kept in mind that one-third of Suzuki’s points have come on the power play over his career. He has also racked up short handed points which are not accounted for in this table. Only 5v5 scoring is displayed in the tables. And finally, these totals are based on Suzuki playing 75 games rather than 82. Factor that into the equation and his numbers change dramatically.
The same applies to a few other players.
The reverse applies to Rafael Harvey-Pinard whose numbers were inflated by a a 24% shooting percentage. A figure of 12% is far more reasonable and the projections in the table reflect that.
With respect to the power play, I pegged the number at 45 which is halfway between the median production of 52 goals and the Canadiens’ 38 goals on the PP last season. It doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable assumption is still only about one-half the 89 PP goals scored by Edmonton last year.
What we do see is a roster that is relatively balanced from top to bottom when it comes to scoring that still features a less than average power play.
It is well within the ability of the current roster to produce significantly higher scoring numbers than last year. Some of it could be the result of avoiding major injuries, some could be the modest improvement of the younger players on the team and some of the improvement could come from slightly better results on the power play. Any additional tweaks to the roster that might occur are not considered.
It will be interesting to see what Kent Hughes and Marty St. Louis have in store for us!