By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a huge blow this weekend after finding out that they will have to be without Kirby Dach for an extended period of time. Dach injured himself on Saturday in the game against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks. It is believed that 22 year old center has damaged the ACL, and possibly also the MCL in his knee.
We are two games into the season and some media members and bloggers are already writing off this season. That’s right. 80 games remaining (before tonight’s matchup against Minnesota) and we have several people throwing the towel. That’s pretty incredible, if you ask me.
For one thing, this isn’t the Habs of the past. Why? They have depth at the center position. Gone are the days of trying Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi at center and if one player got injured, the team had to rely on Ryan Poehling or Jake Evans on the second line.
Alex Newhook, for one, is a center. They started him on the wing so he can acclimatize easier into what Martin St-Louis does with his team, and because of the depth on the Canadiens at that position. He will be returning to center with Dach out. Let’s remind Habs’ fans that Newhook is tied on the team lead in goals with Cole Caufield, with two goals each in two games.
Then you have veteran Sean Monahan whom, at this point in his career, is a better centerman than Dach. The former Calgary Flames captain seems healthy and he has two points in two games so far, with a plus-two differential rating. His success rate of 64.3% in the faceoffs’ dots (to Dach’s 37.5%) is excellent for a team wanting to have puck possession.
Also, Christian Dvorak is hinging closer to a return. D-vo has led the team in faceoffs since joining the team and he’s a sound third line center, allowing to move Monahan up or possibly Newhook back to the wing if they decide.
Will the Canadiens miss Kirby Dach? Of course they will. They will miss his size and he seemed to be coming along nicely. But you cannot miss potential. Looking at what he has brought in the past, it’s not like they’re going without a point-per-game player here… and they have options. So please, stop dramatizing everything and throwing the towel after two games… it’s ridiculous.
This and That
☞ In a recent interview, Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes said wanting to add star talent to his line-up. Looking at the current roster, it seems like he could be referring to finding a suitable right-winger for his top line, to play alongside Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. The team started with Josh Anderson on that line, and he has played pretty well. They might try Rafaël Harvey-Pinard there as well, but neither is a perfect fit for a NHL top line.
☞ One of the trading chips that the Canadiens might have is a young quality defenseman and a goaltender. The Habs’ brass decided to keep prospect Cayden Primeau with the big club, afraid to lose him on waivers. But keeping three goalies is far from ideal. For one, there are only two nets in practice so one of them has to share. But mostly, I am a strong believer that for a young player’s development, he needs to play. Keeping Primeau in the press box eating hot dogs is detrimental to the player and the team.
☞ It is painful to see Brendan Gallagher so far this season. He is the least utilized forward by coach St-Louis, averaging 11:22 minutes of ice time in two games. A leader, and one of the highest paid forwards on the team, Gally needs to find his game and do it sooner rather than later. Fans and media are already starting to show their discontent and it will easily become a target if he can’t turn things around. It’s very unfortunate as no one wants to produce and help his team more than Gallagher himself. It’s in his DNA.
☞ I was looking at the stats’ sheet after two games and I was rather surprised to see that only Arber Xhekaj has had less ice time than Kaiden Guhle amongst defensemen. Granted, the margin isn’t huge between him (18:14), Jordan Harris (18:29) and Johnathan Kovacevic (18:52) but it is still surprising. Of course, we expect Mike Matheson to lead (25:37) and David Savard to be over 20 minutes (23:13), but Guhle should be a solid third, with close to 20 minutes as well, no? We know that he’s been hit hard a couple of times this season, so is he nursing a minor injury? Or is the coaching staff trying to teach him to better protect himself?
☞ It was great seeing Tanner Pearson score his first goal of the season, on a hard wrist shot from a good distance. Living in BC, I’m well aware of how difficult of a season it’s been for Tanner in Vancouver last year, suffering complication from his surgery. He’s the ultimate team player, a good quality veteran and a very good hockey player. Here’s hoping that he can continue his progression, as it takes a while to find your timing after such a long layoff.