Under the Microscope – Nick Suzuki

When looking at the success or failure of a team, the performance of the team leaders is always scrutinized. In Montreal the situation with the Canadiens has been a little different from the norm because they have been in the midst of a complete makeover. It is a young team with a young leadership group and expectations have been kept to a minimum. That is fair.

But if the Canadiens want to escape 30 years of mediocrity some realities need to be addressed.

Enter Nick Suzuki, the captain of the team and the choice by management to build the team around. Over the past 3 seasons, Suzuki has impressively averaged the 4th highest 5v5 ice time among NHL centers and racked up the 35th most points among that group in the same period of time. In points per 60 among centers with more than 180 games played since 2020-21, however, Suzuki ranks 63rd. On the power play, he ranked 46th.

I know I am treading on sacred ground with some fans but it has always been my contention that Suzuki would a fine #2 center. From a points scored per 60 perspective, he would have ranked near the bottom of that group over the past 3 years.

Eleven games into the season the Montreal captain has yet to register a 5v5 assist. The points will come, but he has put himself behind the eight ball with respect to even strength scoring so far this year.

Among that same cohort he ranked 79th in face-off winning percentage. That has improved so far this year and I hope that improvement holds. It would make the rest of his job easier

Suzuki certainly brings other attributes to the table. He is obviously a leader and has embraced Montreal. It is hard to measure what that means to a team but it certainly important. But 1st line players are counted on to carry the burden offensively.

Yes, their are extenuating circumstances. He is one of the younger players in the league and hasn’t had a good right winger other than a brief stint with Kirby Dach. In fact, the entire team is young and still finding its feet. Suzuki has been given credit as a smart player, doing the best with what he has to work with. I can’t argue with that. But smarts alone don’t launch you into elite category and there are limitations to his game.

When Kirby Dach went down with injury the Canadiens lost their most skilled center. His size and reach gave him a big advantage. Dach was the best on the team at gaining the offensive zone. He also excelled at holding onto the puck while looking to make a creative play. Before his injury dropped him, I believe he was on the cusp of becoming a legitimate 1st line center allowing Suzuki to move into a role that really suits him. Now we have to wait until next season to see if that is the case.

In the meantime, I am keeping my expectations for Suzuki at a modest level. If he can score somewhere around 65 points we should be pleased. It wouldn’t be enough to get the Canadiens into the playoffs but it would be a solid contribution by the team captain.

Captain Nick – Young, Yes, But Ready

By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens have announced that they have named Nick Suzuki as the team’s 31st captain of their history. He takes over the reigns from a great leader in Shea Weber, whom the Canadiens’ center take the time to call prior to accepting the captaincy. Weber apparently told Suzuki that he was ready to take on that role… and from the reaction on social media, few think otherwise.

I will admit that a part of me would have liked to see long-time Habs’ leader, Brendan Gallagher, get the honour, but Suzuki did an amazing sell job for the position. In fact, he convinced me that he is ready to be the captain of this team back in April. Reading some of the comments from his teammates, they seem to agree.

Suzuki, who just turned 23 last month, becomes the youngest captain in team history. He was acquired on September 10, 2018, in the trade that saw then captain Max Pacioretty heading to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Canadiens also received Tomas Tatar and a second round pick from Vegas in that trade.

Two veterans will be helping the new captain next season, as the Canadiens also announced that Joel Edmundson and Gallagher will wear the “A” as alternate-captains.

Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, Joel Edmundson

Youngest captains

I’ve done a bit of research and here are some young men who have been named captains around the NHL over the years.

Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
19 years, 266 days

“You see every single night he goes out there and leads by example. He’s not afraid to say something when it needs to be said. For everyone in the room, he’s a great example of how you go out there and play every night. He takes it to a new level and definitely brings energy every night that we can feed off of.” ~ Darnell Nurse when McDavid was named captain

Vincent Lecavalier – Tampa Bay Lightning
19 years, 315 days

Vinny was the franchise’s first captain and he was also the first to lift the Stanley Cup over his head in Tampa Bay. Now working for the Canadiens, and former teammate of head coach Martin St-Louis, he certainly can serve as reference and vouch that young players can do that job.

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
20 years, 57 days

Hard worker, gritty, level-headed and definitely talented are some of Landeskog’s best qualities. And it’s not the talent that lacks on that team yet, he’s the team captain and was at a very young age. His leadership has never been contested in Colorado or across the NHL.

Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
20 years, 59 days

Like McDavid, Crosby is a generational talent but more than that, he’s an amazing leader. Ask anyone who has played with him in Pittsburgh and they all say the same. Selfless, he helps others on and off the ice, and make people around him better.

“I promise to play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back.” ~ Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
20 years, 164 days

Captain serious is his nickname, but no one will ever doubt his dedication and how good of a captain Toews has been throughout his career, even at the very beginning. Some people are born leaders. He’s one of them.

With that out of the way, we can now focus on the rookie camp which starts on Wednesday as some of the teams’ top prospects will be hitting the ice, trying to impress the Habs’ brass. Fans and players are itching to get going again, after what seems like a very long break, particularly following two shortened off-seasons due to COVID.

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