Caufield of Dreams – Build It And They Will Come

By JD Lagrange – The Canadiens have (finally) announced that they have agreed to terms on a new contract with winger Cole Caufield. The young prolific goals’ scorer will have at least 62.8 million reasons to smile over the next eight years! As predicted by yours truly, Kent Hughes has respected his team’s pay scale as Caufield’s $7.85 million cap hit is just below Nick Suzuki’s $7.875 million.

Selected 15th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canadiens, the 22 year old diminutive sniper has 53 goals and 84 points in 123 games so far in his young career, with a differential of minus -35. Since Martin St-Louis has taken over as the team’s head coach, Caufield has scored 48 goals in only 83 games. He was shut down last season with a shoulder injury, which he had surgically repaired.

A risk

No need to say, Habs’ fans are ecstatic at the news of this signing… and rightfully so. However, in spite of all of the excitement, this contract does not come without risks.

Let’s face it, the sample size is rather small here, and we’re not talking about his 5-foot 7-inches frame. Giving that much money over such a long term for someone who has only a season and a half worth of games under his belt and who suffered a major injury is a bit… unusual.

There is no doubt that Caufield can play hockey and if there’s one thing that he knows how to do, it’s to find the back of the net. But the questions remain about his sustainability, being able to not only play through an 82-games gruelling NHL schedule, but to stay healthy and keep producing at that pace.

Fans of his will claim that he can. The more pessimistic will say that he will not. The truth is that nobody knows for sure. Kent Hughes and the Canadiens’ management group are gambling that he will. There is a risk and all are well aware of it… whether they admit it or not.

What next?

With Michael Pezzetta recently re-signed for two years, there are three more prominent restricted free agents to re-sign by Hughes. Management must make a decision about offering a qualifying offer or not to Russian winger Denis Gurianov, who was making $2.9 million last season. Rafaël Harvey Pinard has opened the eyes of many people after being called up last season and he needs to be extended. The other one is Jesse Ylönen.

But beyond that, there could be a trade or two and none has more smoke than the one of the Winnipeg Jets’ center Pierre-Luc Dubois and his ties to the Canadiens.

The NHL Draft is set for June 28-29th so we still have a month of speculations ahead of us… at the most. In the meantime, rest assured that Hughes will be on the phone periodically with his counterpart Kevin Cheveldayoff, in Winnipeg, while preparing with his scouting team on whose name to call on the podium at the number five spot overall.

With the pieces left by previous management starting to come up through the system, and the moves and decisions from this current management group, the Canadiens are building something very interesting. Add to that the unusual approach by St-Louis, players are talking around the NHL and more and more will be considering Montreal as a prime destination… as they start winning.

Quarter Season: Matthews vs Caufield

By JD Lagrange – Well, we have reached the quarter mark of the NHL 2022-23 season. There are plenty of surprises and deceptions to go around. For one, raise your hand if you thought that 21 games into the season, the Montreal Canadiens would be two games above .500, ahead of the Florida Panthers and two points from a Wild Card spot? Or that the New Jersey Devils would be second in the Eastern Conference? How many had Dallas’ Jason Robertson being second to Connor McDavid in the NHL scoring race?

Just for fun, how many people thought that Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki would both have three more goals than… Auston Matthews? What? Yes, that’s right! Let’s take a deeper look into that one, just for fun. Keep in mind, we’re looking at the 21 games mark here, so we’re not counting Toronto’s 22nd game against Minnesota last night although for the record, Matthews was held pointless. The Habs haven’t played their 22nd game yet.

Teams stats

First, let’s set the table, shall we? We must look at the teams’ stats, as the success or depth of a team will inevitably affect a player’s individual’s statistics as well.

.643PTS %.548
26.5%PP %16.4%
107:20PP TIME102:00
78.6%PK %80.0%
  • As we can see, there’s no doubt that the Leafs have a more effective power play than the Habs so far. It is important to note that they have also played almost five and a half minutes more with the man advantage than Martin St-Louis’ team.
  • I don’t know about you but I find surprising to see that the Canadiens score a bit more than the Maple Leafs. But boy do the Habs allow a lot of goals! Perhaps, it’s because they also allow a lot of shots, but with two backup goaltenders and such a young defense, it’s not alarming… yet.

Matthews vs Caufield

Now, to the nitty gritty. In the red corner, weighing in a 174 pounds, 5-foot 7-inches tall, the sophomore sensation, the challenger, Cole Caufield! His opponent, in the blue corner, weighing in a 208 pounds, 6-foot 3-inches tall, the pride and joy of Toronto-based media, the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Auston Matthews!

Without further ado, here are the two players’ statistics after 21 games.

10EV PTS17
16:46EV TOI/GP15:05
3:46PP TOI/GP3:01
79:00PP TOI63:14
$11,640,250CAP HIT$880,833
  • Note that Caufield, in spite of being much smaller in stature, has a substantial advantage in his production at even strengths. Matthews loves when his team is on the power play. One would think that it would be reverse, right?
  • And look how much more time the Leafs’ center has spend on the power play than Caufield. Cut that time and make it equal, chances are you have even less production from Matthews, if you keep his goals by 60 minutes equal.
  • I won’t get in too much details about the cap hit since Caufield is still on his entry level contract. But you can be assured that he won’t make $11.6 million. Think more in the range of Nick Suzuki, between $7.5 to $8 million.
  • It appears as though Matthews is better at retrieving the puck, although one could argue that perhaps, you don’t have the puck when you have to take it away from your opponent. But look at the giveaways… that’s not in the same ball park.

Dynamic duos

I figured, why not bring in Mitch Marner and Nick Suzuki into the equation, as they are the dynamic duos of each team. For this exercise, I have added their production and salaries, and averaged their combined ice time.

23EV PTS34
21PP PTS10
21:06TOI/GP (AVG)19:23
16:13EV TOI/GP (AVG)15:37
3:41PP TOI/GP (AVG)3:05
154:19PP TOI129:13
$22,543,250CAP HIT$8,755,833
Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield
  • Once again, we notice the same tendency as we see in the teams’ stats and the Matthews/Caufield comparison. The difference is the amount of time on the power play and the production at even strength versus with the man advantage. Although both duos have a combined six goals with the man advantage, the Leafs’ duo has more points.
  • But also, look at the shots percentage. The Canadiens’ duo is just under 10% more efficient, selective and successful in finding the back of the net when shooting the puck.
  • The trend with giveaways and takeaways is the same as what we’ve noticed in the Caufield vs Matthews comparison. The Leafs’ duo is coughing up the puck more, therefore having to retrieve it more too. Caufield and Suzuki are better at protecting and keeping the puck, and are twice more effective at not giving it away.

All in all, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as you can make stats say whatever you want, and people do. But force is to admit that so far this season, the Canadiens are very happy with what they have in Suzuki and Caufield and the fact that we can put those two guys against the Leafs’ duo speaks for their skills and progression.

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