By Bob Trask – As fans await the start of a new NHL season and glance at the lineups of our favourite teams with all the additions to and subtractions from the roster over the course of the year, we often like to project the players on our team will do. But there is only so much ice time to go around and how much will be available to each player will impact their offensive performance.
Ice time and games played
A look at the statistics on NHL.com provides some insight on how on many games played and how much ice time the average positional player received during the year. These won’t be 100% accurate but it serves to illustrate how the ice-time pie was divided up – on average.
The reason for listing 14 forwards and 7 defensemen is because that is how a typical NHL roster is constructed.
When we look at the Canadiens roster as it stands today it remains very unclear how the ice time will be divided. For the sake of this article the following ice times are assumed and points are projected from that.
*Any production from Slafkovsky is not included in the totals
These projections are based on career scoring totals per minutes played. The number of minutes played will likely be radically different from the assumptions made here so keep in mind these are only the very broadest of guidelines.
Take these numbers with a huge grain of salt!! And here’s why.
Players like Caufield, Dach, Pitlick, Harris, Barron and others have limited NHL experience and projecting from such a small base of games will be wildly inaccurate. Slafkovsky hasn’t played at all. The younger players from Suzuki on down all have the potential to improve.
As players accumulate more minutes the projections on scoring per minute of play should be more accurate. Gallagher would be a good example. Older players are more likely to regress or hold their own. The factor that might lead to the biggest discrepancy from these projections for this group is that amount of ice time they could receive in the year.
Improve, Decline and Unknown
Players who might be expected to improve from their lifetime averages include Suzuki, Caufield and Dach. Jonathan Drouin is also a special case who I believe has a chance to improve on his career numbers.
Dvorak, Dadonov, Anderson, Matheson, Edmundson, Savard and Wideman have all played enough games that we know more or less what to expect.
The bulk of this roster is filled with unknowns. It starts with Slafkovsky and includes Evans, Pitlick, Pezzetta and Ylönen at the forward position. On defense the unknowns among this group are Barron, Harris and Leskinen. Estimating their production is a shot in the dark and will probably no where close to hitting the mark.
The big potential for decline is Brendan Gallagher. It remains to be seen how he will be utilized and how he will adapt to a system that doesn’t play to his strengths. Armia also falls into the potential for decline category and if I had included Mike Hoffman on this hypothetical roster he would be in that group as well.
Another factor that could impact the offensive output of the Canadiens is the style of game the team adopts under Martin St. Louis. For years the Canadiens have focused on shutdown defense and played with little imagination. Dominique Ducharme, Claude Julien, Michel Therrien, Jacques Martin, Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau brought 20 years of the dead puck era to Montreal.
Compared to that group, St-Louis is a breath of fresh air and could unlock the talent and creativity of the team. Based on that and the fact that a large number of players should be approaching their prime, the Canadiens could have a highly more productive offense than last year.
A question that always arises is whether young players like Harris and Barron are best served playing limited minutes in the NHL or substantial minutes in the AHL. In both their cases it could be a combination of both if they are shuttled back and forth between Montreal and Laval.
Of course additional player changes are expected before the season begins and that will change a lot of these projections. Mike Hoffman, as mentioned many times, seems to be a prime candidate to be moved while Joel Armia’s projected ice time and production doesn’t merit his contract.
On a positive note, virtually every player on this list has the potential to exceed the totals posted here – some by a wide margin.