Seven Underperforming Forwards on The Habs

By JD Lagrange – As hockey players, we can look at many reasons and excuses to justify a tough season or a rough start to one. Injuries are certainly a factor, as could being a new player needing time to adjust to a new system, teammates and environment. But when push comes to shove, the NHL is a performance league and as harsh as it might sound at times, you are being judged by what you do on the ice. Fair or not, expectations are set on what a player has done in the past and on the salary he’s making. In Montreal so far this season, seven players must give more than what they’ve shown so far.

Yes, on the Canadiens, you have a long list of players whom, up until now, have not lived up to expectations not only from the fans, but if they’re being honest, on what they had set for themselves. Twenty-seven games into the season, we have reached exactly the third of the season mark and while the team as a whole is meeting to exceeding expectations with a 13-12-2 record, they have been slowed down in their progress by a few players. We can even narrow it down by position as they are all forwards.

List of seven

Let’s see who they are, shall we? You will notice that I have left out rookie Juraj Slafkovsky because really, there were little to no expectations when it came to production going into his first NHL season. In fact, many thought that he would be in Laval this year. Also, Mike Hoffman was a big disappointment in the first month or so of the season but since November 8th, he has managed five goals and two assists in his last seven games, which included an injury that kept him out of the line-up for eight games during that stretch.

For this exercise, I have included their production so far this season, the pace that they are at if they play every game to finish this season, and their career average over 82 games. Doing it that way is more than fair for the players as it counts the first part of their career when they were not as productive as they were later on, particularly for veteran players.

JAKE EVANS2022-2327044
JOEL ARMIA2022-2316022
REM PITLICK2022-2311100

Gallagher, Drouin and Armia have all missed considerable time with injuries. Although his offensive numbers aren’t where everyone – himself included – would like them to be, Gallagher has some jump in his strides and he has been good in general. It is particularly true when comparing his play to the past year or so, but the puck simply isn’t going in for him.

Drouin was just starting to show some signs that he had a heartbeat when once again, he was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. He is currently practicing with the team so he must be hinging closer to a return. This will undoubtedly be his last season in Montreal and it’s unfortunate that this potentially fine wine turned to vinegar as it did.

Anyone around the NHL will tell you that when you miss camp and/or the start of the season, it is very difficult to catch up to the pace of your teammates and the league. It is true for Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson as well, who are not up to what we can expect from them. Armia came back to play on October 29th and he is missing that split second while he’s on the ice. Perhaps all he needs is for one puck to go in as he’s had his chances in the past few games.

Jake Evans

Evgenii Dadonov is, to me, the biggest disappointment. I was expecting a Tomas Tatar type of player in him. Instead, I’m seeing a Sergei Berezin while he was with the Habs. Soft, uninvolved, disinterested, afraid of physical contact, it is very doubtful that any team will want him at trade deadline, even with half his salary retained, unless he catches on fire… but I don’t see that in him, unfortunately. Prove me wrong Evgenii!

Jake Evans is playing okay defensively. He’s showing flashes, from time to time, with the puck as well. But he has been terribly inconsistent and his offense… rather non-existent. It’s not like he hasn’t had talented wingers to play with, even on the fourth line. He’s had Slafkovsky most of the season, he’s had Drouin, Hoffman, Dadonov, Pitlick, Armia… Those aren’t your typical fourth liners.

Rem Pitlick has struggled this season and I can’t put the finger on the reasons for it. He misses his passes, isn’t driving the net like he was last season, and he’s not getting his scoring chances either. His goal against Seattle was a positive sign and he now needs to prove that he should stay in the line-up.

Micheal Pezzetta, bless his soul, is trying hard and he is a great teammate. But this season, he is not playing good hockey. Turning the puck over at inopportune times, making the wrong decisions, falling all over the ice… There was a time when fans were concerned about losing him if the Canadiens tried passing him through waivers but I fear it’s no longer the case. I would give Anthony Richard, in Laval, a shot up with the big club and send Pezz down for a while. That might help Evans as well.

There you have it folks. The seven above-mentioned players need to give more to the team. The good news is all of them are fully capable of doing just that. There is still two-thirds of the season left for them to take strides in the right direction and the Canadiens’ coaching staff is working hard with them to improve. Here’s hoping that their hard work pays off as rest assured, no NHL player likes under-performing.

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What To Expect At Training Camp

By JD Lagrange – As we’re going through the last couple of days of August, the nights get cooler and the days are shorter. For some, like yours truly, it’s a sure sign that hunting season is around the corner. And for Habs’ fans like us, it also means that our favourite club is getting closer to hitting the ice once again.

And this season brings a new glow, a sense of hope and optimism after a nightmare season. This will be the first full season with the new management and coaching staff. Geoff Gorton, Kent Hughes, Martin St-Louis, Stéphane Robidas and several other executives will be going through their first training camp together… along with several new players.

Speaking of players, the frame of mind with which they will show up at camp will depend on their season last year, or off-season. I’ve divided them into four categories.

Eating the boards

We can expect these players to come into camp with everything to prove and a chip on their shoulder, for multiple reasons.

Brendan Gallagher
  • Brendan Gallagher: He is coming off a bad season which can be explained by COVID and its crazy schedule, including a long playoffs’ run in between. Benefiting from a more normal off-season, Gally will want to show that last season was an exception, that he is not ready to be tagged as being on the downslope of his career. Betting against that guy would be a mistake.
  • Jake Evans: Not due to any of his own doing, but the arrival of Sean Monahan and Kirby Dach has now forced him into a battle to keep his spot at center. As we just covered, he has worked on his shot and on getting bigger this off-season, and he will want to show that it has paid off.
  • Kirby Dach: Acquired at the NHL Draft, this will be Dach’s first training camp with his new team. For him, it’s a new start. He too knows that the battle at center will be fierce and he will want to impress the coaching staff.
  • Michael Pezzetta: Let’s face it, Pezzetta is the type of player who will always have to fight for his spot. But rest assured that he’s going in with that mentality and for a rugged guy like him, he will bring it. There’s an overload of forwards with NHL contracts and he will want to force management to keep him up.
  • Samuel Montembeault: The news of Carey Price not being there at camp is a good one for Montembeault but he’s a fighter anyway. Now, he will want to stick alongside Jake Allen so this off-season will be crucial for him. Not only does he have to beat Cayden Primeau to the punch, but he won’t want management to feel like they need to get another goalie.


In the next group, you have players who are pretty much guaranteed a spot on the roster. They are guys who always have a good work ethics and, unless disaster strikes, are a shoe-in on the team. But they will too feel the heat of competition, some more than others.

We’re talking about Suzuki, Caufield, Dvorak, Monahan, Anderson, Armia, Pitlick, Edmundson, Matheson, Savard, Wideman, Allen. I hesitated putting Monahan in the previous group due to his disappointing seasons but it was cause by injuries and he always has good work ethics.

Praying for success

It’s a small group, but they’re the type of players who have relied on their skills to get by. But these three players have something to prove. We sometimes wonder if they have the drive that players in the first group have, however. They’ll do what they have to do to get by.

Jonathan Drouin
  • Johathan Drouin: Operated on two different wrists in the last two seasons, a leave to take care of his mental health, Drouin has only played two games under Martin St-Louis. He’s never been known as a “character guy”, as they call them, and one has to wonder how many setbacks he can take before folding. But he is the player on the team who could see the biggest improvement if things go his way. A pending UFA, he’s playing for a new contract and sometimes, it can serve as motivation.
  • Mike Hoffman: Trade rumours are all over this guy and due to his lack of trade protection, don’t be shocked if you keep hearing his name until he does get traded eventually. If Hoffman can light the lamp and help the powerplay, it would be an improvement over last season. By the way, his defensive play isn’t as bad as some make it out to be.
  • Evgenii Dadonov: Like Drouin, he is playing for a contract next season. For those who don’t know him well, he reminds me a bit of Tomas Tatar as a player and ironically, he too was acquired from Vegas as a cap dump. If all goes well, you can count on 20 goals from him but don’t rush to buy his jersey. He’s likely not going to play a full season in Montreal, as he’s perfect trade bait for trade deadline.


Then, you have the rookies, or young players, who were not in the NHL last season but who will try earning a spot and force management’s hand. As the battles are totally different between forwards and defensemen, I’ve decided to split them into two groups.


As mentioned before, there isn’t much room at the forward position so someone will have to really step up and impress in order to earn a spot. But it’s always possible. When Gallagher broke into the NHL in 2012, he earned a spot a camp. Marc Bergevin sent him to the AHL until he could make room for him, which he did. Gally got called up to never look back. Kent Hughes will have to do the same.

  • Juraj Slafkovsky
  • Jesse Ylönen
  • Rafaël Harvey-Pinard
  • Joshua Roy
  • Emil Heineman
  • Joël Teasdale
  • Mitchell Stephens
  • Jan Mysak
  • Nate Schnarr
  • Lucas Condotta


Kayden Guhle

If we consider that Edmundson, Matheson, Savard and Wideman have a spot on the team, it leaves three empty slots on the Canadiens’ defense. That’s a golden opportunity for the young defensemen in the organization, one that the forwards don’t have. And it will play out between the following players:

  • Justin Barron
  • Kaiden Guhle
  • Jordan Harris
  • Corey Schueneman
  • Otto Leskinen
  • Mattias Norlinder
  • Arber Xhekaj
  • Gianni Fairbrother
  • Madison Bowey

Barron being right handed is a huge advantage. Guhle, Harris, Schueneman, Leskinen and Norlinder all have a bit of NHL experience. But don’t count out Xhekaj, who has the physique and strength of a full grown man.

So it will be an interesting and competitive training camp. You can expect some fast pace play, high on intensity. It all starts with the rookie camp in a couple of weeks, then moving into the main camp. Hockey is just around the corner, folks!

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