By JD Lagrange – HabsTracks is a review, retracing the current hot topics. Today, we’re summing up the Canadiens’ exit interviews, the future of Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan, Paul Byron, and some potential acquisitions, amongst other things. Please feel free to comment and share with your friends.
The Canadiens’ season is finally over and it couldn’t come soon enough. Their record sits at 31-45-6 for 68 points, last in the Atlantic Division. Only the San Jose Sharks (60 pts), Chicago Blackhawks (59 pts), Columbus Blue Jackets (59 pts) and Anaheim Ducks (58 pts) had a worse record than the Canadiens this season in the entire NHL. Montreal finished 28th overall in the standings, giving them the 5th best odds for the number one pick at this year’s NHL Draft.
|2.77 (26th)||3.72 (29th)||16.1 (29th)||72.7 (29th)||27.3 (30th)||33.6 (28th)|
President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton met with the media and addressed a couple of points. For one thing, he is pleased with the development of some of the team’s young players. He has made a correlation between this Habs’ team and the New York Rangers.
Asked about the rumour that circulated a few days ago to the effect that he was bored and wanted to land an General Manager’s position elsewhere, he laughed it off as bogus and made up. Gorton is happy and staying put with the Canadiens.
Gorton also hinted strongly that the Canadiens will be looking at improving themselves to accelerate the rebuild process. If you take Gorton’s words and combine them to Elliotte Friedman’s statement, I don’t know how people can still deny that Pierre-Luc Dubois will be a target for the Canadiens this summer. And that promises to displease some people in the “tank nation” for sure…
One of the young players who took full advantage of the Canadiens’ countless injuries this season is Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. He finished the season with only one fewer goal (14) than Flames forward Jonathan Huberdeau (15). Harvey-Pinard did it in 34 games, while Huberdeau needed 79 games. Let that sink in…
He has also been on fire since being sent back down to Laval to help the Rocket qualify for a playoffs’ spot. The future is bright for this young man.
One of the pleasant surprises this season is, believe it or not, a player that the Canadiens picked off waivers early this season. Johnathan Kovacevic has played 77 games this season for the Canadiens. He leads the team amongst defensemen in games played this season. Next on the list of games played by defensemen is Jordan Harris with 65 GP.
Nick Suzuki finished the season with a career high in goals (26) and points (66). He leads the Habs in both categories. Second is Kirby Dach, with… 38 points. The Canadiens must stay healthy and find secondary scoring for next season!
Slick Nick also won the 2022-23 Molson Cup. It is fair to say that the concerns that some people had about the added pressure placed upon him by making him the franchise’s youngest ever team captain has not affected him one bit. Suzuki stated being in regular contact with the Canadiens’ former captain, Shea Weber, from whom he has learned the ropes from.
Kirby Dach had a career-high in goals (14) and points (38) this season. He did it in only… 58 games. He really took off when Martin St-Louis placed him on right-wing, on the Canadiens’ top line with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. And when Sean Monahan went down to injury, Dach returned to center with a new found confidence.
The beauty of it all is that he’s only 22 years old and has plenty of room to improve, something he acknowledges, according to Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes.
There is a very strong indication that Jonathan Drouin has played his last game in a Montreal Canadiens’ uniform. Catalogued as Marc Bergevin’s worst trade, Drouin was never able to do his GM justice in six seasons with the team.
Many feel like Drouin was saying this to be politically correct, but he didn’t close the door to re-signing with the Canadiens. The pending UFA will be able to find work somewhere in the NHL, but it likely won’t be anywhere close to his current cap hit of $5.5 million.
Paul Byron: “I’m 34 years old and there are times I can barely walk for 30 or 45 minutes…” Byron has had hip surgery and says being in pain when he attempts to skate. While he has not put a definite cross on his playing career, he figures that he will likely make a decision in the next few weeks.
Byron has stated that he would like to stay with the Canadiens in a different role. Stay tuned, as he is a very smart and well liked individual. He was an alternate captain to Weber prior to getting hurt.
Sean Monahan says that in hindsight, he regrets playing on a broken foot and that compensating for that foot has led to the groin injury that required season-ending surgery. He states that he really wanted to play that game in Calgary against his former team but in retrospect, it wasn’t the right decision.
Surprisingly enough, Monahan states that he hasn’t played enough games at the Bell Centre and would like to return as he sees a bright future for this team. He acknowledges that he won’t be offered the type of money he had on his last contract, but he isn’t concerned about finding work in the NHL.
Brendan Gallagher is a warrior, we all know it. No one puts his body through as much as this guy does during a game. And now, it’s starting to catch up to him. He broke an ankle blocking a shot early in the season. He came back too soon and broke the same ankle again.
The Canadiens must do a better job protecting their players against… themselves.
Kent Hughes did address injuries. For a second season in a row, the Canadiens lead the NHL in man-games lost to injuries and illnesses. When it happens one season, you can claim bad luck. Two years in a row, you have to start re-evaluating why that is. And that’s exactly what Hughes is planning on doing. “We can have all the greatest plans in the world, but if we don’t find a way to improve what is going on from a medical standpoint, we will never build a winner here. It’s definitely frontline for us“, said Hughes.
The NHL has so much parity that missing a few key pieces can make the difference between winning or losing any given game. And as the cliché goes, every point is important in a season.
Since the injury to Carey Price, the Canadiens don’t have a starting goaltender. Both goalies have performed like a backup goalies this season, with Samuel Montembeault having a slight edge over Jake Allen. Although it must be said that for the first part of the season, Allen was given the tougher matchups, as shown in this November article.
I did come up with 5 options for an upgrade in net for the Canadiens, a position that must be improved in the off-season if they want to contend. They cannot make the same mistake as the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Since acquired by the Canadiens, Josh Anderson has scored 57 goals in 190 games. That’s an average of 24.6 goals per 82 games. He finished the season with 21 goals in 69 games this season, so another 20-plus goals season for the Power Horse.
David Savard won the Jacques Beauchamp Trophy as the Canadiens’ unsung hero this season. Viewed by many of the team’s young players as a leader, he has played a role of number one right-handed defenseman that is really not his, with the departure of Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Kaiden Guhle has spoke all year how Savard is helping him out both on and off the ice.
Also, Alex Belzile is the Canadiens’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Award. The 31 year-old not only scored his first ever NHL goal, but he finished the season with six goals and 14 points in 31 games this season. Perseverance has sure paid off for Belzile.
With the season over, we can finally stop hearing about tanking, at least for this year. With the Canadiens finishing 28th overall, they find themselves with the fifth best odds of getting the first overall pick, Connor Bedard.
We can see here how flawed the NHL system is though. The Habs have zero chance of getting the third or fourth overall pick. Their reward for not fully tanking? They get better odds at picking sixth overall than they do at their current ranking… Who thinks those odds in the NHL offices? A trained monkey would do better!
The Laval Rocket went on a crazy run at the end of their regular season, winning nine of their last 10 games, to qualify for the last playoffs’ spot in their division. They were led by Cayden Primeau in goal, while newcomers Emil Heineman and Jayden Struble made their AHL debuts. After a long stint in the NHL, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylönen were sent back down to Laval and were key contributors as well.