Expectations on Offense – Follow Up

By Bob Trask – On September 21st I posted my expectations for offensive production from various players and compared it to the projections made by Scott Cullen. We were close on a few and differed by a fair amount on others. I then averaged our two expectations to come up with a final number. It was not an all-inclusive list because some players were expected to be traded, others were not expected to make the squad and there were a couple of late additions to the season opening roster.

With the Canadiens now having played more than one-quarter of their schedule, now might be a good time to look at the report card of various players – strictly from an offensive production point of view. For the sake of simplicity, I simply going to multiply the current production of each player by 4x except in the case of Mike Matheson who should see a lot more action in the remaining 60 games.

Because I had expected Mike Hoffman to be traded I had not prepared any expectations for him. My mistake! The list is also incomplete because Guhle, Xhekaj, Savard, Harris, Edmundson, Kovacevic, Monahan, Armia and Pezzetta were not included in he original article so no comparison can be made with them either.

Nick SuzukiGAPts
Cole CaufieldGAPts
Evgenii DadonovGAPts
Jonathan DrouinGAPts
Christian DvorakGAPts
Kirby DachGAPts
Josh AndersonGAPts
Brendan GallagherGAPts
Juraj SlafkovskyGAPts
Rem PitlickGAPts
Mike MathesonGAPts
Chris WidemanGAPts
Jake EvansGAPts
Mike HoffmanGAPts

Suzuki, Caufield and Dach have all exceeded expectations among forwards, while Dvorak, Gallagher and Anderson have come close to meeting expectations for production. I give Slafkovsky a pass because of his limited usage but the remainder of the forwards on this list have disappointed. Among the three forwards not on the original list, only Sean Monahan has been productive offensively. Hoffman was beginning to contribute before his injury and it obvious the team misses him.

It is harder to compare the expectations of the defensemen with their projected production because the entire corps, and its usage is far different that what was anticipated when training camp started

Take a look and assign your own grades to each player.

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Offense Starts From The Defense

By JD Lagrange – Allow me to put on my coach’s hat for this one. Not because I’m better than you, far from there. But having been around the game for five decades… having played for a long, long time… having been coached by many different styles of coaches… by taking Hockey Canada’s coaching certifications and classes on and off the ice, both at the house and rep levels… having coached at different levels for many years… I was fortunate to have learned a few tricks of the trade that aren’t necessarily known to the fan sitting and watching the game.

Blaming forwards

Too many fans look at a group of forwards and think that they should be producing offensively. In reality, they are only partially right. Yes, forwards can have the ability to generate some offense on their own. But the bulk of that offense, more often than not, starts in your own zone. What?

Cole Caufield

While flipping the puck off the glass, or getting it out of the defensive zone is good to relieve pressure and, for the most part, helps keeping the puck out of your own net, it is not conductive to generating offense.

The first two passes out of the defensive zone are crucial to generate offense. The first pass must be on the tape to an open player, not one who has a player on his back already. The second one must not only be accurate, but it must catch a forward in full strides, ensuring that he doesn’t have to slow down to receive it.

Quick outs

In the following video, look how the defensemen generate offense with what we call “quick outs”. There are several ways to do that, as you will see.

Right now, due to the number of young defensemen trying to get acclimatized to the speed and forecheck strategies of the NHL, the Canadiens aren’t doing enough from the back end to help the forwards generate offense. The forwards have to work harder in battles instead of getting the puck “on the fly”.

Young defense

The Canadiens young defensemen are very talented. They have done breakouts of their own zone their entire young hockey career. But his is the first time that they do it against the top players in the world. The play is that much faster. Forecheckers are on you quicker. Opposing defensemen are on the forwards quicker. Even the forwards they are passing to are faster so the passes have to be further ahead. And then, you’re dealing with teams with the best coaching staff, and with tons of video preparation.

Kaiden Guhle

So yes, while talented, these young men need time to adjust and to grow into mature NHL players. We will see flashes of their abilities from time to time, but we will also see passes in the skates, turnovers, icing the puck due to a missed pass… none of which is good for generating offense.

What most of these young defensemen bring however, is an ability to join the rush. This can certainly help generate some offense. But even at that, they must learn to pick their spot, when and against whom to do it. That too can be hurtful to a team, resulting in turnovers or odd-men rushes the other way.

Veteran help

And that’s why, getting Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson back from injuries will go a long way in helping generate offense. Yes, even Edmundson who is not known for his offensive abilities. What he does well, with his experience, is find open players on breakouts.

Kaiden Guhle is doing amazing, but he’s still adapting to the speed of the game at this level. Jordan Harris is showing flashes of greatness, but he too has a steep learning curve ahead of him. We can see that Johnathan Kovacevic is getting better as he learns the Canadiens’ system and develops chemistry with his teammates. And Arber Xhekaj is perhaps the one with the steepest learning curve and who would benefit most of a stint in Laval. That will likely happen when Edmundson comes back.

Right now, there are simply too many young players learning and trying to adapt. Too often, they simply cannot help the forwards enough to generate offense. When they do, or when the veterans come back into the line-up, it will make it easier on the forwards and that’s when you’ll see Martin St-Louis’ free-wheeling offensive side of coaching. Until then, you can expect a lot of inconsistency and spotty offensive production.

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