Room For Optimism on Offense

By Bob Trask – After a difficult season Montreal Canadiens fans could use a dose of optimism – so here it is.

Last year the Canadiens ranked 27th in the league in terms of goals scored with 221. Florida led the league with 340 goals, Washington rounded out the top ten with 275 goals and the league median was 253.

With a fresh approach from Martin St-Louis, some new additions to the team and minor rebounds by some of the veterans, what can we expect from this year’s edition of the Habs? We can take a look by applying some realistic production numbers to each player.

All of these totals are in line with historical production numbers for veterans and with modest improvements and/or contributions from the younger players on the team. It also considers the amount of ice time that maybe available to each player.

By the Numbers

NAMEGAPTS
Nick Suzuki244670
Cole Caufield342660
Evgeny Dadonov263056
Jonathan Drouin153550
Christian Dvorak212748
Kirby Dach152944
Josh Anderson 211536
Brendan Gallagher181735
Juraj Slafkovsky161834
Rem Pitlick121931
Mike Matheson101828
Chris Wideman71825
Jake Evans101525
Joel Edmundson61521
David Savard41521
Joel Armia9918
Justin Barron3912
Michael Pezzetta5611
Jesse Ylonen5510
Jordan Harris145
Corey Schueneman246
All Others81220
Total272393665

All of this adds up to potential for significant improvement for offensive production. These totals put the Canadiens within a whisker of being in the top ten teams when it comes to scoring. And none of the targets for the players are wildly unrealistic.

Under St-Louis, the Canadiens scored at a pace of 263 goals over an 82 game schedule reinforcing the idea that 272 goals is not a stretch – particularly if the power play can come to life.

While it is unlikely all players on the list will be with the Canadiens when the puck drops, it provides some context on which we can individually base our expectations. If nothing else the team has the potential to be far more exciting than what we saw in the first half of last season.

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Projection Based On Startling Statistics

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.

POSITIONGAMES
PLAYED
TOTAL
MINUTES
MINUTES
PER GAME
1F82155320:30
2F81144319:10
3F79136018:20
4F78129017:50
5F76122817:00
6F74114316:20
7F71108215:40
8F69100515:00
9F6692014:20
10F6283113:50
11F5773513:20
12F5065912:50
13F4150512:20
14F3236811:50
1D81188524:40
2D78169022:15
3D75150421:00
4D70131719:35
5D63117318:20
6D5286517:10
7D3856416:10
O

Canadiens Projections

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.

PLAYERTOTAL
MINUTES
MINUTES
PER GAME
GOALSASSISTSPOINTS
FORWARDS
Nick Suzuki155020:30203858
Cole Caufield144019:00312455
Christian Dvorak136018:30182341
Evegeni Dadonov129018:00252954
Jonathan Drouin123017:00133144
Kirby Dach114016:3091827
Josh Anderson108016:00181230
Juraj Slafkovsky100015:00n/an/an/a
Jake Evans92014:3091423
Brendan Gallagher83014:00161531
Rem Pitlick74013:30101626
Joel Armia66013:006612
Michael Pezzetta50012:306814
Jesse Ylonen37012:00400
DEFENSE
Joel Edmundson189024:3061622
Mike Matheson169022:30101828
David Savard150021:0051520
Chris Wideman133019:3082028
Jordan Harris117018:30707
Justin Barron87017:007714
Otto Leskinen57016:00000
TOTALS*191310501

*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.

Brendan Gallagher

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.

Looking Forward

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.

Stay tuned.

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