If the first 18 games are any indication, the Montréal Canadiens‘ season is already over. The towel’s been thrown in and fans are already looking ahead to what next season will bring. After everything that’s happened so far this season — Carey Price missing time to get help with his mental health, injuries to some of the key contributors on offence and defence, and a seemingly missing-in-action offence (just to name a few things that stand out) — it may be time to start focusing on the individual accomplishments of players rather than general team success.
Despite the lacklustre performance of the team this season, there are a few individual accomplishments that Canadiens’ fans can reasonably look at for some of their guys to bring home. Some of the Habs’ big names can be lumped into the conversation for some of the NHL’s most prestigious awards. Along with these Canadiens’ hopefuls, fans can soon reasonably expect deeper organizational changes.
Nick Suzuki Wins the Frank J. Selke Award
It’s no secret that when Nick Suzuki first arrived in Montréal as part of the return in the Max Pacioretty deal with the Vegas Golden Knights, he was automatically placed at the top of the Canadiens’ prospect pyramid, a position he has continued to hold to this day. Since he arrived as the prospect portion of that trade, he’s blossomed into the Canadiens’ best player, the team’s 2021-22 top scorer, and one of the best two-way forwards in the game. Although he has some stiff competition from perennial finalist Patrice Bergeron, Suzuki has a legitimate chance to take home the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward this season.
For such a young player, and especially one with only three years’ service time in the league, he’s been remarkably consistent on the defensive side of the puck. He’s averaged about a 44.0 face-off percentage (FO%) in those three years, and has begun working on limiting his giveaways while simultaneously improving his ability to swipe the puck. Although the Canadiens have only played 16 games, Suzuki has already scored a shorthanded goal and has more takeaways than giveaways (nine and five, respectively). Although this season only provides a severely limited sample size, it isn’t unfair to assume that Suzuki will only continue to improve his game. Couple that with the fact that he’s been compared to Bergeron multiple times over, and there’s a not inconsiderate chance he brings home hardware at the end of the season.
Carey Price Wins the Bill Masterton Trophy
It may be early, but this one just seems like a lock, doesn’t it? Price, one of the best at his position on the planet and the Canadiens’ literal and figurative backbone for a decade and a half, will win the NHL’s Bill Masterton Trophy. After a year in which he essentially singlehandedly took the Canadiens’ on a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final, Price released a statement on his Instagram indicating his intention to step away from the club and enter into the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance program. He has released other information since, explaining how his decision to seek help was due to substance abuse issues. Price has been praised by athletes and fans alike for his bravery and courage. (From “Carey Price says he entered treatment facility for help with ‘substance use’ problem,” Joe Lofaro, CTV News, 09/11/2021)
Just recently, it was announced that Price had completed the first step in his four-step comeback process and has since been seen getting reacquainted with the practice facility and his teammates. While he won’t be the old Price the minute he suits up again, it speaks volumes to his character that he was not only willing to seek help — and thus hopefully inspire others who are struggling to do so as well — but also that he is still willing to attempt a return to the game he loves so dearly. In this scenario, how well he plays and where the Canadiens finish as a result of his return is irrelevant; Price needed help and he asked for it. He is a definite finalist, if not outright winner, of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s comeback player of the year.
Marc Bergevin Will Be Fired
Okay, so, maybe this one isn’t an “accomplishment” in the traditional sense. However, it would mean that the Canadiens would finally put an end to the debate concerning Bergevin’s aptitude once and for all. He is already in the last year of his contract, which means firing him won’t affect what was seemingly inevitable anyway, which is to say he moves on from the Canadiens. Firing Bergevin would send a definite signal that the rebuild was in fact never finished and that the offseason moves he made (which were supposed to help the team build on success) have actually not worked out in the slightest.
While one can lament endlessly about Bergevin’s signings, the worst offseason move of all ultimately overshadowed the rest entirely: his poor decision to draft the problematic Logan Mailloux. This decision was rightly condemned and Bergevin lost a great deal of credibility as a result. As yet another dagger in the metaphorical Bergevin-offseason heart, news recently broke that Mike Hoffman, one of the Canadiens’ most highly touted signings of the offseason, has been placed on injured reserve (IR) and will miss a minimum of three weeks. Bergevin’s been given 10 seasons to turn the Canadiens into consistent contenders, and he has yet to deliver.
In a year that’s been among the most unpredictable on record, the Canadiens have very little to be happy about. However, there are still a few positives that fans can look toward to find solace. Even large clouds do indeed have silver linings.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.