Barring a one-season turnaround of epic proportions, the Montreal Canadiens are legitimate long shots to win anything of note in 2022-23. They may get in a game here and there, but, for all intents and purposes, they’re in line for something resembling a repeat of the last-place finish they earned last season, and that should be perfectly fine. They’re rebuilding.
That’s on a team level, though. On an individual one, the accomplishments should be coming fast and furious… even if that’s in large part because many Habs missed out on hitting milestones in 2021-22, because, well, it was 2021-22 and a lot (a lot) went wrong. Needless to say, it’s unlikely the following Habs miss the below milestones again, with ironically a second straight last-place finish set to be more of a sign of everything going right instead.
5. Joel Edmundson, Chris Wideman, Kirby Dach (100th Point)
Case in point, defenseman Joel Edmundson was theoretically in line to hit 100 career points in 2021-22. It obviously wasn’t a lock by any stretch, as he would have needed 15 points when he had scored 13 in just 55 games in 2020-21. Then he went and played just 24 in 2021-22.
Sidelined by various ailments and circumstances, Edmundson only got in his first game in March, collecting just six points overall. Small sample size or not, that 0.25 point-per-game pace would have ironically been enough to push him over the edge and then some with a shot at a new career high (20).
So, chances are very good the primarily shutdown defenseman finally hits the 100-point mark, alongside fellow defenseman Chris Wideman, who would need a new career high to hit 100. Sitting at 72 points, Wideman just came off a 27-point season to tie Jeff Petry for the team lead among defenseman. There’s at least a chance, even if Wideman’s more so a candidate to regress from a production standpoint instead. Nevertheless, with the right side on defense fairly wide open, he’ll get his looks.
Similarly, Kirby Dach would have to hit at least a career-high 41 points to get to 100, himself. On one hand, it’s hard to envision, as he hasn’t scored more than 26 before. However, on the other, the Canadiens acquired him to be their No. 2 center of the future and even the most cynical objective observers have to concede the likelihood that he gets put in a position to succeed statistically. In such an instance, 41 points for a fourth-year pro is well within the realm of possibility.
5. Jonathan Drouin (500th Game)
Cole Caufield and Michael Pezzetta are each set to hit the 100-game mark, which is somewhat significant. However, it’s Jonathan Drouin who takes the No. 4 spot on this list instead, with 427 games played in his career up to this point. So, 500 games are in reach, at least in principle, which is ironic as hitting the mark would be a sign of his longevity.
Truth be told, injuries have obviously plagued Drouin’s recent career. He’s missed over 100 games combined in the last three seasons after all. In his defense, Drouin has proven capable of playing complete seasons in the past. Plus, initial reports were such that he’d be healthy for training camp. As he’s playing for his next contract (just probably not with the Canadiens), he should also be plenty motivated to put up good numbers. For him though, just staying healthy is Step No. 1.
3. Brendan Gallagher (200th Goal, 400th Point)
Brendan Gallagher is another Hab who saw 2021-22 get in the way of him hitting a milestone, two actually. For the second straight season, Gallagher is hoping to hit 200 goals and 400 points, after scoring just 24 points (seven goals) last season.
The 400-point mark was always going to be a stretch last season, as Gallagher sat at 357 at its onset. However, at 381, it’s very much in his crosshairs. And, while he scored just seven goals last season, the six he needs to hit 200 are about as close to a gimme as you can get on this list, especially considering Gallagher is a perennial 30-goal threat and he’s anticipating a bounce-back campaign.
On top of it all, as the longest-serving Hab not named Carey Price, Gallagher is in position to pass quite a few on the all-time list. On top of conceivably passing Price at No. 26 in terms of games played (712; No. 34 at 638), if Gallagher does play a full season, he’ll also have an outside shot at hitting the Top 20 in team history by passing Pete Mahovlich’s 223 goals.
At 194 right now, Gallagher would obviously need another 30-goal season to get there. However, even if he doesn’t this season, he will eventually. Gallagher’s not going anywhere with his contract, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
2. Sean Monahan (500th Point)
Based on his last few seasons, Sean Monahan is hardly a lock to hit 500 points, despite being just 38 away. After all, he’s scored just 99 over the last three seasons due in large part to hip problems, for which he’s now had surgery in each of the last few offseasons.
However, at just 28, it’s also hardly inconceivable Monahan rediscovers some semblance of the scoring touch he displayed when he scored a career-high 82 points in 2018-19, especially if he’s healthy. It’s obviously something everyone should hope for, but not just out of goodwill.
Sure, Monahan is a person and no one should wish him ill will. However, he’s also a potential trade chip at the next trade deadline and, if he is able to hit those 500 points, it’s a sign the Canadiens will soon be further maximizing the return on the trade that brought Monahan to town (having given up literally nothing but “future considerations” in exchange).
1. Paul Byron (100th Goal)
Forget being hung up on hitting a milestone for a single season. Paul Byron has been on the verge of scoring his 100th career goal for literally three now. Like Monahan, Byron’s last taste of statistical success came in 2018-19, when he scored 15 goals. That brought him to 85.
However, also like Monahan, Byron ran into hip problems. Having played just 102 games over the last three seasons, Byron has scored just 13 times since 2018-19. That leaves him just two goals shy of the century mark.
If you’re a betting man, this could be the season for the Byron. Keep in mind though, he’s not guaranteed to be healthy for the start of the season, but the Canadiens are still operating under the assumption Byron will be able to play at some point.
As long as the Habs don’t prematurely play him, Byron should score the two markers he needs as a former 20-goal scorer. And, with the Canadiens firmly in rebuilding mode, there really is no need to. Give Byron the time he needs to get to as close to 100% as possible, because he also deserves the respect of not being rushed back into the lineup after now-seven seasons with the Habs.
It sometimes gets lost on Habs fans, the length of time Byron’s been with them because of the less-than-starring role he’s played overall. He’s still been an important part of the team though, and it’s about time he hits 100 goals as a reflection of his underrated scoring ability. With any luck, literally any at all, he’ll score the two he needs as a Hab, seeing as his contract is going to expire at the end of the season.
Byron’s unlikely to get re-signed considering the stage at which he’s at in his career and the depth the Canadiens now have up front, but he’s been a success story for this team for a while now. He’s earned a happy ending to his Habs tenure.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.