Through 32 games in 2021-22, it’s been a season to forget for the Montreal Canadiens. A lengthy injury list, recent COVID-19 issues, and underperforming players have made games tough to watch most nights. However, the arrival of a new year is a chance at redemption for these three veteran players who have a lot to prove as executive vice president Jeff Gorton ponders how he’ll reshape the roster.
To say that Jeff Petry has been a shadow of his former self so far this year would be a severe understatement. After putting up 40 points or more in each of the past four seasons, the 34-year-old has just two points in 27 games in 2021-22 while his on-ice play has been riddled with uncharacteristic mistakes and poor decisions with the puck. Not to mention that he appears to be at odds with head coach Dominique Ducharme and the system he is attempting to implement.
Not so long ago, Petry was considered a dark horse to make the American Olympic team when NHL players were slated to compete in Beijing and he was also mentioned as a possible Norris Trophy candidate early on last season. Sure, he is missing his usual partner in Joel Edmundson and hasn’t been getting a lot of help on the blue line, but he’s the first to admit that he needs to be better.
In previous years, when captain Shea Weber was out of the lineup, Petry elevated his game and showed that he’s capable of being the team’s no. 1 defenseman. That hasn’t been the case this season which certainly isn’t ideal considering he’s in the first year of a four-year contract. Is he really starting to decline or is this current stretch just a bump in the road? It will be interesting to see what Gorton decides to do with the Canadiens’ best puck-moving defenseman, a rare commodity on the team’s depth chart right now.
Tyler Toffoli led the Habs in scoring last season with 28 goals and 44 points in 52 games. He also put up 14 points in 22 playoff contests and served as a mentor for both of his young linemates, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.
In 2021-22, the 29-year-old has struggled to find the back of the net with the same consistency despite creating ample scoring opportunities. To make matters worse, Toffoli underwent hand surgery in early December, a procedure that will keep him out of the lineup until February.
Not only do the Canadiens miss his production, but his extended absence from the lineup might impact Gorton’s Trade Deadline plans since Toffoli and his friendly contract are candidates to be moved. Regardless of what the future holds, if he can find his form upon his return from injury, he’ll either convince Gorton to keep him around or increase his value on the trade market.
Joel Armia has always had a reputation of being frustratingly inconsistent even though he has all the tools to be an impact player on a nightly basis. This season, he has been practically invisible.
Following a stellar playoff performance as one of the Habs’ most dominant forwards, the Finn inked a new four-year deal that came with a nice pay raise. He has responded with just one goal and five points this year to date. With the Canadiens so tight to the cap, they can’t afford to give Armia $3.4 million per year to be an ineffective bottom-six player. They’re no longer in a position to pay for his potential and the player he can be either. So, it’s up to him to step up and show that he can be part of the solution otherwise he could be headed to a new team rather quickly when it comes time for Gorton to unload some hefty contracts.
Although this season is already lost from a standings and postseason perspective, there is still much to play for in 2022. The fact is that every player on the Canadiens is currently auditioning for their new boss and most of them need to start making a much better impression if they hope to get a callback.
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Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.