3 Canadiens Storylines to Pay Attention to in Second Half of 2021-22

The NHL All-Star break has come and gone and the Montreal Canadiens have 38 games remaining in the 2021-22 season. There will be no realistic possibility at the playoffs as the team has only eight wins all season and not even one streak of back-to-back wins. Essentially, the Habs are in the running for not only their worst ever season as a franchise, but one of the worst in NHL history, basically, they’re in the running for the first overall pick, and it wasn’t done on purpose.

That being said, there are some aspects of the second half of 2021-22 that could be worth following. Some will impact the team and its future, others are just for fun. So here are three storylines that are worth watching in the second half of this season.

Story Line #1 – Dominique Ducharme’s Approach to Second Half

Social media has been flooded with vocal demands to move on from head coach Dominique Ducharme. Demands that general manager Kent Hughes hasn’t been allowed to sway his decision thus far, and fans are upset that change behind the bench hasn’t come already.

Hughes has used the All-Star break to meet with key personnel including Ducharme, essentially, he has interviewed to keep his job for now. Keep in mind, Hughes has his own vision for the team and coach to fit that plan.

“I certainly have beliefs about what a modern day coach should be or have in terms of qualities,”

-Kent Hughes

The likely scenario is that Ducharme will try to sell the players that this second half is to be approached as a new season, throwing away the team record and any negative thoughts and attitudes about the season. They will need to see this as them playing for pride as well as their reputation and possibly even for jobs in the NHL. Ducharme will need this approach as well. Even if he is destined to be replaced this summer, a good showing, with a more disciplined team could only help him with a chance at future opportunities.

How Ducharme uses this opportunity to integrate the team’s youth will also be a factor. How he implements a plan for how he needs to coach the rest of this season, balancing player development with trying to win games. With Cole Caufield returning from COVID protocol after a disappointing first half, he would need this fresh approach.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

To provide Caufield with a boost in confidence, he will need to be given a favorable role, an offensive-minded one that gives him top nine ice time as well as being used on the top power play (PP). Unfortunately, it seems as though he is being used on a fourth line without time on the PP while young center Ryan Poehling has been bumped off the top 12 in favor of American Hockey League (AHL) veteran Laurent Dauphin.

Story Line #2 Youppi-Gate

Youppi is one of the highlights of this dismal season. His enthusiasm despite the losing record keeps fans smiling. It seems as though he is everywhere when he works a crowd. That may be a problem, as he was seen in two places at once!

How is it possible for Youppi to be in two places at once? This is a mystery that needs solving!

It is impossible to be in two places, one must be an imposter, a minor-league call-up, an attempt by the team to make all of their fans happy. This must become la Sûreté du Québec (Quebec provincial police) top priority!

Related: 3 Canadiens Coaching Candidates if Ducharme is Fired

Honestly, this tongue-in-cheek “conspiracy” could be spun to the team’s benefit. The Canadiens should use this as a marketing ploy, have the backup Youppi travel around the province, make a “Where in the World is Youppi” contest, and turn it into a fun little game. Use it to help market the team while distracting from the poor season.

Story Line #3 – The Trade Deadline

The Canadiens are definitely sellers at this season’s Trade Deadline of March 21, 2022. Players such as Brett Kulak, Chris Wideman and Ben Chiarot are most likely to have new addresses by that time. But these aren’t the only changes coming. In his address to the media on Monday, Feb 7, Ducharme hinted at what’s to come:

“We need some depth on defense, for sure. We like that competition up front but, obviously, we cannot be keeping 16 forwards…..There might be many things happening before or at the trade deadline, so we’ll see”

-Dominique Ducharme

A focus on defense is likely to come, especially if some of their NHL defenders are traded away. However, the comment about 16 forwards foreshadows some moves. There will likely be a couple of forwards sent down to the AHL Laval Rocket, possibly youngsters such as Caufield and Poehling. But that leaves 14 forwards, there might be one traded as well as it’s known that Artturi Lehkonen has been getting interest from GMs from around the league.

Artturi Lehkonen Montreal Canadiens
Artturi Lehkonen, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the return of most of the injured players, a looming trade deadline and a fresh start after a week off, the Canadiens will have an opportunity to create an entertaining second half to the 2021-22 season. Fans want that lottery pick, but also need to be entertained, players will want to prove they are better than what they’ve shown so far this season and young players need to develop and grow to become key parts of this team in the future. The upheaval in management in the first half of the season will only fuel more in the second half. This will provide fans storylines worth following even if the team on the ice is struggling.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe