3 Canadiens’ Unsung Heroes of 2021-22

The Montreal Canadiens had one of the worst seasons and franchise history, finishing with just 22 wins and 55 points. There wasn’t too much for fans to cheer for this season, especially during the first 45 games where the Habs only won eight. The last 37 games of the season showed signs of life, with 14 wins and new life breathed into players like Cole Caufield and Jeff Petry. Although Nick Suzuki and Caufield stole the show, the Habs had a few players who helped the club under the radar; here’s a look at those players.

Chris Wideman

The Ottawa Senators drafted Chris Wideman in the 2009 Draft 100th overall. He was drafted as an offensive defenseman but never could crack the NHL on a full-time basis. He played 76 games for the Senators from 2016-17, which was the entire last season he had in the NHL. After bouncing around the American Hockey League (AHL) for a couple of seasons, he signed a contract with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Last season in the KHL, he was voted top defenseman scoring 41 points in 59 games, after which the Canadians signed him in the off-season to a one-year for $750,000.

Chris Wideman Montreal Canadiens
Chris Wideman, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Canadiens signed Wideman, it wasn’t a guaranteed spot on the roster, but the Habs were hoping his offensive production in the KHL would carry over to the NHL. Wideman made the opening day roster playing on the third pair and had a tranquil start to his season, scoring only nine points in his first 22 games and 11 in his first 40. It wasn’t until the second half of the season and the hiring of new head coach Martin St-Louis that Wideman started producing with 16 points in 24 games.

The part he excelled in for the Canadiens was on the power play (PP). The Hab’s PP was dismal all season, but it had potential with Wideman as the quarterback. He finished the season scoring 12 of his 27 points on the PP and led all Canadiens in scoring for defenseman, along with leading the Habs in PP assists with 12 – tied with Suzuki – and was second on the team in Corsi for percentage (CF%) with 50.4%. Without Wideman, the team’s terrible PP would have been even worse, and they would have had minor offence from the defensemen overall.

Alexander Romanov

Alexander Romanov was a surprise draft pick by the Canadiens in the second round of the 2018 Draft. He had a stellar World Junior Championship (WJC), winning the top defensemen in 2019 and scored 14 points in 14 games over two tournaments. He joined the Canadiens in 2020-21 and played around 17 minutes a game, scored six points, and had 138 hits as a rookie. He followed that up this season by doubling his point total to 13 and leading the Habs in hits with 227 while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game.

Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Romanov played a big part for the Canadiens as a sophomore, killing penalties and being one of the better defensemen on the team. He was only a -9 for a team that was -106 in goal differential. He was second on the team for defensemen in shots with 107, fourth overall in time on ice (TOI) with 20:15 and first in blocks with 144. This season, Romanov was one of the few bright spots for the Canadiens and got the fans out of their seats with his big hits and fast play. He will continue to be a top-four player for years to come.

Jake Evans

Jake Evans was a late-round draft pick for Montreal in 2014 and was a prospect no one thought would have a chance at the NHL. He proved them all wrong by getting called up to play 13 games in the 2019-20 season and then becoming a regular for the Habs in 2020-21, playing 47 games in the shortened season as a fourth-line center and sometimes winger. Evans used his speed and good 200-foot play to secure a spot with the Canadiens in the bottom six of the lineup this season, and, with the injuries to Christian Dvorak, even found himself in the top six from time to time.

Related: Canadiens’ Jake Evans Has Been a Pleasant Surprise on the Penalty Kill

Evans not only proved he belonged in the NHL but that he could be a solid third-line center and penalty killer. With the loss of Phillip Danault in the offseason, the Canadiens needed someone to step into his place and play a shutdown role; although Evans still needs some work, he did that job well. Evans scored 29 points playing just over 15 minutes game. He also had a career-high 13 goals and was steady in killing penalties. Not only did he have a good season, he did any job he was asked to do to the best of his abilities and used his speed to his advantage to help create offence while also providing the Habs with a solid defensive forward.

A few other players should get honourable mentions, and they are goaltender Sam Montembault who did his best to keep the Canadiens in every game even if he did fall short more times than not. Christian Dvorak, who, after coming back from injury, was on pace for a career season and David Savard, who, after a slow start, became one of the more reliable defencemen and helped guide Romanov through the season. It was a nightmare season, but these players showed they will support the future to be brighter and better.