The Montreal Canadiens did not win the trophy they really wanted last summer, losing the Stanley Cup Final in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They nevertheless proved themselves to be a team in the strictest sense of the word, having claimed the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the first time in team history.
It’s a great accomplishment, but one that falls short of the ultimate goal. Until the playoffs start again and the Habs get a chance to one-up themselves, they’ll have to whet their whistle and that of their fans some other way.
The following milestones on the horizon may be individual in nature, but they’re still significant in their own way. All that to say, the Canadiens may be one full season away from getting another chance to win, but they’ll have plenty of chances to celebrate along the way.
5. Nick Suzuki, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Cedric Paquette (100th Point)
After two straight 41-point seasons to start his career, the latter over a mere 56 games, Nick Suzuki’s a virtual lock to reach 100 points in 2020-21. It’s more so a mere formality in his case, presumably one early stop on the road to a long and fruitful career. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to get there sooner rather than later.
For three other Canadiens though, it will end up a milestone to celebrate to a much greater degree, whenever they each get there. It’s worth noting, none of Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson or Cedric Paquette are guaranteed to this coming season.
For example, Chiarot was considered to have an outside chance to reach 100 points in 2020-21. A season after debuting with the Canadiens and scoring a career-high 21 points, Chiarot needed 15 to get to the century mark, but, in part due to a hand injury, he scored just seven and sits at 92.
Paquette is technically the closest, at 93 points, but he scored just eight with the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes last season (47 games). If he earns a permanent roster spot with the Habs, he should still have little trouble hitting 100 over a full, 82-game campaign (in which case, he’ll also hit 500 career games, at 424 right now).
In contrast, Joel Edmundson is the furthest away with 85 career points. Between the latter three, he’s arguably the likeliest to get there, having scored 13 points in 55 games in 2020-21. As Jeff Petry’s projected defense partner, he’s definitely going to get the ice time, at the very least. More on that later, though.
4. Brendan Gallagher, Mike Hoffman, Tyler Toffoli (200th Goal, 400th Point)
Newly acquired Mike Hoffman took much more of circuitous path to get to this point. However, he’s still on the verge of mirroring Brendan Gallagher’s career production to the tune of 200 goals and 400 points each.
Hoffman, at 189 goals and 395 points, is undeniably closer. It will meanwhile take Brendan Gallagher staying healthy all season to stand a realistic chance at scoring the 43 points necessary to get to 400 (357 points, 187 goals). Coincidentally, Gallagher scored 43 in 59 games in 2019-20 (but just 23 in 35 games in 2020-21).
With a 54-point career high (2017-18), Gallagher definitely has the skill to hit both marks this season. Also of note, Gallagher sits at No. 40 on the all-time Canadiens scoring list. Should he score another 54, he’ll move up four spots, passing Rejean Houle (408) and find himself within striking distance of Serge Savard (412), Yvon Lambert (415), Stephane Richer and Howie Morenz (421) and Shayne Corson (423). So, it may be time to consider including Gallagher in conversations of the best Habs (plural) ever.
Tyler Toffoli is also technically within reach of both marks too, but it may take some doing for him to get there. He’s just 27 goals away from 200 (56 points away from 400), but, while he scored 28 goals in 52 games in 2020-21, it was only the second time in his career he scored that many, with a career-high 31 scored in 2015-16.
Ultimately, Toffoli, a career 11.1% shooter, scored on 17.1% of his shots last season. So, even though he remains a critical part of the Canadiens’ offense, it would be unfair of fans to expect him to produce at the rate he just did.
3. Carey Price (50th Shutout)
For the second straight season, goalie Carey Price is chasing 50 career shutouts. By all accounts, he should get there this coming season, sitting at 49 right now. Of course, everyone likely thought similarly before last season, when he was only able to secure a single shutout during a mediocre regular season for him from a statistical perspective.
Price went 12-7-5 with a 2.64 goals-against average (GAA) and .901 save percentage (SV%), before coming alive for the second straight postseason. With Price going 13-9 with a 2.28 GAA and .924 SV% in the playoffs, the hope is for him to keep the momentum going.
If he does, he could conceivably move up the leaderboard as he ranks just below Jaroslav Halak (.919) at No. 4 (.917) in terms of save percentage and Mathieu Garon and Andy Moog (2.49) at No. 12 in terms of GAA. If he does he would rank in the Top 3 and 10 in those respective categories. Perhaps more significantly, when Price earns 10 more wins, he’ll pass Tom Barrasso (369) and move into the Top 20 in terms of wins.
2. Paul Byron, Josh Anderson (100th Goal)
Similar to Price, for the second straight season, Paul Byron is aiming for Goal No. 100. Josh Anderson (82) joins him in his quest. Byron is just six away (94), but, after four and five-goal seasons, the reality should be sinking in, that Byron isn’t the same player who scored 20 goals in consecutive seasons from 2017-19.
Part of that is reduced deployment, as Byron played just 12:51 per game in 2020-21 (compared to 16:08 in 2017-18). That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. All it means is the Habs have greater depth to the point that they can play a proven middle-six forward like Byron on the fourth line thanks to acquisitions like Anderson.
Byron should nevertheless keep getting time on the penalty kill, which would go a long way to him securing a top-10 spot in franchise history in terms of shorthanded goals. He’s one away from joining Martin Rucinsky, Benoit Brunet and Jim Roberts at 10 in his Canadiens career. It’s worth noting, one of those five goals last season came shorthanded, along with arguably the goal of last playoffs in Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Needless to say, regardless of how he’s deployed, Byron, who wears an ‘A’ for the Habs remains a key cog on the team for his work ethic, which is reflected in his 494 career games. It’s hardly 1,000 games, but the 500 he’ll surely reach, once he returns from having had hip surgery, makes for a nice accomplishment on the part of a player who was a mere waiver-wire pick-up back in the day.
1. Jeff Petry (279 points)
Everyone’s heard Petry compared to fine wine at this point, how he continues to get better with age. With Shea Weber injured and unexpected to play this coming season at the very least, Petry will have every chance to prove it as well as his overall worth to this organization (a great deal, put simply).
With Petry’s deployment projected to increase, it’s entirely conceivable he moves up the points leaderboard for Canadiens defensemen significantly. Currently at No. 14 with 221, he will realistically leapfrog Petr Svoboda (229), Tom Johnson (230) and Jean-Guy Talbot (245) this coming season. However, it’s the next name on the list that is key: P.K. Subban at No. 10 with 278.
Breaking it down, Petry would need 57 points to tie Subban. He’s never scored more than 46 (2018-19). However, the 42 he scored in 2020-21 put him on pace for 63 over 82 games. It’s maybe not the likeliest milestone a Hab can reach next season, but it might be the most historically significant to the legacy of any current member of the Canadiens.
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 written for such publications as 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 cover the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.