A new year is dawning, 2022 has arrived, and for some, it couldn’t have come soon enough. As a year, 2021 brought some good fortune for the Montreal Canadiens in the form of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, winning the franchise’s first-ever Clarence Campbell Bowl. However, for the majority of the year, especially this season, it has been nothing but bad news.
Injuries, a pandemic wreaking havoc with the lineup, poor performance and outcomes are just a few of the lowlights of this last half of 2021. But a new year brings new hope, and this will be a fun and satirical way to look ahead for the Canadiens. This isn’t a list for everyone, just a select few with the club. What are some of the resolutions for the Habs for 2022?
The Canadiens lineup that finished the final game of 2021 versus the Carolina Hurricanes did so without Brendan Gallagher (Lower Body Injury) and Jonathan Drouin (non-covid illness), meaning the total salary cap hit in uniform was $10.755 million
The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement sets rules under section 15.4(c) that make it so a preseason game has a minimum of eight veterans and first-round picks in the lineup, so as to ice a competitive and entertaining product, the Canadiens failed to meet that minimum level with only seven players meeting that level in their lineup on 30 Dec 2021.
As the team owner, Geoff Molson’s resolution will be to invest in bubble wrap, medical staff, do everything in his power to never again allow his franchise to fall to this level.
Geoff Molson’s resolution: Take on a proactive support role.
Carey Price has yet to play a game this season, and quite frankly, if he misses the entire 2021-22 season, no one would be all that upset. His injury and his mental health should take top priority for the perennial All-Star and soon-to-be Hockey Hall of Famer.
Price, who is 34 years old, has four more seasons remaining in his contract at $10.5 million and if he stays or waives his no-movement clause to be traded makes no difference, he still needs a Stanley Cup to cement his legacy as one of the greatest goaltenders of his generation. His goal should be to get well to meet that goal, but more importantly, to do so for his family because once hockey is finished, he has a lifetime of being a father ahead of him.
Carey Price’s resolution: Focus on his well-being and his family
Jeff Gorton and the New General Manager
Jeff Gorton’s resolution is to find the best general manager (GM) for this franchise. Someone who can fit with his vision of the future.
The NHL is now a league where successful teams are built on speed. Not just speed of movement up ice, but also the speed of execution, and all of it based on a mobile, puck-moving defence corps, two-way centres and added scoring in depth. Gorton began that process with the New York Rangers and will need someone that agrees with that point of view. That someone could be Marc Denis, who has experience as an NHL player, a team executive in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, an analyst on RDS (french language television). Denis has also been hired by the government of Quebec to chair a committee dedicated to modernising player development for Hockey Quebec.
Jeff Gorton’s resolution: Modern thinking for a modern game.
As the head coach, Dominique Ducharme has his hands full dealing with what seems like a daily change to his roster due to injuries and COVID-19. That being said, he could still do much better. The team has had slow starts this season and several games where they were simply outmatched in every aspect.
In the last month, while the lineup has been ravaged by as many as 20 players being out, he has found a way to get his roster more focused and competitive.
While special teams are going to suffer more than they were with a full NHL lineup, he has to do more to make the team competitive not just at even strength, but also while killing penalties, and not allowing as many short-handed scoring opportunities against while on the power play. Ducharme’s time behind the Canadiens’ bench will likely not survive the season with a new GM arriving, who will want to hire their own people.
Dominique Ducharme’s resolution: Prove he’s an NHL head coach to every NHL GM.
Nick Suzuki started the season by signing an eight-year contract extension worth $7.875 million per season. He has also been the only player to remain healthy for the entire calendar year, missing no games the Canadiens played in 2021.
At 22 years of age, he is also seen as a leader, being awarded the role of Assistant Captain. More importantly, he is seen as the next top-line centre for the Canadiens. So far this season, he is averaging 20 minutes of ice time per game, playing in all situations. He also leads the team in points with 18 after 33 games but is on pace to only reach 45 points this season. He will need to focus on improving his own game and not on the outcomes.
Nick Suzuki’s resolution: Focus on your task, development, not how people see you now.
The hero of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, the one to score the overtime winner to punch the Canadiens’ ticket to the Final, Arturri Lehkonen, has had a hard time finding respect. Not among the coaching staff or a dedicated group of fans, but in general. This may be due to his lack of finish, missing several scoring opportunities.
What is missed in that critique is that Lehkonen is the author of those scoring chances. His style is in high demand as he plays excellent defensive hockey, works well on the forecheck and is able to win his battles and get pucks to the high percentage scoring areas. Yet somehow, he has been signing one or two-year deals. As a 26-year-old, he is in the last year of restricted free agency and may be looking for a raise. He will need to show he is worth it, but that might also lead Gorton to use him as an asset to help any rebuild that may be in the plans.
Arturri Lehkonen’s resolution: Find a new curve that helps him score
After bursting onto the NHL scene with 12 points in 20 playoff games, playing on a top line and helping to lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup Final with clutch plays, Cole Caufield set the bar high for himself in his true rookie season of 2021-22, even being named an early favourite for the Calder Trophy as the top rookie. A bar that he was unable to reach.
After 10 games, he was sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL), but since his recall, he has begun to earn the coach’s trust, getting more ice time, especially on the power play. While that hasn’t translated to many points, it has helped him work on his consistency and resolve. With a terrible year, not just for him but the entire franchise, he can learn what it takes to reach the level of play he has the potential to play at, one that can only be improved upon if he can learn to play at a consistently high level every shift.
Cole Caufield’s resolution: Be consistent and focus on his confidence.
Ryan Poehling entered training camp with a golden opportunity to step into an NHL job. Both Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi had left the team, leaving an opening at centre that he was drafted to fill. However, after several pre-season games, it was evident that Poehling was missing the ability to anticipate plays or to provide the defensive skills they needed from him to start the season, and so he returned to the AHL.
While there, he focused on what he needed to in order to be successful at the NHL level, his ability to read a developing play, and making the safe choice quickly. Since his recall to the NHL Poehling has provided quality defensive play at centre, some scoring and has begun to see his ice time go up because of it. While he has some wrinkles in his game to iron out, he has shown he is a capable NHL regular and must take advantage of the injury parade to continue refining his game as he could still become a quality defensive centre.
Ryan Poehling’s resolution: Show he belongs
There are many other players and staff members who could benefit from a New Year’s resolution that weren’t mentioned here. We all could benefit from some resolutions heading into 2022, but most of all, I wish everyone a year filled with personal bests, happiness and good fortune.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 28 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.