Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov admittedly didn’t have a superstar-esque sophomore 2021-22 season, but his career is undeniably on the right track. Romanov’s Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy win confirms as much.
Truth be told, no one on the Canadiens, with possible exception to Nick Suzuki, had an All-Star-caliber season from start to finish. However, many surprisingly did have “career” seasons, Romanov included, with the trophy going to the team’s top unsung hero.
It speaks to several undeniable facts, namely that the Canadiens are trending younger, with a stupefying amount of call-ups having gotten opportunities this season. Also, Romanov’s career, after a somewhat disappointing rookie season, during which he was scratched down the stretch in the playoffs, is similarly trending in the right direction.
Romanov Works On His Offense
Romanov scored a modest three goals and 10 assists in 79 games. It’s quasi-impressively over double the six points he scored in his rookie season (54 games). He nevertheless noted in his post-mortem press availability that his offense is still a weak point and a focal point for improvement.
The mere six average seconds of power-play time he got per game (compared to 45 seconds in 2020-21) kind of puts it all in the proper context though. For example, Chris Wideman, who was tied for the team’s defensive scoring lead with 27 points, had just two more even-strength points than Romanov (15).
Furthermore, with players like Justin Barron, Corey Schueneman, Jordan Harris and Mattias Norlinder (when he was with the team) all getting more average time on the power play, the Habs don’t necessarily need Romanov to play on the man advantage moving forward. Other offensively-capable prospects are also on the way, to the point the defense is arguably better-constructed for the future now, compared to when the Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Final. Think about that for a second.
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So, the Canadiens don’t necessarily need Romanov to develop into Drew Doughty, which had been the assessment of his ceiling of one executive once upon a time. It would obviously be great if he did, but it’s just a tad unrealistic at this juncture, considering two years into his NHL career Doughty had established himself as a top offensive defenseman. He also joined the Los Angeles Kings at Age 18. Romanov is now 22.
Nevertheless, a key distinction: That vision for Romanov did not necessarily belong to the Canadiens. They saw him at the time he signed his entry-level deal as a defenseman who would be able to play against the opposition’s top line by age 24 and give the Canadiens 24 minutes a game.
Romanov jumped from 17:15 last season to 20:24 this one, making that at least realistic. More to the point, that’s third among defensemen still with the team this season, with Joel Edmundson, one of the team’s big four from last playoffs, getting 19:35. So, Romanov clearly has the confidence of the coaches, having also won over members of the media, who were the ones that voted him the winner of the award in the first place. And in Montreal winning over the media can be half the battle.
Canadiens Need Romanov
Now, that doesn’t mean the award guarantees future success… or even present success to be honest. Goalie Jake Allen won it last season despite having posted mediocre numbers, almost in acknowledgement of the fact he was doing the best he could with very little. The team wasn’t exactly playing great in front of him, in Carey Price’s absence.
That having been said, under similar circumstances this season, Allen played too little due to injury and his replacement, Samuel Motembeault, while having received recognition for all his hard work, was only 8-18-6 with a 3.77 goals-against average and .891. Those numbers just aren’t good enough to justify winning an award that goes to someone “who played a dominant role during the regular season, without earning a particular honor.”
You meanwhile can’t give it to someone like Cole Caufield, because of all the Calder Memorial Trophy buzz, with his late-season scoring surge. In truth, the award probably would have gone to Finnish army knife Artturi Lehkonen, but he got traded to the Colorado Avalanche. So, in some respects, Romanov was the only logical player in the mix.
Still, defensive-forward-extraordinaire Phillip Danault won it twice, as did Paul Byron in his prime-production years. So, the award may not mean future success, but it does mean something: Teams need players like Romanov… players like the one he’s developing into even more.
Not everyone can be a Doughty, especially in a salary-cap world. Romanov getting the recognition he has this season, in spite of the modest stats, shows he can be a big part of this team for many more to come.