Might Suzuki put on the ‘C’?


MONTREAL — Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens captain.

Has a pleasant ring to it, doesn’t it?

We’ll discover out by the primary week of October if the Canadiens agree. They’re anticipated to nominate a brand new chief earlier than the 2022-23 season will get underway, and so they must determine in the event that they need to saddle a 23-year-old who’s coming into the primary of an eight-year, $63-million contract with that kind of strain—in the event that they’re ready to make Suzuki’s identify synonymous with the large ones which have come earlier than on the illustrious record of Canadiens captains.

It’s an honour and a privilege to serve within the position as soon as expertly commandeered by Gainey, Beliveau and Richard, amongst others.

However the captaincy, and all it entails—being the face of this historic franchise in a white-hot market, being the spokesperson for the gamers, being the final word teammate on and off the ice, being the chief of the room and the go-to participant within the pivotal moments of video games—could be a crushing burden.

Do the Canadiens imagine Suzuki can keep away from having it turn into one proper now?

Administration holds him within the highest regard, the teaching workers respects him immensely, and the gamers really feel he’s made for the position.

We expect again to what longtime Suzuki teammate Ben Chiarot mentioned concerning the London, Ont., native upon being traded to the Florida Panthers eventually season’s deadline and take into account it congruent with how most the gamers in Montreal really feel.

“He’s as proficient as anybody within the NHL and mature past his 22 years,” Chiarot instructed us in an unique interview. “I see him being a frontrunner right here for a very long time; being a high participant and clearly the face of the franchise right here. I see a passing of the torch from Shea (Weber) and Carey (Worth) to Nick. That’s how I see it going, and I can’t consider somebody higher suited to it contemplating how mature he’s and the way he handles himself.

“In my thoughts, he’ll be the captain.”

Whether or not or not Suzuki is ready to imagine the position instantly is the query.

Brendan Gallagher, who’s been a heart-and-soul participant for the Canadiens since 2013, is as viable a candidate because the crew has in the event that they want to ease Suzuki into place extra regularly.

If Gallagher is keen to maintain this seat heat, he could possibly be who they flip to.

Joel Edmundson, who stepped into the void left by Weber final season, has two years left on his contract (three years lower than Gallagher) and, in consequence, could possibly be the best choice to purchase Suzuki only a bit extra time.

However there’s ample motive to imagine he doesn’t want it. Suzuki has proven he thrives below strain—he’s a participant with the next point-per-game proportion within the Stanley Cup Playoffs than within the common season—and making him captain now may deliver out one of the best in him.

Till the choice will get made, no Canadiens story will likely be extra compelling.

However listed below are 4 others we’ll be conserving an in depth eye on this season.

The place will Juraj Slafkovsky play?

The Canadiens have already mentioned it’ll be in Quebec, however there’s no telling how lengthy the first-overall decide within the 2022 NHL Draft will likely be in Montreal.

Aside from Owen Energy, who was drafted first in 2021 by the Buffalo Sabres and elected to return to high school for yet one more season, just about each high decide this millennium has spent the vast majority of their first season within the NHL.

Whether or not or not Slafkovsky follows that path will finally be dictated by how he performs. We think about he’ll be given as a lot rope because the Canadiens can prolong to begin, and {that a} nine-game stint to begin within the NHL is all however assured, and he’ll must earn the remaining.

However we don’t see the Canadiens hesitating to ship Slafkovsky to the Laval Rocket in the event that they really feel he wants a while there. They’ve made participant growth their high precedence—in possession of a roster that’s nonetheless a few years away from being really aggressive—and so they’ll do no matter is finest for Slafkovsky’s growth.

He appears to be on board with that.

“Camp begins subsequent week and (the plan) will come from there,” he instructed reporters on the NHL’s rookie showcase on Tuesday. “It’s about how prepared I’ll be. I hope I’m prepared, so we’ll see.”

“I’m making an attempt to do every part in order that I can play within the NHL,” Slafkovsky continued. “However, after all, I’ll do no matter Montreal says and thinks will likely be higher for me.”

We imagine what’s finest for the large Slovak is to play with the kind of gamers he’ll be alongside when he’s developed within the NHL—top-six forwards like Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

However Slafkovsky’s play will reveal whether or not or not he’s ready to proceed in that position because the season progresses.

The Redemption Tour

When you’re hoping to see the Canadiens backside out this season and provides themselves one of the best odds at drafting a supposed generational expertise in Connor Bedard, head coach Martin St. Louis, who’s confirmed to be an distinctive motivator in his quick time behind the bench, may not be the one particular person in the best way of attaining that.

This crew has no scarcity of gamers who ought to be extraordinarily pushed to redeem themselves after disappointing 2021-22 campaigns, and people gamers may assist vault the Canadiens just a little greater within the standings than most individuals anticipate.

Begin with Brendan Gallagher, who had simply seven objectives in 56 video games and struggled with accidents final season. He’s had the higher a part of 5 months to rejuvenate his physique—one thing he mentioned was important to him returning to the participant who commonly scored greater than 20 objectives per season—and after we checked in with him final week, he mentioned he was feeling good and prepared.

Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak and Joel Armia are three gamers who finest be ready to supply one thing significantly better than what we noticed from them for almost all of video games they performed with the Canadiens final season. All three of them are being paid for middle-six manufacturing and reliability and none of them delivered that.

Hoffman, who signed a three-year, $13.5-million contract with the Canadiens in the summertime of 2021, is just two seasons faraway from scoring 29 objectives in 69 video games and desires to return a lot nearer to being that participant than he was for his first 67 video games in bleu, blanc et rouge. Dvorak’s two-way play, which solely picked up within the again half of final season after he struggled mightily out of the gate, must be robust sufficient to assist insulate youthful centres on the crew. And Armia, who put up solely six objectives in 60 video games after signing a four-year, $13.6-million deal, wants a mulligan.

The massive Finn, Dvorak, Hoffman and Gallagher aren’t the one Canadiens who want to point out higher come fall. Josh Anderson had a good 19 objectives in 69 video games final season, however the expectation—after he signed a seven-year, $38.5-million contract with the crew in 2020—is that he be way more just like the participant who had 27 objectives through the 2018-19 season.

Kirby Dach and Sean Monahan, new to the Canadiens after summer time trades introduced them to Montreal, even have a lot to show.

This previous Wednesday, Dach, 21, signed a profitable new contract which can pay him largely for his potential, and he can instantly make it take care of a recent begin below St. Louis.

And Monahan, who’s coming off his second hip surgical procedure because the summer time of 2021, feels wholesome and able to contribute in a method he wasn’t in a position to in Calgary over the previous two seasons.

“I believe this summer time is a giant one for me,” Monahan mentioned in his first media availability as a Canadien on Aug. 18. “I acquired the surgical procedure sooner than I did the yr earlier than, so I’ve put in a variety of work this summer time and proper now I’m again on the ice 4 instances every week. It has been a very long time coming for me to really feel wholesome, so I’m excited to play hockey once more at a excessive degree and I’m actually excited to hitch the Canadiens.”

The Youth Motion on Defence

Kaiden Guhle (20), Justin Barron (20) and Jordan Harris (22) are the first three of a number of younger defencemen hoping to play full-time with the Canadiens this season.

Spots are open, with Joel Edmundson, Mike Matheson, David Savard and Chris Wideman the one veterans on Montreal’s blue line. The competitors for time alongside them will likely be one to trace for the whole thing of the 2022-23 season.

Anticipate to see a rotation, with Guhle, Harris and Barron all splitting time between Montreal and Laval, and with 21-year-old Arber Xhekaj, 22-year-old Mattias Norlinder, and sophomore Corey Shueneman pushing to unseat them.

The Canadiens must straddle the wonderful line between outcomes and participant growth right here, leaning closely on growth to make sure confidence stays intact for all events.

Goaltending Carousel

With Carey Worth on long-term harm reserve resulting from his persistent knee harm, Jake Allen will likely be leaned on closely in Montreal’s internet.

Simply how ready he’ll be for the workload, after a number of groin accidents restricted the 32-year-old to only 35 appearances final season, is in query.

If younger Cayden Primeau—who had an distinctive playoff with the Rocket final spring after struggling final winter with the Canadiens—was discouraged when he noticed Samuel Montembeault signal a one-way contract with Montreal earlier this summer time, Worth’s up to date standing ought to have him feeling just like the highway to the Bell Centre immediately has much less building cones to navigate.

Simply how effectively Allen, Montembeault and Primeau can fare is a serious query heading into coaching camp. And the way the competitors shapes up because the season progresses will primarily dictate how Hughes and the Canadiens’ brass try to navigate Worth’s possible absence sooner or later.



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