Marty St. Louis was coaching peewee hockey when he was hired as Montreal’s new head coach, so it seems only appropriate that we solicited the opinions of peewee coaches Blain Potvin and Dan Meagher when it comes to grading how the Canadiens’ players and coaches fared during the 2021-22 NHL season.
Due to the record number of man-games lost due to injury and Covid-19, there were 47 players and goaltenders who played at least one game with the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021-22 season.
The goal is to grade player performance in what was a historically poor year, so, to receive a grade in this exercise, a player must still be on the Canadiens roster at season’s end, have played a minimum of 15 games in a Habs uniform this season or been considered a core player.
Unfortunately, there were no bell curves to help raise the grades on the majority of the players, but it would be difficult to justify too many high grades on a late-place team.
Nick Suzuki: A-
Nick Suzuki was the only player to dress for all 82 games this season. Considering that the Canadiens used nearly every player under an NHL contract to Montreal this season (47 total), he stands alone. He also led the team in scoring with a career-high 61 points and has shown himself ready to take on the mantle of top center for the franchise. He has also shown himself to be a potential candidate for team captain.
Cole Caufield: B+
Cole Caufield was well on his way to earning an F. After starting the season as a favourite to challenge for the Calder Trophy, he scored only one goal and eight points in his first 30 games. The arrival of Martin St. Louis behind the bench allowed the rookie sniper to find his game again, finishing the season with 43 points in 67 games played and tied for second in rookie goal-scoring at 23 goals. He will need to work on building strength to add speed and be more competitive in one-on-one battles as well as working on becoming a more consistent competitor. But he was able to finish his rookie season off strongly.
Josh Anderson: B-
Josh Anderson fell only one goal shy of the 20-goal plateau. He was able to provide the team with someone capable of playing a power-forward role, however, it was inconsistent. Like most of the team, he battled injury and it may have hampered his ability to play his style more consistently. Yet, when he was on his game, he demonstrated that he can be a prototypical power winger, something that is becoming rarer in the NHL.
Christian Dvorak: C-
After a horrible start to the season, Dvorak was able to find his offensive touch under St. Louis, scoring 17 points in 22 games. He did finish the season with a career-high 56.7% faceoff rate.
Jake Evans: C-
Jake Evans reached career highs in goals (13), points (29), average time on ice (15:36) and hits (88). In his 72 games played, Evans demonstrated he is a very capable bottom-six forward with speed capable of playing both center and wing. He can also step into a penalty-killing role. Overall, he is a smaller forward that has likely reached his peak NHL potential.
Rem Pitlick: C-
Rem Pitlick is perhaps the best waiver wire pickup for Montreal since Paul Byron. In his 46 games with the Canadiens, Pitlick scored 26 points. Overall, the 25-year-old forward finished in the top 10 in rookie scoring this season with 37 points. His speed and ability to play all three forward positions playing up and down the lineup provides the coaching staff a rare versatility. His ideal role is as a bottom-six forward and penalty killer. His inconsistency and lack of size make him less than ideal to play in a top-six role for more than a game at a time.
Michael Pezzetta: C-
Michael Pezzetta was an early call-up due to injuries. His grade reflects the lowered expectations this season had for the entire roster. He had a strong start in the AHL with Laval, at the time of his arrival in Montreal, the Canadiens were routinely being out-worked and out-muscled. In his 51 games, Pezzetta provided the Habs with some toughness they had lacked. He finished his checks and stood up for himself and teammates against all comers, regardless of the size mismatch he would face. He will not be more than a fourth-line energy player, but he fills that necessary role very well.
Brendan Gallagher: D+
Brendan Gallagher suffered the worst statistical season of his career and he did so at the worst possible time, in the first year of his six-year, $6.5 million AAV contract. His grade was only this high because he clearly gave all he had to give, something ingrained in his DNA. He suffered from several injuries that he had no time to recover from after the shortened off-season. If he can’t find a way to return to his style of being a pest to play against while on a 50-point pace, this contract will quickly become a serious problem for the Habs.
Ryan Poehling: D+
Ryan Poehling was able to add speed to his game, something that will help him to keep an NHL job. He had serious issues with consistency this season, both on offence and playing defence. He may fall off the Habs depth chart after another strong draft class arrives which means if he can learn to play on the wing, he can ease his defensive burden and use his one-timer more often.
Mike Hoffman: D+
Mike Hoffman’s 15 goals this season places him fourth on the team in that category. But being fourth in goals on the NHL’s worst team isn’t going to help him build any trade value. His lack of physicality, defensive awareness and need to have a center create his scoring chances made him an extremely poor fit for the struggling Canadiens.
Laurent Dauphin: D+
Dauphin was nothing more than depth filler on the roster, but he did provide a good example for others with his work ethic.
Joel Armia: D-
His performance in the 2021 playoffs created a high bar for him to reach. More was expected of the big right winger, and he failed to deliver. He is still a player capable of using his size to play the cycle and keep possession, which the Habs need, but it won’t be a surprise if Kent Hughes tries to trade him to be rid of the remaining three years of his deal at $3.8 million AAV.
Paul Byron – Grade –D–
Paul Byron missed the first half of the season after off-season hip surgery. It continued to cause him issues as he also missed long stretches after his return, nursing that surgically repaired hip. In the 27 games he played, he had difficulties finding any comfort or consistency in his play. He was unable to find the speed that he had always used as a weapon. He is entering the final year of his contract, and due to the injury, may not be able to return to the player he will need to be to remain with the club.
Mathieu Perreault: D-
Thirty-four-year-old Mathieu Perreault entered this season signing a one-year $950,000 deal. The expectation was he would fill in as a depth player. His high point was a hat-trick in October against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, he missed significant time with an eye and lower-body injury. Eventually, he was placed on waivers ahead of the trade deadline in the hopes a playoff-bound team could add him to their roster. He went unclaimed.
Jonathan Drouin: D-
Drouin suffered yet another injury-plagued season. His 20 points in 37 games played gave him a 44-point pace, which would have placed him second in team scoring. So, when healthy, Drouin provides the Canadiens with a solid top-six winger. He also didn’t get an opportunity to play under St. Louis’ system, which favours offensive creativity, an area of the game in which Drouin can thrive. Defensively, he still had issues, but it’s unlikely to improve. His low score is due to him not being reliable enough to help his teammates on the ice due to his inability to remain healthy.
Cedric Paquette: F
Paquette’s two assists in 24 games and inability to win faceoffs hurt his chances with Montreal. He wasn’t reliable enough defensively to earn more than an average of nine minutes per game on the ice. There was no interest in him at the trade deadline, or any takers when he was placed on waivers. He will however give Laval some veteran help in the playoffs, salvaging some value from his signing, but there was none found in his NHL play.
Alexander Romanov: B+
Romanov is now an RFA in search of a new contract, and he will get one. His play this season showed serious progression. He continued to play physically, leading Montreal with 227 hits this season. He also improved defensively, becoming more adept at defensive stick and body positioning, defensive puck retrieval and transitional play. His offensive game (13 points in 79 games) wasn’t where you need a top-four defenceman needs to be, but he was one of the few bright points this season.
Joel Edmundson: B-
Edmundson missed nearly three quarters of the season, dressing in only 24 games. But once he returned from his back injury, he became “steady eddy” again. Providing the team with a much-needed infusion of leadership and a steadying presence on the blue line that allowed Jeff Petry to rediscover his game.
Corey Schueneman: C+
Schueneman was a bit of a surprise this season as he earned the trust of Martin St. Louis later in the season. He played a no-frills style of defence, not looking for the big hit or flashy play, but striving to complete high percentage plays while playing it safe. He can play both the left and right sides, which will help him in a battle for an NHL job. He also scored his first NHL goal and showed he has a hard point shot that can become a good weapon to be used on the third pair.
Jeff Petry: D+
It was a tale of two Petrys this season. He was a hard F under Dominique Ducharme, with whom he couldn’t communicate well enough to climb out of his funk. Under new management, Petry was able to rediscover his game, finally able to produce points and defend as he had in his time with Montreal up until this season. Being reunited with his family who moved back to Michigan helped that happen, but it still hasn’t meant that his trade request has been lifted. As a veteran and leader on the team, he was unable to provide a steadying influence or play his game to his peak level consistently.
Chris Wideman: D-
Wideman produced points well but wasn’t anything more than a depth or third pairing defenceman. There is nothing wrong with that, the Canadiens may need more of that next season, but he was never able to become more than what he is, even for a short time.
David Savard: D-
Savard arrived on a four-year deal with a Stanley Cup ring. The hope was that he would replace the defensive play lost after losing Shea Weber to a career-ending injury. He wasn’t capable of doing that at all until late into the season. Perhaps it was a “Cup Hangover” with an incredibly shortened offseason that led to his slow and poor defensive play. One thing is for certain, he failed to meet expectations for the majority of the year. He did finish the season strong which does give hope he can provide the team a steady 20-minute defender.
Kyle Clague: F
As a waiver pickup, the hope was that Clague could be given more ice time on a floundering team in need of defenders. Maybe, that he would be able to step into a regular NHL role. Despite the opportunity to do so, he was never able to prove himself capable of that and will be surpassed on the depth chart by the prospects the Habs will be graduating into the professional ranks.
Jake Allen: B+
When healthy, Allen gave the Canadiens another stellar season where he provided them the opportunity to compete in nearly every game he started.
Samuel Montembeault: D+
As a waiver pickup, not much was expected of Montembeault other than being a third goaltender that could be sacrificed to the waiver wire once Carey Price returned to the lineup. He did have some high points where he made 40+ save nights to steal a win or two for the Habs, and he does hold value moving forward as depth, but he had too many nights allowing weak goals that did place his team in an early hole that was
Carey Price: A+
This grade in large part is due to the Herculean effort to return to play. Price only won one of his five starts this season but the relief his teammates showed and the respect opposing teams gave him when he was on the ice was evident from the first moment of his return. Sadly, there is still uncertainty around his future in the game, with that in mind, to give the goaltender that carried the Canadiens to their first Cup appearance in almost 30 years, who is also the Canadiens’ leader in games started and games won, would just feel wrong.
Honorable Mention Grades (on the rookie scale)
Jordan Harris: B+
Harris scored his first NHL goal in the season finale. Over his 10 games played he demonstrated his excellent mobility and an ability to move pucks out of danger and up ice, creating offensive opportunities.
Jesse Ylonen: C+
Ylonen will be in a heated battle for an NHL roster position next camp. His strong two-way play and speed will help him earn that job.
Justin Barron: C+
An unfortunate ankle injury cut Barron’s season short. He was expected to play a significant role with Laval’s playoff push this spring. In his five games he scored his first NHL goal and showed flashes of his potential as a top-four defender.
Cayden Primeau: D+
Primeau’s development was unfortunately set back by the callups that cut his playing time and playing behind a decimated Habs roster who couldn’t help to shelter the youngster, causing him some confidence issues. He is in need of significantly more development time with Laval. If he is left there, he might become a starter or a 1B goaltending option in a few more seasons.
These grades are going to be tough because it was essentially the tale of two seasons for a lot of the players this year. There was UD and UM segregation (Under Dom and Under Marty) that almost necessitates two grades per player, but I’ll amalgamate into one with minor explanations.
Nick Suzuki: A-
Suzuki had an uneven year with a couple offensive droughts, but he earns significant respect for playing the full 82 despite back issues and managing to surpass the 60-point barrier on a low scoring team, all while being defensively sound at only 22 years old.
Cole Caufield: B +
This was perhaps the toughest grade to be fair with given the variation in his game between coaches. Caufield can’t rate any lower than a B+ though given he amassed 23 goals in his rookie year without being a total defensive liability and figuring out how to survive in the NHL.
Josh Anderson: B
Many will take umbrage at this grade for an inconsistent player who can struggle mightily in his own end and doesn’t make too many passes. However, Anderson managed 19 goals in just 69 games while adding some speed and muscle to a lineup that desperately needs it.
Christian Dvorak: B
This was another tricky one as his first half didn’t exactly inspire awe, but Dvorak quietly settled in to provide exactly what was promised, which is a sound faceoff man who played at a 50-point pace for a full season. I don’t hold his acquisition price against him and consider his campaign very reasonable considering the tough circumstances.
Jake Evans: B
I’m processing a few higher grades than I expected, but relative to what was expected of them, Evans has to rate a reasonable score as well. If he stays healthy, he provides speed, hustle and some underrated offence for a bargain price.
Rem Pitlick: B-
Another in the B class, I found it hard to rate any lower on a waiver pickup who put up 26 points in 46 games while adding speed and some decent hands. His lack of size led to a few too many lost battles and some very questionable defensive awareness at times dropped him down a couple notches.
Ryan Poehling: C+
I was hoping for a bit more consistency from Poehling after some flashes the previous year. He did establish himself as an NHLer, which is good, but still too many games with little impact and too few attempts to utilize his outside speed and work pucks to the net.
Michael Pezzetta: C+
There were so many bodies used this year that we’ll have to draw a line on who we rate, but Pez dispensed enough effort to get a rating. His willingness to get his nose dirty and compete, coupled with some surprising goals warrant a reasonable grade for a very limited player.
Laurent Dauphin: C+
Almost ditto the blurb on Pezzetta. There were nights where he really looked like a passable NHLer worthy of more ice time, but the staggering lack of production hurts his cause.
Paul Byron: C
It’s hard to blame Byron for his injury-riddled campaign, but aside from some solid leadership, his presence was barely noticeable in this long year.
Mike Hoffman: D+
I’ll grudgingly give him a plus for his 15 goals on an offensively starved team, but it’s being generous as he was often an uncommitted turnover machine who undeservedly received ample of opportunity in offensive situations with strong linemates. His contract could be used to moor the Titanic.
Joel Armia: D
The only player I found more frustrating than Hoffman. After signing a sizable contract for his lineup slot, Armia proceeded to float around several steps behind the play and hope his admittedly impressive ability to win board battles was enough to get by. It wasn’t. The team needs far more from this dispassionate lummox.
Alexander Romanov: B+
He has some bad games and some lost shifts, but it’s never for a lack of compete. Romanov cares and really started to round into form with more ice time once Chiarot was moved. I’d love to lock him up with term at a reasonable rate.
Joel Edmundson: B+
Eddy established himself as the defacto leader of the Habs upon his return. The consummate team player, he really helped stabilize a ramshackle defensive group and help calm proceedings down.
Corey Scheuneman: B-
This is admittedly a bit generous considering the number of times he was beaten and his low service time, but the skating and puck movement were impressive. He is a smart, efficient defender with a sneakily accurate shot.
Jeff Petry: C +
This was another tough one to rate as he was trending towards a D until the coaching change. However, I have to tip my cap to him for how he finished. Granted there wasn’t much pressure, but he recovered his skating legs and started contributing offensively again and looked like himself enough to warrant a reasonable grade.
David Savard: C
I can’t go any higher on Savard despite some unexpected dashes into the slot and some grit on the back end. He has a miserable adjustment period until Christmas and still too much spotty play in the second half.
Chris Wideman: C
I’m admittedly not a big fan, but will give him credit for effort, attitude and being a low maintenance RD option for a team that needed it. However, a few too many goals were scored while #20 stood idly by and his omnipresence on the power play should have led to more scoring chances than he created.
Cale Clague: D
At the time of the waiver pick up, I thought it might be a good gamble on a strong skating puck mover who was only 23, but he quickly disappointed with his consistent sloppy turnovers and general cluelessness with down low coverage.
Jake Allen: B+
I could have almost gone higher on this rating, but the fatigue factor always catches up to Allen with a heavy workload, leading to some soft games. He was a leader and steady presence when healthy for the most part.
Sam Montembeault: C
I have a healthy respect for the effort Monty brought forth to help the team in a tough situation. He had some real warrior moments, including a 50+ save performance in Dallas, but there were far too many soft goals and red light nights to give the team any real stability in the absence of the top tandem.
Cayden Primeau: D
My heart just couldn’t spare him this season even though the sample size almost excused him from judgement. However, I felt it necessary to be honest with the fact that he was a large disappointment. In a year where many hoped he’d take the next step towards succeeding Price, he took enough steps backward to almost vanish from the plans.
No rating required: Price
I won’t render a rating for a guy who sat out all season and returned on a questionable knee to make a handful of starts. Let’s just hope there are enough starts to make a rating next year.
Marty St. Louis: A-
Some may ask why not higher, but it wasn’t a perfect run. The defensive metrics dropped off after a hot start and the over-reliance on Hoffman and Wideman were puzzling. But all in all, he had a profound effect on the team and said all of the right things to give hope for the future.
Dom Ducharme: F
I tried to be open minded for as long as possible, but Dom will go down as one of the worst coaches ever to oversee the battlefield at the NHL level. Not much more needs to be said about a coach who lacked in every critical way.
Kent Hughes/Jeff Gorton: A
Nothing they have said or done would lower this grade in any way. Clearly smart and with a vision for the future, this pair appears to be what fans have been dying to see inside a franchise that badly needed to modernize.
Pierre Gervais and Guy Lafleur: A+