March 6, 2023
The 21st week of action for the Montreal Canadiens featured four games. On Tuesday night, Kaiden Guhle scored in his first game back from injury in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. With the trade deadline looming, Joel Edmundson returned to action against the Los Angeles Kings and the result was a 3-2 loss. The Habs were in Anaheim on Friday and lost 3-2 to a lottery team like themselves. Then on Sunday, the last stop of the road trip was Vegas where they dug themselves into a hole in the first half of the game and made a comeback that wasn’t enough in a 4-3 loss.
Here’s how I saw this week go down.
The return in the Evgenii Dadonov trade might look better than expected.
Expectations were low for this deadline with injured players being very slow to return. Denis Gurianov, a young reclamation project, was as good a return as anyone expected for Dadonov.
The coach started him on Nick Suzuki’s wing, giving the player his best chance to make an impression. He was solid in his first game and scored a beauty in his second. Consistency has been Gurianov’s issue, and by end of game on Sunday he was replaced beside Suzuki. So we’ll see where this one goes. Based on the Kent Hughes presser it sounds like he’ll get another year to make a case.
Joel Edmundson returned to action just in time for the trade deadline.
It was an emotional game for Edmundson and the rest of the team as he returned to action on Thursday night for his first game in over a month and only his 40th game of the season. Edmundson had made it known to management that he preferred to stay in Montreal, but everyone knew of the potential for a Friday deal.
The deadline came and went and the big man was still among the Canadiens. Reading between the lines of the post-deadline presser, the offers for Edmundson weren’t worth subtracting him from a team that appreciates him.
The only deals Hughes was able to pull off were some acquisitions to help the Laval Rocket and landing a late pick as a third-party facilitator. Not very sexy but, as Hughes noted, there is no wisdom in making a trade for the sake of it. The trade has to contribute to the overall vision for the Habs.
Just as some players are returning from injury, others are getting sidelined.
Guhle returned but was injured again in his second game back. Edmundson returned and Justin Barron is out with an upper body injury. The Habs can’t get ahead.
Injuries have been the narrative for several seasons now, with the last two being especially devastating. The next phase of modernizing the Montreal Canadiens has to include a comprehensive assessment of the medical and conditioning teams. If it’s bad luck, they’ll have to suck it up. But they can’t assume the issue is outside their control without a full review before they return to action in the fall.
Fans who are feeling impatient where some trades are concerned should focus their attention on the return for Jeff Petry.
Don’t look now, but Michael Matheson is on a bit of a heater. After missing a good chunk of the early season, Matheson has been solid since his return to action. Remember how it felt like that Petry trade dragged on forever? The return was worth it, and some patience may be in order where some other names are concerned.
I have some advice for Kent Hughes as he considers which unrestricted free agents should return next season.
Hughes doesn’t need my advice on this. He well understands the concept of diminishing returns. Hughes was asked whether Sean Monahan or Jonathan Drouin would be re-signed. Hughes was a diplomat and said all UFAs would be assessed in the off-season.
Why would a team that has struggled with injuries bring back two guys with significant injury histories? Perhaps a return for Monahan makes sense on a brief, cheap and incentive-laden contract with a view to trying to fetch the return next winter that was hoped for this past week. I think if it were me, unless Monahan returns to the line up soon and is solid, I’d move on.
As for Drouin, he’s been playing some decent hockey, albeit inconsistent with his contract. That said, that feels like a chapter that’s begging to end for all concerned.