Gregory Katz The Hockey Writers
Montreal Canadiens’ 2015-16 Report Card
Remember the Montreal Canadiens? I know, you’re trying to forget. The 2015-16 Habs’ season was essentially the result of everything going wrong and nobody fixing anything. As we turn the page towards the future of the organization, let’s take one final look at the disappointing year that was. Here are the final grades for the Habs players that finished the season with the team.
Important note: these grades are heavily based on how these players performed under general expectations.
Alex Galchenyuk: A+ The emerging star had a breakout year scoring 30 goals for the first time in his career. At only 22 years of age, the forward hasn’t even yet hit his peak, though this season was a great sign of things to come. Galchenyuk carried the offence for a large portion of the year. His stellar performance earns him a stellar final grade.
Brendan Gallagher: A Unfortunately for the Canadiens’ spark plug, injuries were a big issue this season. Gallagher only played 53 games, but put up an impressive 40 points. The winger is coming into is own as a prominent player in the league. He is proving to be extremely valuable to the Habs, and his injuries are surely part of the reason that the team struggled so mightily offensively in 2015-16. His grade reflects his offensive performance when healthy, and his value to the club as a whole.
Max Pacioretty: B+ The new captain sure had a tough task this season, captaining a team that was composed of far too many AHL players. His point total was on par with previous seasons, despite scoring fewer goals than usual. The captain’s leadership skills will improve, and he’ll continue to be one of the go-to offensive guys for the Habs in the coming seasons. Had his stats stayed the same, but the team made the playoffs — fans likely wouldn’t be questioning Pacioretty at all.
Paul Byron: B Byron’s performance this year earned him a three-year contract extension with the club. The speedy winger showed his value on the penalty kill, though he isn’t exactly the elite scorer that the team needs. That said, he was solid in the Habs’ supporting cast in 2015-16. Byron is awarded a pretty good grade for his bounce-back year after being waived by the Flames.
Daniel Carr: B Carr put himself on the map this season. The winger scored his first career NHL goal, on his first shift, in his first game, and he continued to make an impact for the team until he suffered an injury that would keep him sidelined for a large portion of the year. Not too many people knew about the 24-year-old before this year, but now they sure do. If the Habs don’t go out and sign or trade for a winger to help their top-six, Carr could hypothetically slot into the second line wing position. A solid grade for someone who surprised many in 2015-16.
Sven Andrighetto: B The undersized winger split the season between the NHL and the AHL, though he may have finally been called up for good. He finished the year with the Canadiens, and after having played 44 games, he recorded 17 points. Though at times it seemed like he was missing the killer instinct that most notable goal scorers have, Andrighetto will learn to be more effective in the NHL as he grows as a player.
Lars Eller: B- Eller has never scored more than 30 points in the NHL, though he’s a valuable defensive asset. He has consistently hovered around the 30 point total (26 this season), and he has proven to be one of the more effective players on the Habs puck possession wise. It still seems that the Dane is missing something. The forward was used in the top-six at times this year, though this isn’t where he best fits into the lineup. If the Habs are to acquire a scorer this summer, Eller could be the Hab to benefit most from the lesser offensive role.
Mike Brown: B- Brown came into the Habs’ lineup after being claimed off waivers from San Jose. Expectations were relatively low for the enforcer. Brown ended up exceeding expectations that fans and coaching staff had, since he played an energetic style that made the team harder to play against. Though he likely won’t be with the team next year, his performance this season earns him a decent grade, since he did more than what any Habs fan expected in his time with the team.
Torrey Mitchell: B- Mitchell is a solid fourth line centre, but because of the crazy amount of injuries, he was forced to play out of his comfort zone for much of the year. The Quebec native is one of too many bottom-six forwards on the Habs, but he did prove his value at times this year with his clutch face-off wins and penalty killing. Mitchell’s grade reflects his play despite being slotted into a role that isn’t suited for him.
Tomas Plekanec: B- This was a tough season for the nonchalant centre, who scored only 14 goals in 82 games. The last time he scored only 14 goals, he played just 47 games. Though he looked pretty bad at times this season, he still means a lot to the Canadiens. His grade isn’t as high as it should be, since his play was more sub-par than what we’ve come to expect from the Czech centre.
Lucas Lessio: B- A former second round pick, Lessio was acquired midway through the season in return for Christian Thomas. He spent the majority of his time in the organization in the AHL, though he had the chance to play for the big club too. Overall, Lessio showed that he had qualities that will surely get him ice-time in the future. He’s a hard worker who can skate and go to the net. At only 23, he could find his spot within the organization at some point in the next few years.
Phillip Danault: C+ Danault was acquired by the Habs at the deadline, and ended up playing 21 games for the club. He scored only 5 points for the team, but showed that he had the defensive prowess that could help him evolve into a useful player in the future. At only 23-years-old, Danault has time to grow and develop as a player — especially considering he has less than 60 NHL games under his belt. Considering how Dale Weise is doing in Chicago, there may be room for this deal to pay off in the long-run.
Jacob De La Rose: C The youngster only played 22 games for the Canadiens this year, and through those games, he was used in the defensive role that he is best fit for. At one point during the season, coach Therrien reminded the fan base that De La Rose is only 20-years-old, and that he still needs time to progress and develop as a professional. He has lots of work to do when it comes to the offensive side of the game, but defensively, he’s very responsible. De La Rose could be the team’s defensive third line centre at some point in the near future.
Brian Flynn: C Flynn suffered a lower body injury that kept him sidelined for a large portion of the season. When he was playing, his penalty killing skills made him valuable to the team. Mostly a defensive forward, Flynn was also useful on defensive zone draws at times. He scored only 10 points through 56 games this season.
David Desharnais: C Desharnais receives lots of criticism from fans due to the way that head coach, Michel Therrien uses him. The coach often plays the forward more than other players who fans feel are more deserving of the ice-time. Though he is used in many situations, he only scored 29 points this season in 65 games. Had he been used the proper amount (and in the proper role), he’d likely have a higher grade and have less fans calling for a buy-out or trade. It’s not all his fault, but Desharnais receives a sub-par grade due to the role that he is forced (and not suited) to play.
Stefan Matteau: C- Matteau was mostly unimpressive in his 12 games with the Habs this season. He found himself the odd man out of the lineup on multiple occasions. Though the sample size is far too small to judge Matteau as a player, his performance this season was underwhelming — especially considering how much the man he was traded for, Devante Smith-Pelly succeeded in New Jersey. The American is young, and he’ll be given time to develop his game as a whole with the Habs.
P.K. Subban: A Subban had some great and some not so great moments in 2015-16. His critics persist, and his supporters still admire him. Overall, the defenceman means so much to the team, and without him, the state of the defence would be pretty scary. The team got a taste of this when Subban went down with an injury at the end of the year. Through 68 games, he scored 45 points. His overall importance to the club earns him a rock-solid grade, which generally reflects his performance too (minus a few gaffes).
Andrei Markov: B The 37-year-old looked his age at some points throughout the season, but given his important role on the team, his performance was satisfactory overall. The Habs shouldn’t have to rely on a veteran like Markov like they do, but even despite playing way too much each game, his play was fairly good. Markov scored 44 points while playing all 82 games this season. The fact that he can still go for 18+ minutes per game consistently is pretty impressive, and his grade reflects that.
Jeff Petry: B The newly signed Petry played just over half of the season for the Canadiens. The defenceman, like many other of the team’s players, suffered injuries that had him sidelined for a large portion of the year. While he was in the lineup, he proved that he was very important to the defensive core of the team. Having someone like Petry play a prominent role in future years will help take the load off a rapidly aging Markov.
Nathan Beaulieu: B The 23-year-old played 64 games this season, and slowly solidified his role within the top-four of the team’s defence. Beaulieu also suffered a couple of injuries that held him out of the lineup here and there. The bright side of this season, is that things are looking up for the young defenceman. He was used in all situations at different points this season, including special teams. There’s still room to grow, but for a young defenceman, the progression is coming along nicely.
Greg Pateryn: B Another player looking to make his case for a full-time NHL role next year, Pateryn stepped up in 2015-16. The defenceman was opportunistic as he entered the lineup when injuries were aplenty. Playing solid hockey, the Michigan native showed the Habs’ brass that he’s ready to be an NHL defenceman. Props to Pateryn, who looks to have finally earned himself a job in the big leagues.
Mark Barberio: B The Montreal native impressed through his 30 games this season. Barberio was signed to a one year, two-way deal last summer, and he is expected to receive another contract before next season. Though he spent a large portion of the year in the AHL, when called upon by the Habs, he did everything that he needed to do. Barberio could be a mainstay on the team’s blueline come next season.
Darren Dietz: B Yet another player looking to make an impact in his call-up, Dietz got himself noticed playing 13 games for the Habs this season. At only 22-years-old, Dietz may be a Habs defenceman at some point in the future. For now, though, there’s still some room to grow for the American.
Joel Hanley: B If Hanley’s goal this year was to put himself on the map and get himself noticed, he definitely succeeded. The defenceman — who many Habs fans had never even heard of before his call up — was extremely impressive in his 10 games with the team this season. The 24-year-old scored 6 points for the team, and played very solid, simple defensive hockey while he was in the lineup. A solid grade is awarded to a player who came out of nowhere in 2015-16.
Alexei Emelin: C Emelin had some good moments this year, though he was found out of position or making mental errors far too often. He can still lay out the big hit, but he takes himself well out of the play to deliver it. When it comes down to the financial aspect of the game, Emelin’s on ice performance doesn’t make his high salary worth it.
Tom Gilbert: C- If Gilbert’s job this season was to keep his spot in the lineup and tempt the Habs to offer him another contract this summer, he didn’t succeed. This wasn’t all his fault; the defenceman’s injury troubles held him out of the lineup and allowed other Habs hopefuls to show that they were ready to make the jump to the big leagues. The veteran may very well have played his last game for the Canadiens.
Mike Condon: B+ Condon arguably had the hardest job in the league this season. The goaltender played his first career game in the same year that he would go on to play 54 others, and he did well under the circumstances. The rookie wasn’t given a fair chance in his first year in the league, as he backstopped a pretty bad team that he was happy to even make just a few months ago.
Carey Price: Unfortunately, N/A The league’s best goalie isn’t even able to earn a grade this season, as he played only 12 games. His injury is a big part of why the Habs struggled so much this year, and he’ll be greeted back to the lineup next season with a hero’s welcome. This season may have proved just how valuable Price is to the Canadiens.
Charlie Lindgren: N/A Having played only one game for the Habs this year, Lindgren hasn’t exactly shown the world what he can do just yet. With one NHL win under his belt, Lindgren will look to grow in Habs’ system in the coming years.
And For Fun… The Coaching Staff:
Coaching Staff/Management: F If your philosophy is “if it’s broke, don’t fix it”, congratulations, you’ve just earned a job in the Montreal Canadiens organization. This may seem a little harsh, but it reflects the action that was taken when the Habs ship started, then continued to sink. The coaching staff and management still have their jobs — which is baffling to most Habs fans and to the hockey world as a whole. Let’s hope that the team grade average increases greatly after the 2016-17 season.
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