The 2015-16 season was a disappointment for the Habs but there were some forwards who still had some strong seasons. Here is our final report card.
Max Pacioretty: B
Max along with most of his teammates had an up and down season. During his first year as the captain, he faced extra scrutiny especially when the team struggled badly during December and January. Max admitted that lessons were learned from the experience and given he’s a relatively young captain, some leeway will be given to him in that category. His offensive output was nearly the same as the year before, with three less points but in two more games played. Those 64 points still represent his 3rd best career season to date. It should be noted that Pacioretty played in all 82 games which is a first for his career. Given the knee injury he suffered last summer curtailed his off season training, his recovery to start the 2015-16 season was a positive sign. After his long time centre David Desharnais went down with an injury in mid-February, was eventually paired with Alex Galchenyuk and he found strong chemistry with his new line mate. If the head coach will leave the these Max and Alex [preferably with Brendan Gallagher] together for the majority of next season, then there’s a very good chance Max will have a career season in 2016-17.
Stats: 82 GP, 30 goals, 34 assists, 64 points, -10, 8 PPG, 1 SHG, 6 GWG, TOI 18:31, 303 shots
Alex Galchenyuk: B+
Alex started the season as the #2 centre alongside Alex Semin, but the two never developed chemistry, and their line struggled while the other three lines had an excellent start to the season. That experiment led to Galchenyuk bouncing to the wing, and back to centre, and back again. An injury to David Desharnais in mid-February gave Alex an opportunity to move back to centre. After he was paired with Max Pacioretty in early March, the two clicked. In particular, Galchenyuk began to show confidence in his one-timer slapshot from the faceoff circle; this became his favourite shot, as it replaced his wrist shot as his preferred scoring weapon. In his final 22 games, he scored 16 goals and six assists, staking a solid claim as the team’s #1 centre. Given the breakthrough season with career offensive numbers, the Habs number #1 undisputed line of Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher should provide the majority of the team’s offence next season provided the coach doesn’t break up the line very much.
Stats: 82 GP, 30 goals, 26 assists, 56 points, -8, 9 PPG, 4 GWG, TOI 16:15, 201 shots
Tomas Plekanec: B-
Tomas started the season red hot, scoring four goals in his first six games. Due to that fast start Marc Bergevin quickly negotiated a two year contract extension. Although Plekanec finished the season with 54 points, he only managed 10 more goals and played with somewhat less effort to score points. Despite that, his 40 assists were his 2nd highest career total, so his philosophy seemed to shift more towards playmaking after his contract extension was signed. His defensive skills are still exceptional which gives his good value for the Habs, and earns him a high amount of ice time. With the emergence of Alex Galchenyuk, Plekanec should be permanently slotted into the #2 centre role, which is a position he’s better suited for.
Stats: 82 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points, +4, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, 18:31 TOI, 189 shots
Brendan Gallagher: B+
Gallagher is easily this team’s heart and soul player, a true leader. No one works harder. Brendan was off to an excellent start this season with 19 goals in his first 22 games, when he suffered broken fingers from trying to block an opponents’ slapshot. He returned after 17 games in time to play in the Winter Classic against Boston and returned with a two point performance. About two months later he suffered a lower body injury knocking him out for 12 more games. He returned for the last four games of the season and contributed five points. His agitating style is especially effective when on the power play in front of the net. His offensive points per game average were his highest of his career, and he’s poised for a breakout season. If it wasn’t for his age, I believe Gallagher would have been a serious choice for the team’s captain back in training camp.
Stats: 53 GP, 19 goals, 21 assists, 40 points, +13, 7 PPG, 16:34 TOI, 173 shots
David Desharnais: C-
Desharnais had one of his worst offensive seasons since he became a regular player in Montreal. Like many of his teammates, he got off to a strong start this season as the 3rd line centre. When the team struggled, he struggled, but was somehow given a promotion to the second line, and at times the first line. When the Habs got a power play, Desharnais often got the first assignment on it, but his offensive production was equally terrible with the man advantage. When the head coach was asked about this during the end of the season press conference, he replied that Desharnais got similar ice time to other players; he obviously didn’t check his facts before answering that question. For the upcoming season, Desharnais is likely to start again as the 3rd line centre, which actually is a role he can do somewhat well with since he’s likely to not receive any hard checking assignments against him and his line. However his defensive game is weak so he can’t be counted on in the other end of the ice as a typical 3rd line centre does. David will be in his last season so he should be highly motivated to perform well. Since he appears to be the head coach’s favourite player, it’s likely he’ll get ample ice time again regardless of how he produces.
Stats: 65 GP, 11 goals, 18 assists, 29 points, -6, 3 PPG, 4 GWG, 16:00 TOI, 90 shots
Lars Eller: C+
Eller seems to be the type of player that leaves you wanting more. He has good size, is a good skater and can carry the puck. He just doesn’t have much hockey sense, and often defeats himself before the opposition can do the same. In the past Lars has indicated he preferred to play centre, but doesn’t have the playmaking ability to make that a permanent position for him. Last season was no different; he was used mostly on the wing and only occasionally at centre. Ideally he would be a third or fourth line player and mainly be given defensive assignments. Due to several injuries this past season he often played in the top two lines, but did not produce much.
Stats: 79 GP, 13 goals, 13 assists, 26 points, -13, 1 PPG, 1 SHG, 2 GWG, 15:15 TOI, 149 shots
Torrey Mitchell: B
After Mitchell was picked up before the 2014-15 trade deadline, he fit in so well that he earned a new contract to stay on with the Habs. A native of the Montreal area, Torrey appeared to be inspired by the chance to play in front of friends and family at this point in his career. After the first 20 games, Mitchell scored 10 points mostly by playing on the 4th line. At that pace he was heading for a career season but suffered a lower body injury that knocked him out of the next 11 games. He may have returned prematurely as his offence slowed down considerably, as he managed just nine points in the remaining 51 games. His skating and hockey sense allow him to be an effective bottom six forward for the Habs in all three zones of the ice.
Stats: 71 GP, 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points, +2, 1 SHG, 3 GWG, 12:41 TOI, 69 shots
Paul Byron: B-
It took some time for Byron to get into the lineup to start the season. After being picked up on waivers from Calgary near the start of the season, the team’s hot start kept the lineup intact. When he got a chance he was able to show off his strongest ability his skating. Byron’s acceleration is among the best in the league, and he used that to scored two short handed goals in his first three games. The same skating allowed him to be a very effective forechecker, and this allowed him to lead the team in hits among forwards, despite only playing in 62 games. His style and his lack of size make him prone to injury as he missed eight games with a lower body ailment. His ability to play either wing gives him versatility, and his head coach sometimes bumped him into the top two lines occasionally. His work effort level earned him a three year contract extension back in February.
Stats: 62 GP, 11 goals, 7 assists, 18 points, -9, 3 SHG, 2 GWG, 13:45 TOI, 50 shots
Sven Andrighetto: B-
Andrighetto is starting to come into his own as an NHL player, evidenced by his career high 44 games started this season. His offensive talent is there, and he has shown some improvement with his skating since he came out of the junior ranks. Sven managed seven goals and 10 assists this season, with his offence typically optimized when playing with top six forwards like Galchenyuk or Pacioretty. For him to succeed next season, he’ll need to get a more permanent role in the top two lines.
Stats: 44 GP, 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points, +1, 1 PPG, 14:07 TOI, 74 shots
Brian Flynn: B
Flynn has a great work ethic, which suits him well for his role on the 4th line. Brian also has the ability to spend some time in the 3rd role and the versatility to play either wing or centre. Flynn suffered a lower body injury during the second week of February that knocked him out for all but the last game of the season. His faceoff winning percentage of 57.8% makes him a value member of the penalty killing unit.
Stats: 56 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, -3, 1 SHG, 11:43 TOI, 73 shots
Phillip Danault: C
Phillip was obtained through a trade with Chicago near the trade deadline, as part of a package for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. With the Blackhawks, he had a limited role their veteran laden lineup, but the trade to Montreal gave him an opportunity to play full time. He typically played centre with the Habs but has occasionally played the wing; near the end of the season he was often paired with Desharnais and Andrighetto on the 3rd line. With the offseason trade of Lars Eller, it’s possible Danault will become a full time centre on one of the bottom lines, especially with his faceoff winning percentage of 56% with Montreal.
Stats: 51 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, -5, 1 GWG, 12:45 TOI, 72 shots
Daniel Carr: B
Dan was called up in early December after a good start with the farm team, and never returned. Carr is one of the fortunate Habs players to score his first goal in their first game, on his first shot during his first shift! Carr plays a similar style to Brendan Gallagher, unafraid to stand in front of the net and take abuse, pouncing on rebounds often with good results. He was on a 20 goal pace when he suffered a serious knee injury on January 25th, which kept him out of the lineup until April 2nd for the final four games. When he returned he was paired on the second line with Tomas Plekanec who developed some chemistry with the winger. For Carr to succeed next season, he will need a placement on one of the top two lines.
Stats: 23 GP, 6 goals, 3 assists, 9 points, 0 +/-, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, 12:04 TOI, 39 shots