With Charles Hudon getting off to a good start in Switzerland, his decision to leave the Habs is generating a fair bit of attention. But in reality, it doesn’t really mean much at all.
While it’s good for him that he’s doing well (albeit in a small sample size), let’s remember that it’s the Swiss league. Not the NHL, not the AHL. The Swiss league. It’s a competitive league but its top scorers are typically players who can’t cut it in the NHL. Last year, veterans like Mark Arcobello, Toni Rajala, Daniel Winnik, and former Hab Matt D’Agostini were among the top import players in that league. Hudon could very well wind up being in that class of players; you could argue he already is. But no one is looking at any of those guys and lamenting their loss. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, no one is saying they didn’t get much of an NHL opportunity.
That seems to be the argument that some are trying to make when it comes to Hudon with the winger himself somewhat implying as such during his media rounds. The reality is that he has had more opportunities than most.
Hudon’s best year came back in 2017-18 where a litany of injuries allowed him to get an extended look in a decent role and to his credit, he made the most of it with 10 goals and 20 assists in 72 games. The following season, however, the team was a lot healthier and players that were justifiably ahead of him on the depth chart retook their spot in the lineup, pushing Hudon out. When he did get a chance to play (and with 32 games, he had more than a minimal chance), he struggled mightily.
Since then, every team in the NHL has passed on him twice. He passed through waivers unclaimed last year when all it would have cost was the waiver fee to claim him. No one traded for him this summer when the asking price was low. It’s pretty evident that 30 other NHL teams view Hudon the same way as the Habs do – he’s a good AHL player but when it comes to his NHL performance, it’s nothing to get particularly excited about.
It’s not as if Hudon brings a lot to a team when he isn’t scoring either. He isn’t a particularly strong skater nor is he the most adept in his own end. He can play with some physicality but not with any sort of consistency. Offensively, he has a good shot at the AHL level but it’s not high-end in the NHL by any stretch. If Hudon could shore up his areas of weakness, he could hold his own as a fourth liner in the NHL but he has had years to do so and hasn’t. Unfortunately, he can’t outscore his deficiencies.
I also must admit that I’m a bit annoyed with him praising the communication from the coaching staff in Lausanne, calling it better than what it was in Montreal. I’ll acknowledge that Claude Julien has a reputation for not always being the best at communication but making that statement after being there for less than a week is ridiculous. And clearly, the communication was there when the Habs had asked him to bulk up to a more optimal playing weight, another complaint from Hudon that rings hollow. And if he is trying to come back to the NHL, publicly criticizing Montreal when they still hold his rights may not be the best long-term strategy.
While it’s probably starting to sound like it, I’m not intending for this to come out as a hit piece but it’s important to keep things in perspective. He was given ample opportunity with the Canadiens, had another chance to catch on with another team through waivers, and a good start in a league that features a lot of former NHL players doesn’t really mean a whole lot. If he can parlay this into another NHL opportunity (whether it’s with Montreal later next season when the Swiss season end or elsewhere), good for him.
But if that doesn’t happen, it’s not the fault of the Canadiens. Sometimes, players just aren’t quite good enough to become NHL regulars and the Habs have seen plenty of those along the way. Over the last half-decade, Charles Hudon has positioned himself to be a part of that ever-growing group and how he performs in Switzerland (good, bad, or otherwise) won’t change much. In the meantime, here’s hoping he does well out there.