Brendan Gallagher had long been a consistent scorer for the Habs before his production fell off the last two seasons. But with a longer offseason under his belt and a full year under Martin St. Louis, could he be primed to rebound?
After wearing out a bit down the stretch the year before, Gallagher’s offensive struggles continued during Montreal’s surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final. With the short summer, those challenges carried over to the start of the season as he, like many other Habs, got off to a sluggish start. He never really recovered from it.
Gallagher had three separate stints on IR of sorts as he had a pair of lower-body injuries along with one of Montreal’s longer absences due to COVID protocol. Each time he came back, he wasn’t any worse for wear but he certainly wasn’t better either. The end result was him playing a little lower in the lineup than he has typically been accustomed to under both coaches.
While several Habs saw an uptick in production following the coaching change, Gallagher didn’t see a similar jump. He had a few more assists under St. Louis but he still managed just three goals in 29 games with one of those coming in the season-ending laugher against Florida. With most players, there is a positive or two to highlight but there isn’t for Gallagher; his longest point streak was three games. That’s not good enough for their highest-paid forward.
Stats: 56 games, 7 goals, 17 assists, 24 points, -7 rating, 69 PIMS, 5 PPG, 0 GWG, 142 shots, 15:01 ATOI
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
For years, Gallagher was a fixture on the top line but that’s not going to be the case anymore for Gallagher. In a perfect world, I think they’d like him on the third line on a possession type of trio that isn’t necessarily counted on for a lot of offence. That would take some of the pressure off and put him in a role where he might have a better shot at succeeding. However, if both Josh Anderson and Cole Caufield are on the top line, Gallagher becomes the logical candidate to move onto the second line. With how often the wingers get moved around, expect Gallagher to be in both roles throughout the year.
I’ve never been a big fan of having Gallagher on the power play as an undersized winger as the screener doesn’t exactly work in theory. But he made it work last season…sort of. On a power play that was terrible, Gallagher was Montreal’s most effective scorer on a per-60 basis (among players that were on the team the whole season). Even with the extra additions on the wing, St. Louis is probably going to want Gallagher on one of the two units; my guess would be the second wave. Over the past four seasons, he has had no more than seven power play points in a single year so it stands to reason that his point potential there will still be limited.
There’s no point in assessing whether or not Gallagher will have a role on the penalty kill. That’s simply not happening; among Montreal’s regular forwards last season, only Cole Caufield and Mike Hoffman played less shorthanded. There’s no reason to think that’s going to change.
How much of Gallagher’s recent struggles were due to nagging injuries versus him starting to decline? How you answer that question is what’s going to ultimately determine whether or not you consider picking him in a fantasy league. If you think the long offseason will go a long way towards getting him right, you’re going to value him as a 20-goal guy that will put up plenty of shots and enough penalty minutes to make him a multi-category fit that would help at the end of the roster. If you think he’s more in decline and the injury troubles aren’t behind him, he should be on your do not draft list in all formats.
Personally, I tend to lean in between the two. I do think he is better than the player he was last season and with his style of play, the cumulative wear and tear will catch up with him. A long 2021 playoff run and the shortest offseason in NHL history isn’t an ideal combination for someone like him. But that wear and tear doesn’t go away entirely; he’s not magically become the model of health either. At this point, Montreal should be planning as if he’ll miss at least a few weeks at some point due to injury which will limit how much of a rebound he’ll be able to provide. Long story short, Gallagher should be more productive next season but still nowhere near the level that his contract calls for.