Last season was a tough one for many Habs but Mike Hoffman, in particular, had a year to forget. But with the team intending to be more offensive-minded in 2022-23, what type of bounce-back should the team be expecting from him?
In what turned out to be a bad omen to his season, Hoffman was injured in offseason training and missed the start of the season with a knee injury. It certainly wasn’t the cause for his struggles overall but his tenure with the Canadiens didn’t start on a good note.
Hoffman started off reasonably well with four goals in his first seven games before things really went sideways. He went more than two months between goals with an upper-body injury and a stint in COVID protocol. In the end, his production under Dominique Ducharme was just 14 points in 30 games which is hardly what then-GM Marc Bergevin was expecting when he got a three-year deal.
There wasn’t immediate improvement under Martin St. Louis although he was much more productive in April as he started to produce with consistency. Granted, players often do better when the pressure is completely off but it at least allowed him to end things on a better note. Overall, he had 21 points in 37 games following the coaching change which still is well below his career averages but that was a 46-point pace. For context, 46 points would have put him second on the team last season.
Stats: 67 games, 15 goals, 20 assists, 35 points, -24 rating, 32 PIMS, 4 PPG, 3 GWG, 154 shots, 17:03 ATOI
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
For a player like Hoffman, he needs to be played in an offensive role to have a chance at success. Unfortunately for the Habs, it’s somehow not that simple of a decision this season. 2022-23 is going to be about player development and asset maximization. The first is simple – helping the youngsters develop. The second is about improving trade value and that’s where it gets tricky for Hoffman.
Right now, teams don’t want to take on money and they especially don’t want to take on money for more than a year. Hoffman has two years left on his contract while players like Jonathan Drouin and Evgenii Dadonov are on expiring deals. At some point, they could have some trade value as rentals so it stands to reason that they’d get the more ideal roles. As similar players to Hoffman (offence-first), that could push him down the depth chart.
At even strength, there’s a case to be made for him pretty much on every line. I think he’s going to be one that bounces around a lot this season with the bulk of his ice time coming in the middle six.
Where his role is in less question is the power play. Yes, there are more options there than a year ago but he’s a legitimate shooting threat on a team that doesn’t have a lot of those on the roster. While his productivity with the man advantage has dipped the last couple of years, he will be a regular in that situation this season. It’s also safe to conclude he won’t be playing on the penalty kill.
There are two conflicting factors to consider here. The first is that the Canadiens should be a more offensive-minded team this coming season which should bode well for an offence-first player. The second is that with the depth on the wing this team has, there’s no way he averages over 17 minutes a game again. How much will one offset the other? It stands to reason that his per-60 numbers will improve but his overall totals aren’t likely to get to the level that they were at even a couple of years ago.
Accordingly, that makes Hoffman a bit of a risk/reward selection in drafts. Leagues that put a greater emphasis on shots on goal will make him a bit more valuable and if you think he’s bound to get a few more points with the man advantage, move him up a bit in your rankings. But in 12-team formats, he’s probably not draftable and he’s a lower-end depth option in larger leagues. However, if he does fit in better in St. Louis’ system, there’s some upside in the later rounds but be prepared for some volatility.
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