The latest attempt by the Canadiens to fill their void at the center position saw Jacob de la Rose between Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin. It was only one game, against a quality opponent, but it’s no surprise that this didn’t work. De la Rose was once a promising prospect, but in over 80 games of NHL action he has proven himself to be a replacement level option. He has scored less than 1.0 points per 60 minutes of action at 5-on-5 in over 900 minutes of play. It’s fair to assume he’s not an NHL calibre player after that.
This is what they have been forced to experiment with since they refuse to use Galchenyuk there and Drouin has been a flop. But they don’t deserve any excuses. The Ducks managed to tread water with Chris Wagner and Antoine Vermette as their top two centermen for much of the season.
It’s hard to envision a team boasting the depth at center to help Montreal out in a trade, but the Canadiens have scoring potential on the wing to shed. Max Pacioretty, while struggling, is a perennial 30-goal threat. Galchenyuk has hit that mark as well. Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron have all scored 20+ goals in a season. Artturi Lehkonen scored 18 as a 21-year-old rookie and has perhaps the most lethal shot on the team. Nikita Scherbak is a 22-year-old who has 25 points in 20 AHL games this year. That’s four lines worth of wingers who could potentially boast enough offense to be fantasy relevant. That entire list has underachieved, perhaps in part because of their lack of talent up the middle, but it also speaks to an overabundance of talent on the wings that could be leveraged if the right trade came up.
The right trades almost never come up. It took Colorado an entire year, and a three-way trade to finally get their home run package for Matt Duchene. You are far more likely to take an L trading off underachieving talent to fill a need. Plus, in a cap system, strengths can become weaknesses in an awful hurry to the point that roster building looks a lot like a game of whack-a-mole.
The point is that while this seems like a lost season for just about everyone on the Canadiens’ roster, there is untapped potential here. Maybe a trade shakes things loose for Galchenyuk or Pacioretty. Both have been more productive of late. Maybe if one of those two (or other veterans) get moved we see Lehkonen flourish in a larger role. Perhaps they finally give Gallagher the minutes that reflect his talent as one of the top offensive producers on the team.
For what it’s worth, Pacioretty’s recent four-game goal-scoring streak came to an end last night, but I maintain he’s got the potential to get hot enough to hit