Broussard, QC – After a nearly seven-month ordeal that saw them drop to 32nd and final at the Pittman circuit, the Montreal Canadiens indicated Saturday during their end-of-season report that they will now focus on the youth to secure their future.
General Manager, Kent Hughes, was also very realistic about the situation the Habs found themselves in when he took office last January. Even his last series of nine losses allowed him to confirm some of the things he had noticed early in his reign.
“We were touched by their personality, the team spirit. When Martin (St. Louis) arrived (in February), we weren’t…. We weren’t officially eliminated from the playoffs, but we knew we weren’t going to be involved.”
“The team did their best to try to come back, and the players improved their individual performance. (…) But there is no doubt that we will be getting younger, with (Justin) Barron, (Jordan) Harris, (Kayden) Guhli, (Jean) Misak, (Arber) Xhekaj. There will be guys. Our goal has always been to build a winning team, year after year. That will be our main goal. And Hughes added that the decisions we make this summer will be made based on that.
However, there is no doubt that Hughes will rely on his attacking dynamics, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, to revive his squad.
After a very short summer last year, which included holding the Stanley Cup Finals, both players said they wanted to take some time to recover and prepare for the 2022-23 season.
Suzuki, the only CH player to play 82 games this season and a Molson Cup winner, said he picked up a lower back injury during the season.
“But it hasn’t bothered me in seven or eight games, and I feel good now,” he said.
In this context, Suzuki and Coffield have confirmed that they will not represent their countries at the upcoming World Hockey Championship in Finland.
In addition, Suzuki could also be called up to play a more important role within the team next season. Especially after Hughes confirmed that he wants to name a new captain by next fall, to replace Shea Weber. A role Suzuki would like to play.
“I want to play a leadership role. I’ve been trying to do a good job in the field since I arrived in this organization. There are of course very good candidates for the captain role – they are older, they have a lot of experience – but all I can control is my way of playing and my attitude.” The concerned manager said it was up to the management to make the decision.
There is no doubt in Coffield’s mind, however, that Suzuki would be a leading candidate.
“He is a real professional, despite his young age. He is a player who is a daily example to me. He is conservative in the locker room, but he does the right things on the ice. His influence on the youth is important, because they can observe and learn from him. A lot of the players in the team use him as a role model. It really motivates the rest of the team,” the 21-year-old American agreed.
Surprise! Petri does not close the door to return
If Suzuki and Caufield will definitely be part of the equation for the future of the Habs, it seems less clear to other players in the organization. Including Jeff Petrie.
Jeff Petrie made headlines several times during the season, first because of the poor quality of his game, and then because of his family’s decision to return to the United States due to the numerous health restrictions in place in Quebec to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
These circumstances even led Hughes to announce on the eve of the trade deadline that he would trade Petrie, if the opportunity presents itself. Not so.
Then, surprise! The 34-year-old veteran said on Saturday he would not close the door upon returning to Bleu-blanc-rouge next season.
“The situation back then (at the transaction deadline) is different from what I am facing now. Since Marty (St. Louis) got here, I have started playing again at the height of my talent. The style of play he cultivated suits me better, and put me back on the right track. So I will take some time to think, find my family and talk to them…but I don’t want to close the door to this organization,” he added, adding that he did not rule out the possibility. to bring his family back to Montreal.
As for whether he was willing to undergo a three-, four-, or even five-year recovery despite his advanced age, Petrie didn’t hold back.
“I still have a few good seasons ahead of me. When I look at the way the teams are rebuilding themselves today, it’s not like it was before when we got rid of everyone. There are very good elements in this organization, and others are going to join it next year, so the The future is bright. Guys like (Nick) Suzuki, (Cole) Caufield, not to mention guys who come in defensively, like (Kayden) Guhli. The process won’t take seven or eight years. It’ll be done in much less time, he concluded. This is encouraging.”