It was a few months ago that I wrote this article on Anthony Duclair after he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Richard Panik. At the time, I thought that Duclair would not have been the best fit for the Montreal Canadiens, especially considering the price that had to be paid. It was not a consequential one, but parting with a decent roster player to acquire the young forward was still a necessity.
Now, with the Habs looking toward the future, acquiring a player with the upside of Duclair makes more sense for the organization, especially when considering that the only cost would be a small portion of the remaining cap space.
He would be another reclamation project, but with almost nothing to lose, there are not many reasons not to take a chance on a project like him, even if it is just to bolster the internal competition.
The departure of a goal-scorer in Alex Galchenyuk, who is in my mind a similar player to Anthony Duclair (strictly a stylistic comparison), potentially makes the soon-to-be 23-year-old a better fit with the team. The trade with the Arizona Coyotes made some room on the Habs’ roster for players who need some sheltering, and Duclair could also put up some goals to replace what was lost in the recent exchange.
That being said, what makes Anthony Duclair suddenly attractive as a free agent option is not what was lost, but really what was gained in the trade with the Coyotes: Max Domi.
There has been some talk since the Hawks decided not to qualify Duclair as to what a pair comprised of him and Domi could do for the Habs. It’s all hypothetical, but there is a potential for a great scenario there. Both players had their most productive season when they played heavily together in 2015-16, with Domi scoring 52 points, and Duclair 44.
But there is another reason that makes me want to see the two forwards reunited, and it is the memory of the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship’s Gold Medal Game.
It was one of the greatest games in the tournament’s history, and the greatest game both players probably have played in their lives. It made a lasting impression on many who watched it, including me.
The line of Domi, Sam Reinhart, and Duclair was arguably the best on a young Team Canada that also had the services of Connor McDavid. The line had been crushing the opposition in the contests leading up to the Final, and started the last game in the same way.
Just a few seconds into the game, after the camera flashed a fan sign that said: ‘‘Hey Canada Domi a favour and win gold’’, Anthony Duclair opened the scoring from a pass coming off the stick of the young playmaker.
Duclair first found Domi, who was left alone below the goal line. The diminutive forward then had a chance to locate the stick of Duclair himself in the slot, who upon receiving the precise pass, immediately launched a shot to the top of the cage while facing the opposite direction and in between two defenders.
It was an amazing display of tenacity and shooting ability from the right-winger who first battled for the puck before putting the puck in the back of the net in a less-than-ideal shooting position. On the play, Domi also took his revenge after getting knocked down by a Russian winger off the opening faceoff.
This goal set the tone for the first part of the game that was dominated by Team Canada. The Domi-Reinhart-Duclair line continued to dominate with a few good offensive presences that culminated in their second goal of the game, scored by Domi off the rush; a precise shot that beat the goalie glove-side.
Domi also contributed to the fifth and final goal of the game for Team Canada later in the period by firing on net as he entered the zone, with the shot deflected in by Reinhart.
After the Russian comeback of three goals in 3:16, which had every fan in the building holding their breath, the line continued to do their duties at both ends of the ice, coming close on a few occasions as they found each other easily with passes to or across the slot, setting themselves up for great scoring chances.
With the game coming to an end, it was once again the same trio on the ice defending against the Russian top elements to preserve the lead. They were there for the full last minute of the third period, including two defensive faceoffs, before Canada concretized their win.
There is no real reason to believe that the same feeling of urgency and chemistry would resurface every game if Domi and Duclair were reunited. But the Killer D’s have made some sparks in the past, and Montreal is in dire need of something to help reignite the flame for next season.
Taking a chance on a project like Duclair could be seen as a win in the free-agency period just a few months from now, and could keep the games interesting well into the season.