When the Montreal Canadiens made a swap for Dale Weise ahead of the trade deadline, Christian Folin seemed to be the toss-in piece in a move that sent Byron Froese and David Schlemko to the Philadelphia Flyers organization. By the end of the season it was a different story, with Weise taking a regular spot in the press box while Folin played nightly on the Canadiens’ third pairing with Jordie Benn. His solid showing earned him a new one-year deal worth $800,000, and gives Claude Julien a known option for his defence lineup next year.
Upon joining Montreal, Folin played a handful of games next to Brett Kulak before forming his partnership with Benn, and that was where he was exclusively deployed in the final weeks of the season. While playing against primarily bottom-six competition, he did the job he was expected to do: limit chances against his goaltender while getting the puck out of the defensive zone. It wasn’t the prettiest hockey a lot of the time, but Julien trusted the Benn-Folin pairing in its role.
Folin’s game was not about offence. He ranked near the bottom among Canadiens defenders in terms of individual scoring chances (12 in 19 games) in his stint, and bottom three in individual shot attempts (55).
While he couldn’t break into a Flyers defence group that struggled mightily, Folin showed some decent defensive chops with Montreal, playing well in his limited role.
The heatmap above shows that Folin did well to limit shots on his side of the ice, which is about all the coaching staff could ask of him.
He deserves some credit for his strong play, but a strong even-strength team like Montreal also helped his performance. Without Folin on the ice, Montreal was still a good team with overall strong shot suppression metrics of the Canadiens.
Even so, his showing was a good thing regardless of how he got there. Add in a few odd points across his 19 games, and things look just fine for him to reprise his role on the third pairing next year.
He cannot rest on his laurels, however, as the right side of the defence will be host to a hotly contested battle in training camp next year. Any of Noah Juulsen, Cale Fleury, and Josh Brook could potentially play in the NHL next year, and that puts the heat on Folin to perform in September.
Unknown at first, Folin ended up being the better piece acquired in the trade with the Flyers. He didn’t have to be a superstar, or an elite penalty-killer like some other players Montreal has acquired in the past, he just needed to be a steady defender in his limited minutes, and that’s what he provided. With competition for his spot next year, he’ll have to prove that his 19 games of play as a Canadien were not a fluke, and that he’s the one to give Montreal the best shot at securing a post-season spot.