After yet another disappointing Montreal Canadiens loss — against a Calgary Flames team chasing them in the standings no less — I’m at a loss. Frankly, I think the coaching staff must be as well, since the team can’t seem to get up for games that could have a significant impact on their playoff chances.
This team needs something, and I can’t see why they shouldn’t find out whether Cole Caufield is that thing.
Their offense is anemic, a statement which goes doubly for their power play. The absence of Brendan Gallagher is being felt harder than most could have predicted, and if they can’t find an answer for how to fill that void, they’ll find themselves on the golf course much sooner than they’d like to be.
Montreal only has one remaining recall, and if they use it on Caufield, it will be their last of the regular season. But this doesn’t really matter, because come playoff time, they would regain their roster flexibility. And if they don’t do something soon, that playoff time may never come. They could realistically find themselves out of a playoff spot if one of Vancouver or Calgary get hot without them going on a streak of their own.
Caufield could help avoid that becoming a reality. Looking at how they struggled to put the puck on net against Calgary last night, it’s hard to see how his shooting volume doesn’t help. Given that Jacob Markstrom allowed a couple of suspect goals, it’s almost harder to believe that he couldn’t have tipped the scales in favour of the Tricolore.
As for the power play, it’s almost impossible to believe that he wouldn’t make a difference. They spend far too much time working on their break-in to set things up, and once they do, their struggle to find an open shot is beyond frustrating. Caufield excels at finding open ice, doesn’t need much of that to get pucks on net, and is incredibly difficult to stop when he does. Even if you have reservations about giving him top-six minutes, you can insert him in the bottom-six and let him do the bulk of his shooting work on special teams.
The worst case scenario for bringing up Caufield now is the team limiting it’s roster flexibility without any significant difference in results. The best case scenario is that he adds an offensive dynamic that they sorely need, and not only helps secure a playoff spot, but gives some confidence that they can do something once they get there.
It’s time to take the risk. Less flexibility for 10 remaining games is a small price to pay to find out if the hype is real. To find out if he’s the guy to elevate this team. To find out if they really deserve their playoff spot, or if they’re only there due to the misfortune of those below them.
It is a lot to ask of a rookie to save this team’s season, but he didn’t turn pro to sit in the press box. Let him play.