With new general manager Kent Hughes joining the Montreal Canadiens on their road trip in Vegas as the Canadiens took on the Golden Knights on Thursday, there is no ambiguity as to what he is trying to do.
He, along with Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton, is trying to figure out which players on the team are going to be part of the organization’s future.
In some cases — like Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov, and Cole Caufield — the decision is simple. With other veterans, not so much.
Christian Dvorak has been criticized this season, some of it warranted, some of it not. Since returning to the team’s lineup on January 12, however, he is starting to show why expectations were high when the team acquired him.
In his last two games, Dvorak has two goals and an assist. He is fourth in team scoring, and tied for second in goals. Dvorak’s game, however, is not all about scoring. Since the beginning of the season he has been used as the team’s main faceoff player, especially in the defensive zone.
Since January 12, Dvorak leads the Canadiens in defensive zone starts with 59. That is 22 ahead of any other Canadiens forward. In his first game back, Dvorak took a whopping 35 faceoffs. The workload has lowered in the four following games, but he won at least 63% of faceoffs in each of those games.
That role, along with playing the net front on the power play has shown what he can bring. At only 25 years old, and signed for three seasons after the current one, he is likely part of the group that Hughes will be building around.
The current Canadiens roster is flawed, and there are real issues, but the play of Dvorak, Tyler Toffoli, and other players are showing that there is talent to build around. The key for Hughes and Gorton will be to figure out what players fit into their future vision of what the team looks like and then to surround those players in a cohesive manner.
Most players struggled to start the season. That’s why the Canadiens are where they are, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Moving forward, however, the question will shift from who had been part of the problem to who will be part of the solution.