After an emotional opening night win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens have settled a bit more into what many fans expected of them. The team dropped a 3-0 contest to the Detroit Red Wings, and followed that up with a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The losses are something most people can deal with. The team was not expected to be a good one coming into this year, and it was a year to analyze the roster as Kent Hughes continues to improve his treasure trove of picks and prospects.
At one end of the spectrum, players like Sean Monahan and Kirby Dach have had strong starts; even without the point totals they’re pushing play in the right direction. At the other end, is the veteran Mike Hoffman who continues his dreary march through a second season in Montreal. At this point, after three games and a middling pre-season as well, there’s no reason for Hoffman to be holding onto a lineup spot in a year that his place could be best used by younger options.
Before anyone thinks we’re being unfair to Hoffman based solely on just points or how he looks on the ice, there’s plenty of reason to leave him in the press box. Through the first three games, at five-on-five, Hoffman has generated zero expected goals (a mixture of the volume and danger of a player’s shots), and has just four shot attempts.
The Canadiens are far from a juggernaut in terms of offence generation, but for Hoffman to be so wholly ineffective as a player whose bread and butter is putting pucks on net is, frankly, inexcusable.
If we look at his power-play work it’s also extremely bleak, with an individual expected goal total of 0.07, which is tied for second-last with Chris Wideman, and again having just one solitary shot on net. Even if his five-on-five play is lacking, Hoffman was supposed to be a difference-maker on the power play, and so far this year he is generating about as little as one possibly could.
In a year in which the Canadiens need to be evaluating their future, Hoffman’s continued time in the lineup runs in opposition to that. After three games it’s clear that he isn’t bringing a positive impact, and is likely hampering his own value as Kent Hughes looks ahead to trading him.
The Laval Rocket aren’t overly top-heavy with NHL-ready prospects, but at this point either of Jesse Ylönen or Rafaël Harvey-Pinard could have a bigger impact, even if they have some growing pains during their time in the NHL. Those growing pains are the point of a season like this, and fans would much rather watch young prospects fight for their spot as opposed to watching a veteran cling to the spot during losses.
There has been a lot of criticism levelled at Hoffman since he joined the Canadiens, some warranted, some less so. However, the numbers and the eye test both back up the critiques this year, and it’s time for Martin St-Louis to stop giving Hoffman the veteran benefit of the doubt.