Marc Bergevin has not shied away from making franchise-altering moves. On June 15, exactly one year after the Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev swap, Bergevin made another big trade, this time acquiring Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes straight up for Alex Galchenyuk.
Naturally, just as Drouin and Shea Weber since their respective trades, Domi will be perceived as a replacement to Galchenyuk, and every move that he makes will be compared to his predecessor.
Fortunately for Domi, he is likely to be received much better than the two aforementioned acquisitions. Weber was traded for P.K. Subban, a player who had become an icon in the city of Montreal. Drouin came with a perceived attitude problem because of a tumultuous time with his former management team in Tampa Bay, while the overall timing of the trading of the team’s top prospect did not resonate well with many Habs fans. In both instances, the social repercussions of these moves have lingered to this day.
However, in this instance, Domi is being heralded from most angles as a perfect player for the city of Montreal. He is supposed to be a guy with the right attitude for the pressures he will inevitably face.
This is not shot at Drouin or Weber, who have both done a good job handling the pressures on their own, but Galchenyuk, for whatever reason, came off too timid to reach his full potential under the Bell Centre spotlights.
Domi’s bright personality has already endeared himself to many fans, and for that reason, if he can even match the Canadiens' former third overall pick’s point output, then any negative emotional effects of the trade should not linger long.
Therein lies the issue, however: at his absolute best, Domi puts points up at a pace Galchenyuk has at his worst, in an imperfect situation, from arguably an unsuitable position, to this point in his NHL career.
Additionally, Montreal swapped a one-time 30-goal-scorer for a player who hasn’t surpassed nine goals in either of his last two seasons. It is a hard sell for a team desperately needing more goals.
In terms of on-ice results, Bergevin might believe that Domi can indeed help the offence because the winger has shown a very good ability at creating through accurate and intelligent passing.
It has to be said, though, that Domi might be a better decision-maker when the puck has been brought into the offensive zone, but Galchenyuk’s game was much better suited for actually gaining the offensive blue line.
If the stars do align for Domi, and his new teammates and organization help develop him to a level expected out of Galchenyuk, it still leaves the question as to what Domi’s inclusion does to the Canadiens roster.
Domi is a smallish left-handed winger and he joins the likes of Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, and possibly Drouin if the Habs can find a better option at centre. Also, as it is now, Max Pacioretty is still the Canadiens deserved number-one left-winger, and Nikita Scherbak has shown that he could use a look at more minutes and more ideal linemates.
Furthermore, the Habs cannot afford to remove Brendan Gallagher and Joel Armia as the only right-handed options at this point (Andrew Shaw is still out long-term) because they would then further limit their zone-entry, power-play, and cycling options.
This leaves the Canadiens roster in quite a predicament. They have solid options at wing, but a lot of those players have a similar ceiling and output. This means that there is a clogging of opportunity for some of those players. It also means there is a limit to variety in an offensive scheme.
Domi will not have a hard time emotionally endearing himself to the city of Montreal, but if he can’t provide something different to a currently very predictable roster, he might have a hard time forcing himself into a significant role in the group.
Ten of 14 voters decided Domi was the Habs' second-best player under 25 while two others voted him third.
Domi did not finish with one first-place vote after being traded straight up for Galchenyuk, who finished at #1 each of the last four years.
Top 25 Under 25 History
Domi finished first in EOTP sister site Five For Howling’s inaugural T25U25 in 2017.
As previously mentioned, Domi is an excellent playmaker. In three seasons, Domi has accumulated 99 assists, and 65 of those are primary.
He is confident and is a good skater, and uses those tools to move into space away from opponents. When you couple that with the top-tier vision he has shown, he is able to find space to make direct passes to his teammates.
Domi ranked fifth among all left-wingers last year in primary assists per 60 minutes, and he gets it done in many different ways.
According to the Passing Project’s data, Domi ranks among the top percentiles in pass impact, quality, and shot creation. This will help a Canadiens team that ranked among the worst in the league in terms of completing passes in front of the net.
Domi is also a tenacious puck-retriever. He has a no-fear attitude and is willing to do what it takes to win a battle with an opposing player.
Domi has not proven to be a reliable goal-scorer to this point of his career. In 81 games last season, he scored on a goaltender just five times, with four empty-netters.
Domi tends to take a lot of wrist shots that end up hitting the goalie’s crest. Still, he has shown to get to good scoring areas, but has to gain confidence if he wants to find the back of the net.
Per Natural Stat Trick, Domi’s 5.77 shots per 60 minutes ranked 14th on the Coyotes last season; a rate lower than perennial fourth-liners Zac Rinaldo and Brad Richardson. Domi is a deft passer, but he will have to focus on shooting more if he wants to grow his game.
The winger is also not great in the defensive zone.
It is not generally the duty of a winger to cover the front of the net, but Domi ranked dead last of any Arizona skater who played 10 or more games last season with 13.7 high-danger shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes of ice time. This might suggest that Domi is easily beaten when getting back and that he may struggle to force opponents into a cycle.
Lastly, although it is not an area of ineptitude, Domi is a step down from Galchenyuk on the power play. The winger had only one goal and eight assists while playing the fourth-most man-advantahe time for the Coyote’s last season, while Galchenyuk grabbed 24 points of his own.
As it stands now, Domi will be slotted as the Habs’ second- or third-line left-winger. It will be interesting to see where head coach Claude Julien feels he fits best.
It is reasonable to assume Domi will see fluctuating ice time and a change in linemates every few games until the coaching staff finds the best fit for the playmaker.
As mentioned earlier, the Canadiens don’t have a lot of right-handed options, which means two of the top three spots will be taken up by left-handed players. Domi, as the Habs’ best playmaker, should be opposite the Canadiens’ best off-hand sniper.
In saying that, Domi’s next-best match could be Artturi Lehkonen, who has top-end shot numbers but has yet to break through as an elite finisher. Also, having Phillip Danault or Tomas Plekanec between the two could help complement Domi’s lack of a defensive game. Either way, it is expected that Domi will find a home in the team’s middle six.