How to Fix the Canadiens’ Power Play
It would be beating a dead horse to start off by talking about how terrible the Canadiens’ power play is. Let me summarize it briefly, to cause minimal emotional pain. 30th in NHL. 13.5% success rate. Lack of success is the main reason for loss to Toronto on Saturday. Now that I’ve made the point clear, let’s figure out how to fix this poor excuse for a man advantage.
I've been watching some of the more successful power plays in the league (Toronto, Washington, Tampa etc.), and one thing I noticed is that they all have two or three shooting options. Washington has Ovechkin, Carlson and sometimes Kuznetsov. Toronto has Matthews, Tavares and sometimes Reilly. Tampa has Stamkos and Kucherov. While I absolutely love the results of the Pacioretty and Galchenyuk trades, one thing that the Canadiens lost is the secondary shooting option that made the power play half-decent. The Canadiens have all those playmakers (Domi, Kotkaniemi, Drouin) on the power play, and then Shea Weber. Teams cover Shea Weber, and he can't get a decent shot away. A second shooting option on the power play would distribute and dilute the coverage that the other team is placing on the Canadiens, and give Weber more chances to shoot. If GM Marc Bergevin acquires a sniper for the power play, this would increase its effectiveness exponentially.
Some people would disagree with me. They would say that the Canadiens need a good puck-handler who can maneuver the defensive box, get a little out of position and slide the puck over to snipers who have clear shooting lanes. I’m not saying this role isn’t important. I’m saying that the Canadiens already have this type of player in Jonathan Drouin. Countless times I have seen Drouin maneuver the defensive box, by skating around with the puck and faking a shot, and getting a little out of position. He then slides the puck over to Weber who rifles it. As mentioned above, teams are still covering Weber at this point, as he is the strongest threat on the power play. He rarely gets a clear shooting lane. Therefore, the second sniper is the player who Marc Bergevin
should try to acquire to help the power play. The question is whom should he acquire?
Option 1. Tyler Toffoli-L.A. Kings. Tyler Toffoli is a pure sniper who has hit the 20-goal mark numerous times in his career, and has also hit the 30-goal mark a few times. 25% of his goals come on the power play. He is young and has term on his contract, so he is not necessarily a rental. As Marc Bergevin said he will not be trading for pure rentals, this can be considered a positive factor in the case for trading for Toffoli. With the Kings in rebuild mode, Bergevin won’t have to sell the farm to get Toffoli. The problem with trading for Toffoli is that he isn’t having the greatest year this year, with 26 points in 55 games as of Feb. 11 and only 2 power play goals. You could argue that he needs a change in scenery, but a change of scenery’s effect on a player is unpredictable. So Marc Bergevin would be taking a risk should he trade for Toffoli.
Option 2. Wayne Simmonds-Philadelphia Flyers. Simmonds is more of a veteran option to help the Canadiens’ power play. He has a decent shot. He is 30 years old, and has 156 power play points, including 94 power play goals. He currently has 5 this year, three more than Toffoli. However, there are two issues with acquiring him. First of all, his contract is expiring this summer, and Bergevin made it clear that he will not trade for rentals. Second of all, the Flyers have been on a tear lately, and could make a late push for a playoff spot. If this happens, the cost for Simmonds would go up, because the Flyers will want a return that will enable them to continue their playoff push.
Option 3. Mika Zibanejad-New York Rangers. This one’s not someone you’ll see on every list of potential helpers on the power play. Mika Zibanejad is 25 years old, and is scoring at a roughly point-per-game pace this year. He has a whopping eight power play goals on the season. He is by far the best player on this list. Oh, and did I mention he’s a center? With the Rangers rebuilding, he could be shipped out sometime soon. There’s just one problem: the price. A dynamic young centerman who is scoring at a point-per-game pace will cost a hefty price. I don’t think Marc Bergevin is willing to sell the farm to get Zibanejad, especially if he also wants to trade for a left-shot defenseman. It’s still okay to dream, right?
Marc Bergevin will be pretty busy trying to find a trade target to help the power play. He knows that the second sniper option is essential, it has been used against his team many times. Who will he trade for? Let the rumours… begin!
Signed, Le Bo