Canadiens send preseason Calder favorite Caufield to AHL

Cole Caufield
Francois Lacasse

Times are tough for the Montreal Canadiens.

With Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks the Canadiens fell to 2-8-0 on the season and continue to take up residence in the NHL’s basement just months after playing for the Stanley Cup.

Some of this, to a degree, was expected. There were massive changes to the roster this offseason (Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Philip Danault, and Tomas Tatar left the team; Shea Weber is injured; Carey Price is away from the team) and they were no longer going to be playing in a favorable division, instead returning back to an Atlantic Division that is full of Cup contenders.

Even making the playoffs seemed like a challenge, let alone returning to the Cup Final.

The big hope for optimism centered around their two prized young talents, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, taking big steps foward.

Even that has not worked out.

The duo entered Monday having combined for zero goals through the team’s first 10 games, while the Canadiens made the decision to send Caufield to Laval of the American Hockey League.

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It is stunning because Caufield entered the season as one of the league candidates for the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year. Given the way he played in his first taste of NHL action a year ago, it seemed like worthy hype. He appeared in 10 regular season games at the end of the season, scoring four goals. He was then one of the Canadiens’ most electrifying players during their Cup Final run and always seemed to be at the center of something positive when he was on the ice.

But much of that has disappeared this season. Is it bad luck? With zero goals on 22 shots on goal, there has to be an element of that. He scored on more than 10% of his shots a year ago in the regular season and playoffs. A repeat of that this season would give him at least a couple of goals at the moment.

Bad usage? His power play usage and role has been suspect, and he has spent more time playing next to Mathieu Perreault than Suzuki. He has also been buried down the depth chart in terms of ice-time (ninth among all forwards in total time on ice per game; fifth on the power play) while none of the team’s power play seemed to go through him.

A lack of confidence? This is the first time in Caufield’s career that he has ever really gone through some struggles scoring goals and producing offense. For a 20-year-old trying to find his footing in the NHL there is no doubt a learning curve there.

Or perhaps it is a mix of all three factors. Whatever the case, he and the Canadiens are both struggling right now.

While sending him to the AHL seems drastic given all of that, it may not be the worst idea at the moment. He would not be the first player to benefit from a stint in the AHL to regain some confidence.

The fact they are even in this situation right now is just a testament to how poorly things have gone for the Canadiens this season.

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