Canadiens season-end grades: Domi put together a year to remember

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin comments at the Habs end of the season press conference.

With a 96-point season in the books, and after a 25-point improvement in the standings, it was as positive of a campaign as the Montreal Canadiens could’ve put together without making the playoffs.

As a team, they finished with 44 wins and the 14th-best record in the National Hockey League. They ran the sixth-best 5-on-5 offence, ranked 12th in goals against and finished 13th on the penalty kill. And along the way, a dozen players set new career-highs in either goals, assists, or points, and a couple more tied their best in one or more of the categories.

With a closer look at those individual performances, here are our player grades for the 2018-19 Canadiens.


Carey Price: GP: 66 | Record: 35-24-6 | SV% .918 | GAA 2.49

Our grade: A

Justification: A big bounce back from what was statistically the worst season of his career in 2017-18. Broke the record for franchise wins along the way, and put up the second-most wins in the NHL and a .925 save percentage from Dec. 1 onward.

One thing to improve on: Start to the season. With the Canadiens jumping out to a 6-2-2 start, Price was steady but not the difference in any of their wins. His 3-5-2 November, with a .886 save percentage and 3.81 goals-against average, was the one blemish keeping him from an A+ grade.

Antti Niemi: GP: 17 | Record: 8-6-2 | SV% .887 | GAA 3.78

Our grade: F

Justification: The one player told by Bergevin he won’t be back next season, and it’s no surprise since he was pulled from two of his last four starts and closed out the year with four straight losses, allowing 14 goals in the process.

One thing to improve on: Consistency. Niemi’s play was unpredictable this season. He had a career night, with a 53-save win over the Florida Panthers on Jan. 15, and he followed it up with those last four games.

Max Domi, GP: 82 | G: 28 | A: 44 | P: 72

Our grade: A+

Justification: He scored 10 more goals, eight more assists and 20 more points than in any one of his previous three seasons, and he managed to do it while exclusively playing centre at this level for the first time in his career.

One thing to improve: Faceoffs. He won just 447 of the 996 draws he took, finishing off with a 44.9% efficiency rating.

Tomas Tatar, GP: 80 | G: 25 | A: 33 | P: 58

Our grade: A

Justification: He put up six more assists and two more points than he had in any of his previous eight seasons, and he was equally effective on the defensive side of the puck—posting a team-high plus-21.

One thing to improve: Power play scoring. Had he just hit his career-average of nine power play goals, he’d have notched the first 30-goal season of his career. Instead he finished with his lowest total (four) since his rookie season.

Jonathan Drouin, GP: 81 | G: 18 | A: 35 | P: 53

Our grade: D

Justification: Despite setting a new career-high in assists and tying his previous high in points, he fell three goals short of his best and failed to produce when it mattered most—managing just one goal and two assists over the final 18 games while the Canadiens were fighting for a playoff spot. This was supposed to be a breakout season for Drouin, but he got stuck in neutral for too much of it.

One thing to improve: Consistency. As captain Shea Weber put it on Tuesday, "I think if he’s consistently at that level, and he’s playing his best game, I think even he knows he wants to be more consistent and contributing the way he knows he can every night."

Phillip Danault, GP: 81 | G: 12 | A: 41 | P: 53

Our grade: A+

Justification: Danault shattered previous highs in assists and points while establishing himself as an elite shutdown centre, one who worked his way into the Selke Trophy conversation.

One thing to improve: Needs to shoot more. Danault finished with just 132 shots on net, or less than any other Canadiens forward to have played at least 50 games.

Brendan Gallagher, GP: 82 | G: 33 | A: 19 | P: 52

Our grade: A

Justification: After scoring 31 goals a year ago, the beating heart of the Canadiens found the net 33 times. He also led the NHL’s forwards in 5-on-5 shot attempts (420) and finished sixth in shots on net (302).

One thing to improve: Play on the power play. He registered 26 shots less on the power play than he did a year ago and as a result finished with half as many goals (4) in the category.

Andrew Shaw, GP: 63 | G: 19 | A: 28 | P: 47

Our grade: A+

Justification: Beat his career-high in points by eight and did it in 17 less games. Not bad for a player who missed all of training camp after coming back from knee surgery a full month sooner than expected. Not even a mid-season neck injury that induced concussion symptoms slowed this guy down, with 45 of his 47 points coming over his last 52 games. Simply put, an outstanding season.

One thing to improve: That temper. He just can’t help himself sometimes.

Jeff Petry, GP: 82 | G: 13 | A: 33 | P: 46

Our grade: A+

Justification: What else are you supposed to give a guy who notched career-highs in goals, assists and points and finished 15th among defenceman in scoring? Without the work Petry did in Shea Weber’s absence through to late November, the Canadiens wouldn’t have been in the playoff race—and certainly not in it all the way until the penultimate night of the regular season.

One thing to improve: Hit the net. Of the 408 shots Petry attempted, only 172 were on net.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, GP: 79 | G: 11 | A: 23 | P: 34

Our grade: B

Justification: All in all, a solid season for the NHL’s youngest player, but no goals on the road, and the wall hit full force with about 15 games remaining, making it less than perfect. Still, the potential is clear; he’s going to be an A-level player for years to come.

One thing to improve: That skating stride. It’s unconventional at best and choppy at worst. Some muscle added in the summer should make it more explosive, but it can use some refining.

Shea Weber, GP: 58 | G: 14 | A: 19 | P: 33

Our grade: B+

Justification: A 33-year-old player jumps into the season 24 games in, coming off major surgery on both legs and a near year-long break from hockey, and manages to score the eighth-most goals among defencemen in the league? Tremendous. If not for a lull in late-Feburary/early March, where his ice-time needed to be reduced, it was a near perfect season for the captain of the Canadiens.

One thing to improve: Less giveaways. Weber had 12 more than his career average, but in 24 less games than usual.

Paul Byron, GP: 56 | G: 15 | A: 16 | P: 31

Our grade: A

Justification: If not for injuries, Byron was on pace to beat career highs in every relevant category. He still came close to tying his bests but in 36 less games.

One thing to improve: Sorry, we don’t have a single suggestion. We’d say shoot more, but he’s a career 17 per-cent shooter because he only really elects to shoot from in close.

Artturi Lehkonen, GP: 82 | G: 11 | A: 20 | P: 31

Our grade: C

Justification: He’s better than what he showed this year, in almost every way. Granted he does all the important little things, but 11 goals with that shot? Not good enough. Not even close. If his responsible play continues to earn him top-six minutes, he’s going to have to produce much more.

One thing to improve: Poise. A guy who misses this many high-danger chances (he had 73 high-danger shot attempts according to is a little too jittery in the crunch. Meditate, Artturi. Visualize the puck going in, and get back to doing what you know how to do, what got you to the NHL in the first place.

Joel Armia, GP: 57 | G: 13 | A: 10 | P: 23

Our grade: C

Justification: Technically, Armia set a new career-high in goals and did so in 22 less games. But a guy with his remarkable puck-protection skills, his heavy shot, his quick release, his puck-stealing stick and his instincts should be scoring double. A knee injury knocked him out of 25 games, and he deserves some slack for how he looked for the first couple of weeks post-return, but this guy has more to give in almost every department.

One thing to improve: That one-timer. Unofficial statistic, but he surely led the team in fanned shots on one-timers.

Jordie Benn, GP: 81 | G: 5 | A: 17 | P: 22

Our grade: B+

Justification: He matched his career-high in assists and beat his personal bests in goals and points, and we’re talking about a player who’s known strictly for his defence. Benn finished plus-15, had a 53.4 per cent corsi for and blocked more shots than any other player on the team. That’s as good as it gets for a third-pairing defenceman.

One thing to improve: Playing the left side. He’s far more effective on the right, and because the Canadiens are thin on the left he’s forced to play there more often. It’s a problem he might not have to worry as much about if he ends up signing elsewhere this summer.

Brett Kulak, GP: 57 | G: 6 | A: 11 | P: 17

Our grade: B

Justification: Kulak took a giant step forward and established himself as an NHL regular after playing 70 games in Calgary last season and starting off this one in Laval. He put up career-highs in every category and played steadily in a role that’s well above his paygrade (a $900, 000 top-four defenceman).

One thing to improve: Needs to be stronger on the puck. Was knocked off of it too easily at times.

Victor Mete, GP: 71 | G: 0 | A: 13 | P: 13

Our grade: A

Justification: Emerged as a legitimate top-four defenceman, played against top opposition every night and was over 50 per cent in corsi. At 20-years-old, the party is just getting started for this 5-foot-9 speedster.

One thing to improve: His shot. If it was better, he’d not own the NHL’s longest goal drought (120 games and counting).

Mike Reilly, GP: 57 | G: 3 | A: 8 | P: 11

Our grade: D-

Justification: Reilly has the speed, the passing ability and the shot to be a legitimate offensive defenceman. But if he doesn’t provide offence—he didn’t provide enough of it in the 57 games he played—he doesn’t do enough to justify his place in the lineup. His inconsistency put him out of favour with coach Claude Julien, and Christian Folin’s acquisition at the trade deadline put him out of a job.

One thing to improve on: Decision making. He showed flashes of brilliance playing as simply as he possibly could. It was when he was thinking about what to do that he complicated matters beyond repair.

Jordan Weal, GP: 16 | G: 4 | A: 6 | P: 10

Our grade: A

Justification: In a limited sample size, after he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes for Michael Chaput at the trade deadline, Weal proved worthy of a new contract with the Canadiens. He got his opportunity and took advantage of it, and he gave the lifeless power play a boost.

One thing to improve on: His shot can use some work, but we’re nitpicking.

Matthew Peca, GP: 39 | G: 3 | A: 7 | P: 10

Our grade: F

Justification: Peca got the opportunity of his career when he signed a one-way, two-year, $2.6-million contract with the Canadiens following just 20 games played at this level. The fourth-line centre position was his to lose, and lost it, he did. Just like he quickly lost his job as a fourth-line winger. In the end, he was scratched for all but a couple of the 43 games he missed.

One thing to improve on: Anything. If he’s not going to be a secondary scorer, he has to be an elite penalty killer. If he’s not going to be counted on to play in an offensive role, he can’t be a minus-11 from the fourth line. Peca needs to find a specialty fast or he’ll be playing in another league by this time next year.

Nate Thompson, GP: 25 | G: 1 | A: 6 | P: 7

Our grade: B

Justification: He did exactly what was expected of him after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in February. A steady faceoff man who helped the penalty kill tremendously and brought experience to one of the youngest teams in the league.

One thing to improve on: At age 34, he might just be done with the improvement process. But if he remains in as good shape as he appeared to be in with Montreal, he should get a contract somewhere this summer.

Charles Hudon, GP: 32 | G: 3 | A: 2 | P: 5

Our grade: F

Justification: After working so hard to finally break through with the Canadiens a year ago—notching 30 points in 70 games as a rookie—Hudon took his foot off the gas. Playing seven more games than Thompson and registering two fewer points says everything about his play. We felt as bad as anyone seeing him choke back tears as he discussed his murky future in Montreal when he met reporters earlier this week, but he was his own worst enemy this season. Bad offensive-zone penalties, bad puck management, and a lack of speed put him in Julien’s doghouse.

One thing to improve: Be the hungriest player at training camp next fall. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said on Tuesday that he hasn’t thrown in the towel on you, Charles. Show him what kind of player you can be.

Nicolas Deslauriers, GP: 48 | G: 2 | A: 3 | P: 5

Our grade: D-

Justification: A strong showing in a couple of important games down the stretch saved Deslauriers from a failing grade, but his production was a quarter of what it was a year ago. A facial injury hurt his game out of the gate and he never really found his best self at any point. He was slow in all facets and lacking in the type of energy that made him effective in his debut season with the Canadiens.

One thing to improve on: Execution. It’s as simple as getting pucks out and getting pucks in, being hard on the forecheck and responsible on the backcheck. If it doesn’t improve, his place in the NHL—even as a depth option—belongs to someone else.

Christian Folin, GP: 19 | G: 0 | A: 4 | P: 4

Our grade: C+

Justification: Half his games since coming over from the Philadelphia Flyers in February made it hard to justify his presence in the lineup. In the other half, the 6-foot-3, 204-pounder threw his weight around and played quite steadily at both ends on the third pair with Benn.

One thing to improve on: Playing on his toes. Without an explosive skating stride, he needs to be in perpetual motion, trying to be the aggressor as much as possible.

Dale Weise, GP: 9 | G: 0 | A: 0 | P: 0

Our grade: F

Justification: He came to Montreal from Philadelphia with a real desire to show his best self, to get back to the player he was before he was traded away from the Canadiens in 2016, but nothing happened with him on the ice. No goals, no assists, no points. Weise had just five shots in nine games.

One thing to improve on: Get that edge back. If he really wants it bad enough, he can get back to being an effective, irritating player to play against. He has a chance to prove he can be that player, with one year remaining on his contract.

Ryan Poehling, GP: 1 | G: 3 | A: 0 | P: 3

Our grade: A+

Justification: He played just one game after leaving St. Cloud State University, but it might go down as the best game he ever plays. The Canadiens are certainly hoping that doesn’t prove to be the case.

One thing to improve on: Pace. Not that he looked a step slow in his magical game against Toronto, but we’d imagine it’ll be a focal point of his summer training to do everything a little faster before showing up to camp next fall.

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