Canadiens: Victor Mete’s Overdue Debut a Sign of Improved Depth

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 02: Victor Mete Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 02: Victor Mete Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Victor Mete has finally made his 2020-21 debut for the Montreal Canadiens.

In continuing their impressive play so far this season, the Canadiens easily dismantled the Vancouver Canucks with a 6-2 win on Monday night, led by a three-point performance from Jeff Petry, and two-point nights from Artturi Lehkonen (who played his 300th NHL game) and Nick Suzuki. After taking a 3-1 lead after the first period, the Canadiens continued applying pressure as the Canucks struggled to keep up both offensively and defensively.

After being relegated to Montreal’s taxi squad for the first eight games of the season, Mete slotted into the lineup in place of Brett Kulak, after speculation that the 22-year-old blueliner had requested a trade following the Habs 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday, their first regulation loss of the season. After a quick response from Habs GM Marc Bergevin stating that the team had no intent to trade Mete, the Ontario native played alongside Alexander Romanov on the third pairing.

More from Editorials

A fourth-round pick of the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Mete was originally seen as a top prospect for the Habs after making his NHL debut in the 2017-18 season. After posting 44 points in 50 games with the OHL’s London Knights in 2015-16, Mete quickly found a top pairing role for the Habs in a mostly lost season overall. With Captain Shea Weber dealing with a foot injury that ended his season after just 26 games, Mete saw increased minutes playing alongside Petry, current Canucks defenseman Jordie Benn, and ill-fated free agent pickup Karl Alzner.

With 7 points over 49 games, Mete’s +5 rating was second on the team behind current Anaheim Ducks forward Nicolas Deslauriers. With the team having had little in the way of answers after posting a 29-40-13 record, Mete was seen as a key part of Montreal’s pipeline going forward. While he has continued to play a consistent role for the Canadiens over the last two seasons, posting 13 and 11 points in 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively, the numerous additions made by Bergevin this past off-season have seen Mete’s role reduced considerably, with head coach Claude Julien placing Kulak alongside Romanov to start the season. After enduring an up and down 2019-20 season, posting just 7 points over 56 games, Kulak has found chemistry on the third pairing with a top prospect in Romanov, who has lived up to his high expectations thus far with 2 points and a +4 rating over 9 games.

In what was another strong showing for the Canadiens on Thursday, Mete got lost in the mix of offense in spite of 17:45 of ice time. With 1 hit, 3 blocks and a -2 rating, it was a mediocre start to the season for Mete, though there were some flashes of the speed and offensive instincts he’s become known for. While his shot and overall offensive production have left something to be desired, finally posting his long awaited first NHL goal in 2019-20, after going his first 127 games without one, Mete’s skating is undoubtedly his most valuable asset, and its what’s enabled him to stand out on a Canadiens defense that was previously lacking in speedier D-men aside from Petry.

After spending the first eight games of the 2020-21 season on the taxi squad, Victor Mete made his long awaited Canadiens debut on Monday.

So far this season, though, Montreal’s increased depth across their roster has left Mete on the outside looking in, a sign of the overall improvements that has led to the Canadiens posting an impressive 6-1-2 record to start this season. Former Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry has slotted in nicely on the Habs third line with Joel Armia still in concussion protocol, and long-time veteran Michael Frolik offers another reliable bottom six option. After being known as an offensive player for most of his career, Perry has fully embraced his new role as a checker/instigator, though has still managed to show glimpses of his offensive abilities with 1 goal and 2 assists in his first three games.

Following the addition of former Stanley Cup champion Joel Edmundson on the second pairing, Mete ultimately became expendable as the Habs focus on the blueline turned towards Romanov, who has looked completely at home in the NHL in spite of playing mostly third pairing minutes in the KHL previously. Three days into the free agency period, Montreal eventually opted to resign Mete to a one-year deal at league minimum, evidence of where his stock currently resides within the organization. While he once was seen as a bright part of the Canadiens future, the strong performance of acquisitions like Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli and Edmundson have left Mete as nothing more than a depth option, which is what most likely led to his rumored trade request.

While a tough situation for an undoubtedly talented defenseman in Mete, his reduced role is a sign of how far Montreal has come since the ill-fated 2017-18 season, now sitting as a powerhouse in the all-Canadian North Division. While teams like the Canucks, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers have the star power the Canadiens have long been lacking in, it comes at the cost of depth on their roster, which has left the Oilers and Canucks struggling to put together a competitive lineup when dealing with injuries and or a Covid-19 outbreak. As we look further into the 2020-21 season, the Canadiens should look to continue their strong performance and make a legitimate run at a playoff spot, and, while playing in a reduced role, Mete’s presence is still vital to the team’s depth on defense, and I personally believe he should be kept around.

Next. More to Mete's debut than ugly stat line. dark

Despite once being seen as one of the team’s burgeoning young stars, Mete’s role as more of a third pairing option is a positive sign for the Canadiens looking forward, with them set to face the Canucks again on Tuesday. Montreal’s strong start to the 2020-21 season has been a long time coming for Canadiens fans. Same can be said, for Victor Mete’s season debut.