Canadiens: At What Point Does Caufield's Struggles Become A Concern?

The Forward Has Just Three Goals In His Last 20 Games
Los Angeles Kings v Montreal Canadiens
Los Angeles Kings v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Cole Caufield is a pure goal scorer, possessing an elite shot and an innate ability to get open. That’s resulted in him finding the back of the net at every level he’s ever played at, and this includes the NHL. But this season, that goal-scoring ability hasn’t flashed like it has in the past, with lengthy droughts without scoring.

The sniper has just seven goals in 27 games, a 21-goal pace for the year. No matter how you look at it, that would be a pretty disappointing output for Caufield and Canadiens fans alike. Especially after Caufield signed a massive eight-year contract extension in the off-season that sees him get paid $7.85 million a season. The bottom line is he has to be better, and Caufield knows that.

But how concerning are his struggles? Are they a sign of his game falling off, or is it just a rough stretch for him? If it were an instance of a lack of effort or engagement, you might have a serious issue at hand, but every player can go through rough patches. Heck, Caufield himself saw a stretch during his rookie season where he had just one goal in 30 games before exploding in the home stretch of the year.

Fortunately, I don’t believe this to be a case of poor play so much as some struggles. You can see he’s still engaged on the ice, and the opportunity to put points on the board are there. But they just haven’t gone in. In the first three seasons of his career, Caufield had a 14.1% shooting percentage. His shooting percentage this season is currently sitting at 6.9%; you have to think it’s only a matter of time before that starts to rise again.

And Caufield is engaged on the ice, and his line looks particularly good with the inclusion of Juraj Slafkovsky on his other wing. That line has been a force as of late; they just haven’t been able to find the back of the net, and that doesn’t fall on Caufield alone.

The whole team is struggling to score on a night-to-night basis. Caufield has just seven goals this year, an admittedly low number this far into the season, and yet he’s third on the team in goals behind Nick Suzuki and Sean Monahan, who both have just eight. That puts the Canadiens leading goal scorer on pace for just 24 goals this year. Montreal, Calgary and San Jose are the only teams with a goal scorer yet to reach double figures.

The longer this continues, the more concerned I’d be with Caufield, but I think he’s played okay despite the lack of production. With 13 assists, he’s already surpassed his total from last season (10), and seeing as we know he can score, it’s not unreasonable to think he can turn this around. Players like Caufield can score in bunches, too, so he could have an offensive explosion that can make us forget about early-season struggles.

Let’s just hope that happens sooner rather than later. Something has to give here; logic dictates that, it feels like it’s only a matter of time.