Grading the overall leadership of the Montreal Canadiens

Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Mike Matheson form the foundation that the Habs rely on. Without them, the team might not be progressing the way they have.
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens are two seasons into their rebuild and while it’s not been the smoothest of sailing, the leadership group has steadied the sails considerably well. 

Nick Suzuki, while just 24 years old, it feels like he has been around the organization for so long. From 2020-21 competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and helping the team to the finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then being named captain just two seasons later, for a rebuilding team, it's been a whirlwind, but the London, Ontario native has proven management right with their decision to name him captain.

Each season, he has improved statistically, but his leadership has shown a maturity beyond his 24 years. Tasked with helping Juraj Slafkovsky adjust to life in the NHL and find his confidence, Suzuki never skipped a beat. He was also helpful with Cole Caufield, who had a huge year of growth, while also reaching a career-high in goals (28), assists (37) and points (65).

Brendan Gallagher, now 31 years old, soon to be 32, played 77 games this season, his highest total since playing 82 in 2018-19. He also scored 16 goals, which was his best since he scored 22 in 2019-20. But we have come to know that Gallagher's effectiveness goes beyond goals and assists, but his tenacity and heart each shift.

Gallagher's engine and willingness to get into the dirty areas and battle between the whistles is second to none on the Canadiens. If he is on the ice, one thing is for sure, he gives it his all and is out of breath at the end of each shift. If the opposition tries taking a liberty against his linemates, he is the first one to stand up and make the opponent's answer for their actions.

Mike Matheson was presented the assistant captaincy before the 2023-24 season and he took it and ran with it. Matheson posted a career-high in assists with 51 and he matched his previous career best of 11 goals, from 2021-22 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 30-year-old Pointe-Claire, QC native played 82 games this year, the most of his career, besting his previous best of 81 from 2016-17 and 2017-18 in Florida.

Alongside David Savard, Matheson helped the young defence core through another big development season. For the most part, he also helped Kaiden Guhle adapt to life on the top defence pair. Matheson also led the team in ice time, while serving as one of the top penalty killers and the number one power play quarterback.

Mistakes were made, which is to be expected with a team that is still developing and pushing from rebuilding to contending, so for that reason, I would give the leadership group an A grade. There is room for improvement, but the leadership group is doing their best to make sure everybody is on the same page. Martin St. Louis has the team buying in and the leadership group echoes his words while on the ice, which has pushed the team through the murky waters.