Joel Armia’s Playing Inspired Hockey Since Return From Laval

Montreal Canadiens v Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

Montreal Canadiens winger Joel Armia has had an interesting 2023-24 season.

At the start of the year, he was barely playing well enough to secure a fourth-line role with the Canadiens. This led to a demotion with an assignment in Laval with the Rocket. Down in the American Hockey League, Armia led by example presenting as one of the team’s best players. 

The 30-year-old Finland native scored above a point-per-game clip with nine points through eight games. His inspired play earned him a promotion back up with the Canadiens, and since he has looked like a completely different player. Armia’s 16 points through 45 games is his best production since scoring 30 points through 58 games in 2019-20. 

Measuring Armia’s play based on his point production would take away from the player he is. His 6 foot 4 218 pound frame makes him a nightmare on the forecheck and an ideal penalty killer. He isn’t likely to play on the Habs powerplay, but he earns his keep on the penalty kill. 

His relentless puck pursuit and strong puck protection game serve him well in transition. The time and space that he generates with his strong puck play endear him to his linemates and are a large reason why he has stuck in the lineup. Very much behind him is the early season lackadaisical play, which has been a huge positive for the Canadien's bottom six.

From a player at the start of the season who couldn’t stick in Montreal, to one who has been discussed as a trade option for playoff contenders. It’s incredible to see him playing so well and providing such great play for a team that needs veterans to help steady the ship. Armia is the type of player who thrives during playoff hockey because his dogged style wears down opponents, especially in a seven-game series. 

Unfortunately, Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher are trending in the opposite direction. Simply put, when the veterans are on their game, the Canadiens can roll their lines. But that hasn’t been the case, and the top line has been leaned upon very heavily because of it.

It wouldn’t be surprising if teams have been calling Kent Hughes to see about Armia’s availability. And with his value so high, it might be something to consider. More often than not, after a player reaches 30 years old, the decline begins and with it a player's value.