Kaiden Guhle Needs To Reintroduce His Hitting Ways

Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks
Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages

When former Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin made his first-round selection at the 2020 draft, he did so confidently.

Understandably so, because his selection was a defensive stalwart, who could skate like the wind, hit like a truck and had some untapped offensive potential. Today, Kaiden Guhle has lessened his physical play, but the skating continues to shine. Offensively, there still appears to be a little more room to grow, but he has put an onus on defending and playing the game responsibly.

On Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks, there were several occasions where Guhle was tested with late hits. It appears that he isn't feared, as teams no longer expect him to throw big hits. He doesn't staple players to the boards who dare to cross his side of the blue line.

But he could stand to reintegrate his hitting ways that have mostly left his game since his junior days. He doesn't need to be as physical as Arber Xhekaj or even Michael Pezzetta. But the opposition is sure to take fewer liberties against the Albertan if he reminds them that it won't be smooth sailing crossing him at the blue line.

While many teams don't challenge the defence like the Canucks did, it's a stern reminder that physical play is still important. After getting pushed around all night by the Canucks, it's hard to imagine Guhle felt very pleased. Shooting back would have gone a long way to discouraging the hitting onslaught.

The Guhle that patrolled the Prince Albert, then the Edmonton Oil Kings blueline was a menace and made opponents think before trying to enter the zone on his side. Bergevin drafted him to insulate the smaller, skilled forwards and then added in Xhekaj to do the same. Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton would conceivably hope for the same from Guhle, especially considering that Mike Matheson isn't an overly physical defence partner.

It's not meant as a shot against Guhle, who has been one of the Canadiens best all-around defenders since he debuted. But it's more of a suggestion of something that would help him deal with less wear and tear on his body. The season is a long one and when the team starts competing in the playoffs it only gets more intense and strenuous on a player, so Guhle using his size to keep the opposition in check would be beneficial for his health.

Guhle is a huge part of the Habs blue line and the Canadiens are better with him in the lineup than not.