Montreal Canadiens assign Cole Caufield to AHL; was that the best move?

This has been a difficult season for the Montreal Canadiens for a number of reasons. Coming off the euphoria of a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final, it’s been an offseason of missteps and misfortune for the ages.

If losing Shea Weber for the year, and likely his career was not bad enough, Carey Price placed himself in the Players Assistance Program to start the season. Free agent losses, and other injuries have taken their toll on Montreal.

Not to mention a lame duck GM in Marc Bergevin floundering around for a new contract.

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”879208″ player=”23765″ title=”NHL’s%20Top%20Young%20Stars%20for%20202122″ duration=”67″ description=”The NHL\’s Top Young Stars for 2021-22 features names like Alexis Lafrenière, Trevor Zegras, Quinton Byfield, Cole Caufield, and Peyton Krebs.” uploaddate=”2021-10-10″ thumbnailurl=”//” contentUrl=”//″]

Canadiens send down Cole Caufield

Following an unproductive start to the season, Montreal Canadiens rookie right winger Cole Caufield was optioned to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League on Monday.

Caufield, 20, has recorded just one assist and no goals through 10 games while averaging 14:11 of ice time.

“He was touching the puck like he was a little bit on his heels, not as confident and dynamic with the puck,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said via “He had a few good looks at the net, but just squeezing the stick a bit. So just to have him have good ice time, just gaining confidence, scoring a few goals, finding his game.”

cole caufield
Jun 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) celebrates with right wing Corey Perry (94) and center Nick Suzuki (14) after scoring a second period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in game five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens, who opened the year with five straight losses, are now 2-8-0 following last season’s surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final. Caufield helped power that postseason run: After playing 10 regular-season games, he tallied four goals and eight assists over 20 games in the playoffs.

The U.S. born Caufield entered the 2021-22 season with high expectations, with sportsbooks making him the betting favorite to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year (Caufield’s rookie status is still intact).

“We really think highly of him,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “You look back and you see guys like (Brad) Marchand, (David) Pastrnak and those guys early in their career that needed to go through those kinds of things and came back and became really good players. And that’s what we believe in Cole for the future. I think down the line (the AHL is) going to help him out.”

The Habs recalled center Michael Pezzetta from Laval in a corresponding move and also added Mathieu Perreault to injured reserve. Perreault suffered an eye injury and will miss two to three weeks, per the team.

Was this the right move?

Most would argue with the state of the Habs that sending him down is better for his long-term future. Although, it has to be hard for Caufield and others to not see this as a setback.

“Obviously he’s got high expectations for himself,” Ducharme added. “When you start squeezing the stick and overthinking a little bit, then for an offensive guy like him, I think it just snowballs a little bit, so things get harder. And so I think just taking a step back and going back to those basics and finding his swag and confidence, he’s going to be back.”

Caufield was not having puck luck as he was second on the team with 22 shots on goal. It could have been only a matter of time for the goals to start going in. If he were to go down and struggle in the AHL, how will that impact his psyche then?

The decision by the Habs is a safe one. Caufield should excel in the minors and find himself back with the club in no time. They just need to hope his scoring woes don’t continue there too.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report