Jack Todd: Canadiens need Cole Caufield's offence, but he's firing blanks

Diminutive winger is seventh in the NHL with 105 shots, but he has only seven goals, meaning less than 7 per cent of his shots are going in.

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For at least a month, it was the elephant in the room. A diminutive elephant, perhaps, but pachyderm all the same.

Cole Caufield’s shot, one of the quickest, loudest snipes in the business, had gone as quiet as the blessed silence after you mute Ron MacLean.

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No one wanted to pounce on Caufield, one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise — especially not when he’s coming back from shoulder surgery. But after a six-game scoreless streak, there’s no avoiding it.

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“Cole Caufield,” said the fan known as Jaykeeper on X (formerly Twitter), “is scoring goals like he’s being coached by Dom Ducharme.”

It would be more of a concern if Caufield wasn’t getting his chances, but as Stu Cowan pointed out after Sunday night’s 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, Caufield is still firing away at the usual clip and ranks seventh in the NHL with 105 shots.

Still, with seven goals on the season, Caufield is on pace for a 21-goal season, roughly half what the Canadiens hoped for from a guy who could snap a wrist shot through a coin slot.

Caufield had nine shots in Buffalo, but only two against Nashville — but it’s not the number, it’s the shooting percentage. Last season, it was an untenable 16.5 per cent. This year, Caufield is down to 6.7 per cent.

Is it the shoulder that put a premature end to what would surely have been a 40-goal campaign last season, when Caufield had 26 in 46 games? Or some other, unnoticed factor?

As Cowan noted, Martin St. Louis isn’t concerned about Caufield’s production. “He’s going to score goals again … we know he’s going to score a lot of goals. But not at the price of being a more complete player.”

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Caufield’s slump wouldn’t draw so much attention on a team loaded with scorers. It wouldn’t draw so much attention if Josh Anderson wasn’t stuck on a single 190-foot goal for the season, despite those magnificent, swooping rushes that fall apart in the zone like a 1967 VW Beetle held together with chewing gum and baling wire.

The Habs have trouble scoring. Caufield scores. These things always even out and they will again. (He said, hopefully.)

One for Nancy and the Crew: “The key transfer for the Columbus Crew, the move that turned a team that missed the playoffs in the previous two years into the 2023 MLS champions, was the capture of the head coach,” wrote the Guardian.

That would be Wilfried Nancy, the CF Montréal coach that Joey Saputo didn’t want. Saturday afternoon, Nancy took the Crew to glory with a 2-1 victory over defending champion Los Angeles FC.

And he did it in the same fashion he transformed Montreal, going fiercely on the attack, playing what the Guardian called “effervescent soccer.”

Along the way, Nancy became the first Black coach to win the MLS championship, a tremendous personal achievement for him. Given his success here, you have to think that Montreal might be staging its second championship parade in as many months if only the owner had the common sense to hire the best and stay out of the way.

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Toronto, you were played: It was a two-popcorn potboiler, a B-movie farce that was entertaining even if you knew the outcome before the opening credits started rolling.

In the end, of course, Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers just as he was bound to do from Day 1. He signed for a mere US$700 million over 10 years, which works out to $949.38 million Canadian at today’s exchange rate.

Pause, for a moment, and think of the havoc that might have resulted at Rogers if Ohtani had signed in Toronto, with more mass layoffs, more jacked-up prices for consumers and, possibly, orders from above for the Jays to dump salary elsewhere to compensate.

But it was going to happen. The Toronto Blue Jays were going to land the most sought-after free agent in the history of sought-after free-agents. Oh yes they were.

The pitch-and-hit superstar was going to leave his home in Southern California, move an additional six-hour flight away from Japan and a couple thousand miles from the beaches of L.A. and turn down one of the two most recognizable brands in the game in order to play for a second-tier franchise run by a couple of corporate yes-men and a buffoon in the dugout.

Oh yes he was.

Oh no he wasn’t.

In the end, there was the preposterous, irresponsible story of the plane that was carrying Ohtani to Toronto, followed by the inevitable disappointment when it turned out to be some Shark Tank personality instead.

The sharks were operating here alright, beginning with Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, who took a huge bite out of the gullible media in Hogtown.

Heroes: Juraj Slafkovsky, Mike Matheson, Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher, Jayden Struble, Jake Evans, Cayden Primeau, Christine Sinclair, Hector Camacho &&&& last but not least, Wilfried Nancy.

Zeros: The Blue Jays, Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins, Nez Balelo, Jon Morosi, Shi Davidi, Sportsnet, Jon Rahm, LIV Golf, Joey Saputo, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and Forever.

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