The Montreal Canadiens’ young centre will make his All-Star Game debut on Feb. 4
Before the season, if you told Canadiens fans that Nick Suzuki would be an NHL All-Star in the 2021-22 season, they’d be ecstatic at the news but hardly surprised given his talent level and his performance in the Habs’ Stanley Cup Playoff run last summer. The team as a whole performed exceptionally well, but the 21-year-old Suzuki in particular led the team in goals and points, with seven and 16 respectively.
A little over six months later, the Habs have won a mere eight games through 44 total contests, and find themselves competing for the worst team in the league. For a variety of reasons that have already been extensively discussed, this season will go down in the Canadiens’ storied lore for all the wrong reasons. Frankly, no one on this roster deserves to be an All-Star, especially when you consider the talent that ultimately didn’t make the cut.
Disclaimer: diehard Habs fans might want to close their eyes for what’s about to come. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In 44 games played, Suzuki has tallied 27 points and has disappeared for extended stretches of the season. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand has 21 goals and 47 points in 37 games this season, playing some of the best hockey of his career. One of these two forwards didn’t make the cut (settle down, Marchand skeptics), for a simple yet nonsensical reason.
The NHL All-Star Game must showcase at least one player from each team, a requirement that makes snubbing deserving players inevitable. In each of the four divisions, 11 All-Stars are selected from the eight teams (nine skaters and two goalies). A contest, meant to showcase the league’s top talent, fails to do just that on an outdated technicality.
Is Suzuki a top-nine skater in the Atlantic division? Before the season, it wasn’t entirely out of the question that Suzuki could make the leap into stardom. Having watched most of the Canadiens games this season (a tough watch on most nights), I can safely say he isn’t there yet. Nonetheless, he will be recognized as the best player on this bottom-feeding ensemble.
So yes, Suzuki is an All-Star, a bittersweet notion that should still excite Montreal fans. The team’s newly-implemented number one centre is now 22 years old, and the Canadiens’ nightmare season is hardly a result of his play. And before I get labelled as a hater, I think Suzuki has what it takes to be Montreal’s foundational piece for years to come, and he earned every bit of the eight-year contract extension he signed in October 2021.
It’s just unfortunate that his first All-Star season — a feat worthy of remembrance — will be spoiled by the Canadiens’ woes and incompetence.
Graphic by Madeline Schmidt