Cole Caufield sent down to AHL Laval Rocket
What’s Happening: On Nov.1, 10 games into the NHL season, Cole Caufield of the Montreal Canadiens was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket. This is after a slow start for one of the Calder Trophy favorites, with only 1 Assist and a +/- of -3 through those 10 games.
After seeing plenty of playing time (26 shifts and 17:58 minutes in game No. 1) his time-on-ice shrunk, down to 15 shifts and 11:06 minutes in game No. 10. As far as Coach Dominique Ducharme was concerned, Caufield was “squeezing the stick and overthinking a little bit,” so it’s a good time for him to “[take] a step back, [go back to the basics], and [find] his swag and confidence.”
Backstory: The situation for the Canadiens now is much different than it was when they called up Caufield last season. On April 26, the Canadiens had a decent team and opportunity, were teetering on a playoff spot, and needed to do whatever was necessary in order to at least have a shot at a run for the Stanley Cup.
Caufield was on a roll after a strong season with the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers and a hot start—3 Goals and 4 Points in two Games—with the Rocket. The decision to at least give him an opportunity was obvious. Within a few games, he started to put up some much-needed goals for the Canadiens and the rest—4 Goals and 12 Points in 20 Playoff Games—is history. But that was then.
Is it the right call? It’s a new season now. The Canadiens are noticeably weaker than they were last season, and key players like Paul Byron, Joel Edmundson, Mathieu Perreault, and Carey Price (who could be back soon) are out of the lineup. The team has had a horrible start—3-8-0—and their chances of making the playoffs were pretty slim even before the season was underway. Few players on the team are playing well. Why would you keep Caufield up with the team, playing him only 13 some-odd minutes a game when he and the team are struggling, when you could give him more opportunities and help him build confidence with the Rocket?
Fans should remember that sending him down only needs to last as long as is necessary. As Coach Ducharme said, “You look back and you see guys like Marchand, Pasternak, 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 it's going to help him out."
In other words, this move isn’t the end of the world for Caufield; it’s a no-brainer for his long-term development.