Cole Caufield was obviously the talk of the town when Kent Hughes answered journalists' questions about the Canadian's first half of the season on Monday morning. In a matter-of-fact tone, Hughes said Caufield only hit the target on seven percent of his shots on goal. He added that among scorers with 11 or 12 goals, Caufield's average is 110e Rank in the National League.
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The Habs general manager added that this was a significant decrease from last year. Caufield managed to score 26 goals in 46 games and maintain an average accuracy of 16.5% before a shoulder injury ended his season.
“Is it bad luck or is there something there? [qui ne va pas] in his litter?” he asked himself.
Maybe it's a combination of both.
Compared to 16.5 percent last season, Cole Caufield's accuracy rate is now just seven percent heading into Monday night's game. Photo Martin Chevalier
Stressed about his contract?
Still, the 23-year-old striker was given a generous contract worth a total of $62.8 million over eight years to score goals.
When I asked Hughes whether that was disappointing or concerning, he didn't use those words.
“But of course you want your scorers to score goals,” he replied.
“After goalkeepers, scorers are the most difficult players to maintain consistency from one season to the next and throughout the season.”
“But I don’t want him to play differently or be pressured by management because of his contract. We want Cole to stay Cole.”
“What impresses me about him is that he keeps a smile in the room. It is so important. He brings life into the team.”
Hughes would be worried if it were the other way around.
“When he feels pressure, he doesn’t show it,” he concluded.
Good or not?
Is this the right approach?
Yes and no.
Caufield should get a little angry. Tell yourself with conviction that this has gone on long enough and that the time has come to take the bull by the horns.
The fact is that not all players respond to adversity the same way. Some keep their problems to themselves while others lose their temper.
Max Pacioretty grumbled as he suffered from lethargy. His behavior brought him reproach, but he could not be accused of indifference. Also, I always thought that some people were too hard on him.
Rain or shine, Pacioretty showed up in front of reporters every day and didn't try to exonerate himself when he wasn't producing.
It depends on the personality and character of the player.
Caufield may have gone into catch-up mode. Last night he scored his second goal in two games against the Avalanche. A real sniper goal from an acute angle.
St-Louis didn't laugh
The man who ran Caufield, Martin St-Louis himself, had a strong sense of self-criticism when things didn't go his way. I will always remember a discussion I had with him in the final weeks of the season following the lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season.
In 2003 and 2004, St-Louis won the NHL scoring championship and won the Lester B. Pearson Trophy – now the Ted Lindsay Trophy – awarded by the Players' Association to the player most valuable to his team. When he returned to work, the Tampa League awarded him a six-year contract worth $31.5 million.
As I dug through my dusty old archives, I could see that my meeting with Saint-Louis took place exactly on March 4, 2006. He had a funereal face as he stood in front of his locker in the Lightning's amphitheater.
“It’s true that I don’t live up to expectations,” he agreed.
“The only thing a player can control when things aren’t working out is how hard he works. This is the first time I'm not up to speed. It’s not for lack of effort, but I’m not working well.”
St. Louis took it hard.
“On a psychological level it is very difficult,” he added.
“You don't want to disappoint anyone or yourself, but I'm starting to understand that it's part of a career. It’s difficult to repeat a season like two years ago every year.”
From then on, St-Louis scored 13 goals and totaled 18 points in 23 games, finishing the season with a record of 31 goals and 30 appearances, for a total of 61 points in 80 games.
The following year he celebrated what was probably the comeback of the year. Nothing less than a 102-point haul (43-59) for the most productive season of his career.
St-Louis should perhaps say a word to Caufield…