Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki's three defining moments of the 2023-24 season – The Hockey Writers – Montreal Canadiens


When Nick Suzuki was named captain of the Montreal Canadiens ahead of the 2022-23 season, many wondered whether he would be ready to take on such a responsibility. Nearly two years later, there's no doubt about it, and the Canadiens are his team now more than ever. He leads by example on and off the ice and speaks up when necessary. His importance to this team was once again evident in his best season to date. Let's look at three crucial moments from it.

Suzuki ushered in the arrival of Juraj Slavkovsky on the front row

Suzuki is a leader, there is no doubt about it, he does everything the way a hockey player should do to be successful. This also includes good communication with head coach Martin St. Louis. In early April, Stu Cowan reported in The Gazette:

But Suzuki isn't afraid to make his voice heard. At Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday, former NHL player Kevin Bieksa said Suzuki went to head coach Martin St. Louis in November and said he wanted Juraj Slafkovsky to play on his line with Cole Caufield because he I felt like he could help No. 1. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft after a slow start to the season.

(from “Canadiens' Suzuki Has Played Key Role in Slafkovsky's Emergence,” The Gazette, April 10, 2024)

It takes courage to go up to your coach and give him your opinion on the lines, especially when the opinion is unsolicited, and yet Suzuki did it, thankfully. The newly formed front row was the perfect example for everyone in the lineup. Not only were they the main engine of the attack, but they were also at their best when they lacked the puck. Each of them strived to become the best hockey player they could be. Everyone followed the captain's example.

Suzuki has joined the 100-goal club

Suzuki played his fifth season in the NHL in 2023-24 and reached a new milestone, the 100-goal mark. The great thing about being a first-line center is that he is developing into a more complete player, refining his game and becoming a better scorer. He scored 13 goals in his first NHL season, 15 in his second, 21 in his third, 26 in his fourth and 33 last season. In the game against the Nashville Predators on March 5, Suzuki scored his 100th goalTh goal and he needed 353 games to achieve it.

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In the last two seasons he has increased his scoring speed because the quality of his wingers has also improved. A case in point; Caufield; The small winger became a better passer this season, he didn't always go for the shot and often found Suzuki in the right place. This also made the Canadiens' power play much less predictable.

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On his other wing, Juraj Slafkovsky improved leaps and bounds as the season went on, and it seemed like the game was slowing down for him. When he received the puck, he didn't feel like he had a time bomb in his hand. He took the time to look it up, assess the situation and choose the best option.

I doubt Suzuki will need another 353 games to reach the 200 goal mark. As the Canadiens' rebuild progresses, Montreal's power play is likely to become stronger. If Lane Hutson's game translates well to the NHL, it's hard not to imagine the mobile defenseman dancing along the blue line and finding opportunities to upstage his linemates.

Suzuki won its third Molson Cup

The Molson Cup is awarded each year to the player who has performed the most outstandingly throughout the season on the Canadian teams. After each game, three stars are selected and these three-star selections earn players Molson Cup points. In the 2023/24 season, the captain won the Molson Cup with the Canadiens for the third time in a row. He's still a long way from Guy Lafleur's six Molson Cups in a row, but he's catching up with Carey Price's five and Jose Theodore's four. However, Price has won a total of nine Molson Cups in his 15 seasons with the team. Considering Price was seriously injured in three of the remaining seasons, there were only three in which he played but did not win.

At 24, the path to many more Molson Cups ahead of Suzuki is wide open, but if Kent Hughes succeeds in his rebuild there should be plenty of competition for him. The pieces are already falling into place nicely in Montreal, with a solid first line, another quality center in Kirby Dach, Hutson knocking on the NHL's door and Kaiden Guhle being named Player of the Game for Team Canada at the World Championship on Tuesday (May 14 ).

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For so many years that trophy could have been called the Carey Price Cup, but those were the days when the Canadiens sat on Price's coattails and prayed and hoped that their goaltender would somehow carry them to the playoffs and a Stanley Cup would win even though there was no one scoring goals.

For Suzuki, last season was a complete success on an individual level, setting new personal bests in goals, assists and points. Of course, the ultimate goal remains to win the Stanley Cup, but in the meantime, it can't hurt to become a more complete player and challenge yourself to improve at both ends of the ice.