Canadiens' Josh Anderson struggling with a lack of production

“Usually when I stick to my game and play the right way, those things find their way to help you out. I’ve just got to get back to basics,” he says.

Article content

All the unbridled optimism of which Josh Anderson spoke about last September at the Canadiens’ annual golf tournament now seems like a distant memory, as his season continues to spiral downwards.

The disappointment is vividly etched in his eyes, and resonates in his voice, when he meets the media, perhaps reluctantly, forced to repeatedly answer the same questions about his lack of production.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Seven goals and 15 points through 51 games simply doesn’t cut it for a veteran player earning an annual salary of US$8-million, although his salary cap hit is a more modest US$5.5-million. It was former Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin who signed Anderson to a seven-year, US$38.5-million contract in October 2020, shortly after acquiring him in a trade for Max Domi. What’s worse, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound power forward could be considered a defensive liability, at minus-21.

Anderson, 29, was the subject of repeated trade rumours last season. But with the March 8 trade deadline fast approaching, this season’s speculation is much quieter. Nonetheless, Anderson admits it’s difficult not to look at his statistics and grow somewhat despondent. He said too much emphasis, at times, is placed on a player’s statistics. Of course, what else can he say?

“Maybe a little bit,” he said on Tuesday, following the Canadiens’ practice at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard. “Usually when I stick to my game and play the right way, those things find their way to help you out. I’ve just got to get back to basics.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

There’s still 27 games remaining for Montreal, enough time for Anderson to attempt to salvage something positive. But he’s unlikely to match the 21 goals he produced last season in 69 games before suffering a high ankle sprain in late March against Tampa Bay. Anderson’s biggest concern heading into a new season was converting the numerous breakaways he enjoyed a year ago.

He didn’t score his first goal until Dec. 4, against Seattle — and that came into an empty net. There was a productive stretch later that month, during which Anderson scored five goals and an assist over a five-game span. But he has been held to four points in 15 games since Jan. 1.

Despite all this, head coach Martin St. Louis has never questioned Anderson’s work ethic and desire, and appears willing to go to the wall for him while remaining patient. On Tuesday, Anderson was practising on the Canadiens’ second line, with Alex Newhook and rookie Joshua Roy.

St. Louis seems determined to provide Anderson with breathing room when it would be just as easy, in his role, to intervene.

“I don’t think it’s the same for every player,” St. Louis said. “It’s understanding the personalities, the individual. You always have to factor that in. There’s not one (thing) that works for this guy and that’s going to work for that guy and it’s going to work for that (other) guy. Everybody’s different. You’ve got to try to manage everybody the way they need to be managed, I guess.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Anderson said he’s concentrating on his play in the defensive zone while attempting to become more aggressive. He realizes he must be a 200-foot player, given the speed he still possesses. And he must try to provide space for his linemates, given his imposing size.

“Try not to get scored on,” he said. “I think that has been happening too much lately. I’m trying to find ways to get out of (his slump). Right now I’m trying to focus on being good in my defensive zone, and just trying to push the pace … go to the net and maybe score a dirty one when I can.

“Obviously I know the player that I am, being physical at times and trying to create energy for our team. I’m just trying to focus on that point.”

The Canadiens (22-25-8) will attempt to end a two-game losing streak Wednesday night (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN Radio 690, 98.5 FM) against the Buffalo Sabres before a pair of road games in Pittsburgh and New Jersey, Thursday and Saturday afternoon, respectively. Montreal remains 12 points behind Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot.

Winger Cole Caufield (therapy day) didn’t practice on Tuesday. St. Louis failed to identify his starting goalie against Buffalo.

[email protected]

Recommended from Editorial

Advertisement 5

Article content

Article content