The Montreal Canadiens have sent center Ryan Poehling down to the Laval Rocket in the AHL. The former first round pick doesn’t have to go through waivers so the demotion comes at no risk for the team.
A few weeks ago, in an interview on the podcast Habs Tonight with Dale Weise, Poehling had mentioned being very disappointed and feeling down after failing to make the big club in his rookie year and having to go to the AHL. This announcement isn’t going to be easier for the 22 year-old, who was penciled in as the team’s third or fourth line center after Jesperi Kotkaniemi left for Carolina.
In all fairness, Poehling only has himself to blame for being sent down, having been given every opportunity to shine and to earn a spot at camp during exhibition games. Unfortunately for everyone, the big center was too often uninvolved and invisible during those games. This forced the Canadiens to claim Adam Brooks off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the writing was on the wall from then on.
Many claimed that this was his season or bust for Poehling but that’s far from the truth. At least, not as far as his NHL career is concerned. At 22, he still has time to improve and become a good player. But it’s all in his hands. He needs to be more involved in the play and develop more consistency in his game. It’s a cliché but for his development, he’s much better off playing top minutes in the AHL than in the role of the 12th or 13th forward with limited ice time in Montreal.
In my mind, there are two questions that remain to be answered, or seen:
1- How does the organisation feel about the fact that he failed to seize the opportunity when the door was kicked wide open for him? Does the team give up on him and include him in a trade to address some other needs, while he still has good value? Or do they still believe in him and on his development?
2- How will Poehling react to the disappointing news? If he goes out and dominates the AHL and continues improving, he could be the first forward called up if or when needed. But if he pouts and sulks over his seemingly demotion, his future will look rather bleak.
The young man’s future is still in his own hands and he will ultimately decide of it with his attitude. Some players fold when they don’t get what they want, others get mad and take a “I will show them” attitude. Those are the winners more often than not and let’s all hope that Ryan takes that approach.