A couple of days ago, our collaborator Bob Trask wrote this great piece about the controversy surrounding the future of Brendan Gallagher on the Canadiens. It is a thought provoking article, which we love here at Cheering the Logo.
While reading it, my mind was wandering in a few directions. It compelled me to add to it so if I may, please allow me to follow-up on Bob’s great work here.
First and foremost, let me state the obvious by saying that the level of satisfaction regarding Gallagher’s future contribution will depend a lot on what each one of us sees as “acceptable”, or “reasonable”. As this is a huge variant, it’s also where we can expect to find many people in arguments over Gallagher’s production and salary for years to come.
Style of play
There is no denying that the Canadiens’ winger is a combatant. He goes to war each and every day, every time he’s on the ice. He has been taking a beating ever since he joined the league and as well described in the first article, he wouldn’t be where he is today without playing that style. He’s not good enough in any aspects of the game to get away on skills alone.
Not only has he put his body through hell, the NHL referees don’t like the guy and their bias against him are well documented. None calls on the abuse he’s taking, disallowed goals every time he’s involved with any contact with a goaltender, the toll it is taking on his mind, the frustration level he must be feeling, considering how fans are frustrated, must be enormous for a competitive guy who does everything for his team to win.
And then, the injuries he’s gone through because of his style. Someone won’t get his hand broken (twice) by slap shots by playing a perimeter game. It’s by going to the net, resulting in goals by him, or being involved in goals by his team even without getting a point on the play.
Since the 2017-18 season, Gallagher has played 301 regular season’s games. He has managed to score 105 goals. That’s a pace of 29 goals over an 82-games season… and it includes this season’s five goals in 43 games. And he’s done that, for the most part, playing on a line with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault, who are, much like him, second to third line players on most teams!
Yes, he’s having a tough season this year, which coincides with his new $6.5 million contract that just kicked in. All things considered, with the fact that he hasn’t been healthy this year, it’s normal to be worried about what the future brings for him. But who, not named Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli, has not had a tough season on the Canadiens this year? We know that Gally is not the player to carry a team on his shoulders. But we know that he’s a great contributor as a secondary piece.
Gallagher has never been a high skilled guy. We know that. He scores his goals with hard work, from his office in front of the net. There’s an old saying in hockey, at every level, stating that good things happen when you go to the net. That quote should be in the hockey dictionary under Brendan Gallagher’s name, as it was for Tomas Holmström for the Red Wings back in the days.
So with that said, what is it that people will expect from Gallagher from now on? If someone expects 15 goals a year, they’ll be complaining about his salary. If they’re expecting 30-35 goals a year and he doesn’t meet those expectations, fans will grumble about both his production and his salary. In either cases, it’s a lose-lose situation.
He may not carry the puck well, or make the nicest passes, or be good in puck control and zone entries. Just like others won’t have his net presence. What we know for sure is that he won’t stop going to the net. He won’t stop competing and battling for pucks. He will continue to be the focus of opposing goaltenders and defensemen, freeing up teammates elsewhere on the ice. He will obstruct the view, disrupt. That we can and should expect.
So what is a somewhat reasonable expectation when it comes to Gally? I think that Bob, in the first article, nailed it. At least, that’s my humble opinion. He mentioned a production in and around 25 goals a year would be satisfactory.
Now add the leadership that he brings, how hard he is to play against, the fact that he’s in the opposing goalies’ head, the never stop and never die mindset that he brings to a team, perhaps his salary can be justified. But can he do it, people will ask?
What we cannot downplay, in spite of him turning 30 in May, is his willpower, his drive. This is not given to everyone. When a teacher asked him what he wanted to do for living, he said that he wanted to play in the NHL. They laughed at him.
At every level that he’s played, he’s been told that he wouldn’t make it to the next level. When he surprised and earned a spot on the Canadiens back in 2012, Marc Bergevin sent him to the AHL and told him that he would make room for him. When he did, Gallagher not only played 44 games with the Canadiens as a rookie, but he managed 15 goals, a 28-goals pace over an 82 games schedule.
When he broke his hand after receiving a slap-shot from none other than Shea Weber, many (myself included) wondered how this would affect his production. After all, he didn’t have the best shot to start with. Then again, he broke the same hand once again, after a bomb from Weber. I thought that this guy was done.
Each and every time, he has proven people wrong. To bet against him at this stage of his career (he’s 30, not 35 or 40) could very well be a big mistake. Let’s wait and see what he does next year before giving up on him. We owe him that at the very least… don’t we?