By JD Lagrange – Over his life, he has heard it all. He has made a life of proving people wrong because of it. That build character and eventually defines who you are. And while the expression is sometimes overused, it is truly the case when it comes to Brendan Gallagher: that’s why he is considered a “heart and soul” type of player.
I remember him telling the story of a school teacher who asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. His reply? “I want to play in the NHL.” The teacher smiled and asked him: “No, for real…” As you can see, it started early on.
Playing in the South Delta Minor Hockey Association, the Vancouver Giants took a chance at the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft by selecting Gallagher… in the ninth round! He became their captain and he is now in the Giants ‘Ring of Honour’.
The Montreal Canadiens did the same, taking a flyer on the diminutive forward in the fifth round of the NHL Draft back in 2010, 147th overall. He was ranked 152nd among North American skaters eligible to be selected by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
Good friend with Shea Weber off the ice, the Canadiens’ captain wasn’t so kind to him on the ice as twice, he shattered Gallagher’s hand with his devastating slap shot. True that one won’t get hurt by playing on the perimeters, but that’s not Gally. Back in the days, we often refereed to the back of the net as ‘Gretzky’s office’. So ‘Gally’s office’ is parked right in front of the net, no more than five feet away, receiving punishing blows and creating havoc.
Marc Methot once paid Gallagher the biggest compliment, calling him the most difficult player to play against. Because of his size, he has a low center of gravity and he is solid as a rock. Further, Methot explained that when you manage to push him down, he’s right back up… and he does that on every shift.
Prior to last season, which was difficult for every Canadiens’ player, Gallagher had scored (or was on pace for) 30 goals in four consecutive seasons. Not only was he playing in the NHL, he was a key contributor on the Canadiens. That even earned him a shiny new contract. But then came the pandemic…
A shortened season, then the bubble in Edmonton where the Canadiens shocked the Pittsburgh Penguins and played nine games in those playoffs. That was followed by a first season from hell, the 2020-21 season, after a short off-season where Gallagher didn’t have time to heal and have his regular workout regime.
That season, every NHL team had a tight schedule. The NHL made an all-Canadian division, and divided the other division by proximity. By far, Canadian teams had the most travel but with the same tight schedule. The time you spend in airports or in the air, you’re not resting, healing or working out. They then were shut down for a week due to a COVID outbreak and had to make up those games. No one played 27 games in 44 days in the NHL… except Gallagher and the Habs.
Yet that year, they qualified for the playoffs and shocked the hockey world by coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the heavily favourite Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. They then continued on their run by eliminating the Winnipeg Jets to be crowned the Canadian Division champions. They were not done as they also beat another Stanley Cup contender, the Vegas Golden Knights, to reach the Stanley Cup finals. Running on empty, they were no match to a Tampa Bay Lightning team $18 million over the cap.
How hard was that stretch? Let’s just say that it cost the career of Shea Weber, while Carey Price and Paul Byron could also have to call it a career. It also cost the jobs of Claude Julien, Kirk Muller, Stéphane Waite, Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, Scott Mellanby and Paul Wilson. Gallagher suffered greatly from it and had, along with the rest of the team, an awful 2021-22 season… after yet another very short off-season. It eventually also cost the job of Dominique Ducharme as well.
As we all know, the Canadiens did not participate in the playoffs last year, finishing dead last in the NHL. Gallagher, like the rest of his teammates, has had plenty of time to lick his wounds, heal up and rest. He then had the proper time to get into his regular workout, with his father (who is a well known trainer).
And so far at camp, he is the Brendan Gallagher that Canadiens’ fans have learned to love and appreciate. Same bubbly personality. Same hard-working, in your face player. And he’s having an impact both in the dressing room and on the ice.
While his contract may (or may not) still be talked about, let’s just say that it’s not as much on top of people’s mind as it was a few months ago. He is only six goals away from 200 and the way he’s looks right now, it won’t take long before he reaches that plateau. Not bad for a guy every keeps doubting… Perhaps one day, we will learn to never doubt such character and determination.