By JD Lagrange – The more things change, the more they stay the same. Boy oh boy does that apply to the Montreal Canadiens. After making an incredible push in the 2021 NHL Playoffs, tile after tile have been falling on the organization, particularly when it comes to serious long term injuries to key players. Hockey being a contact sport, it should be expected… in any one season. But two seasons in a row? It should, at the very least, force an organization to re-think a few things.
Last season, the Canadiens didn’t only break the NHL record for man-games lost to injuries, they shattered it. Losing captain Shea Weber and Carey Price for the season (Price played 5 games at the end) was a huge contributor, but there were times when more than half their payroll was on the injured reserve. Everyone thought that it was simply bad luck, and were looking forward to this year.
Here we are, 47 games into the season, and it’s more of the same. Weber’s contract has been traded to Vegas so his time missed doesn’t count, but Price hasn’t skated and many feel like his career is all but over. I’ve dressed a list of currently injured players on the Canadiens and the total amounts to 11 players. Considering most teams go with a 22-men roster, that’s half the team!
|Jonathan Drouin||Upper body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Feb 11|
|Sean Monahan||Lower body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Feb 11|
|Cole Caufield||Shoulder||Expected to be out until at least Jul 15|
|Jake Allen||Upper body||Day-to-Day|
|Juraj Slafkovsky||Lower body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Apr 18|
|Jake Evans||Lower body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Mar 16|
|Joel Armia||Upper body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Feb 11|
|Brendan Gallagher||Lower body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Feb 24|
|Kaiden Guhle||Lower body||IR. Expected to be out until at least Feb 28|
|Carey Price||Knee||IR. No set return|
|Paul Byron||Hip||IR. No set return|
There are currently eight (8) Canadiens’ players who have missed at least 10 games to injuries, with that number obviously growing with the above-mentioned list:
- Mike Matheson played 13 games
- Sean Monahan and Brendan Gallagher played 25 games
- Jonathan Drouin played 28 games
- Joel Armia played 32 games
- David Savard played 34 games
- Kaiden Guhle played 36 games
- Joel Edmundson played 37 games
It is one thing to see older veterans on that list, with years of abuse on their body. But it is a bit alarming to see young players like Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky and Kaiden Guhle already on there.
It’s time for the Canadiens to do some serious soul searching, and it seems like Canadiens GM Kent Hughes knows that. Most of last year’s missed games were under a different management group and old veterans pushed too hard for that playoffs’ run, for what was their last chance at winning the elusive Stanley Cup. We’ve touched on the toll that run had taken on the players. But there should be no reason for this year’s numbers.
In his mid-season press conference, Hughes was asked about the injuries.
“I think that we’ll keep on evaluating that at the end of each year”, said the Canadiens’ GM. “It’s a balance. There are so many factors. It’s really surprising, the number of injuries, the communication coming in. Sometimes we have players who want to return to play too. Gally is one of those guys who is trying to push the limit. If we tell him it’s going to be three weeks, he will try to come back in a week and a half. That’s his way. It’s his character, his personality. So with some players, we must probably do a better job to protect them from themselves. Others probably need to be pushed a bit.”
The team is apparently looking at patterns, or types of injuries.
“Last year, we had a lot of back injuries, more than other teams in the league”, said Hughes. “So when we see statistics like that, it forces us to question things. A guy like Mike Matheson, it’s not just this year. He’s had hips injuries and I think he’s hasn’t been lucky. He skated all game, he was fine, then got hit and got re-injured.”
No matter how we try to justify, or twist this, there are 32 teams in the NHL and it’s not normal to see one team being at the top of the man-games lost to injuries year in, year out. This new Canadiens’ management group has been thorough in many aspects, and it must now do the same on this topic before it affects the young players they are trying to build around.