The Joel’s Of Denial

By JD Lagrange – For those who missed it, even with the cover image… Michael Douglas? Kathleen Turner? Danny DeVito? Romancing The Stone’s sequel? The Jewel of the Nile? Okay, enough about Hollywood and movies from 1980’s. But the Montreal Canadiens have not one, but two Joel’s about ready to return.

Assistant captain Joel Edmundson and veteran right winger Joel Armia both skated with the team during Saturday’s morning skate. Both were wearing a non-contact jersey but it looks like they are both hinging closer to a return to play. The return of the two Joel’s will undoubtedly deny a spot for others in the line-up.

At forward

The return of the two veterans also means that the Canadiens’ brass will have to make a couple of tough decisions in order to make room on the roster for both players. This means that one forward and one defenseman will be sent down to Laval in the coming days.

At forward, Juraj Slafkovsky missed the morning skate and the team announced that he is day to day with an upper-body injury. Depending on the timing of Armia’s medical clearance and eventual return, this could potentially delay the decision at the forward position.

In addition to Armia, the Canadiens currently have 10 wingers with the team.

  • Josh Anderson
  • Cole Caufield
  • Evgenii Dadonov
  • Jonathan Drouin
  • Brendan Gallagher
  • Mike Hoffman
  • Sean Monahan (center, but playing wing with Caufield and Suzuki)
  • Michael Pezzetta
  • Rem Pitlick
  • Juraj Slafkovsky

Pezzetta has yet to see any game action so far this season while Pitlick, who was a healthy scratch the last three games, will be taking Slafkovsky’s spot on the fourth line against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Both players will have to be placed on waivers if the team chooses to send them to Laval. Slafkovsky obviously doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent down.

On defense

The Canadiens’ young guys have done extremely well so far this season and the decision will be a tough one too. Here are the seven defensemen on the roster right now, not including Edmundson and Mike Matheson, who will be out a few more weeks.

  • Kaiden Guhle
  • Jordan Harris
  • Johnathan Kovacevic
  • David Savard
  • Corey Schueneman
  • Chris Wideman
  • Arber Xhekaj

Schueneman has already cleared waivers on October 9th and he can be sent down within 30 days from that date. He is the logical choice to be sent back down but it raises the question as to whom the coaching staff will sit in the press box. You do not want a young player to be sitting for too long, a mistake the previous management made with a couple of prospects in the past.

So when the Joel’s return, the dilemma will get real… pending other injuries of course. It could get even more complicated when Matheson is ready to return but let’s not get too far ahead.

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Bounce Backs In The Making

By Bob Trask – There will be a number of Montreal Canadiens players who will be looking to have bounce back seasons. JD had done one but that was prior to the Sean Monahan trade and the Carey Price news. So here’s an update version. Last year was marred by injury, illness, COVID related absences and other factors. This year the players and the team hope things will be different.

Let’s take a look at some bounce back candidates.

Brendan Gallagher

The short off-season last year hurt Gallagher more than most players. He endured a rugged playoff series and the recuperation time was short. He looked exhausted by the time the season ended.

Why it will happen: Gallagher will have had five months to rest his body and get himself ready physically and mentally for the regular season.

Why it won’t: Exhaustion aside, Gallagher looks like he has slowed down. His shot doesn’t seem to be as effective since suffering two devastating hand injures and, unless he is playing style makes him susceptible to further injury. Age is also working against him.

Verdict: Gallagher will bounce back but not all the way.

Joel Armia

Armia suffered through a brutal year both on the ice and off. He missed games due to COVID, he was injured and his future wife was 6,000 km away in Finland expecting their first child.

Why it will happen: With his family back together and the COVID situation behind him, Armia will now be able to concentrate on hockey. We already saw that happen to some extent at the World Championships.

Why it won’t: Armia has always been a player who teases us with his talent but leaves us wanting more than what he delivers. Now at what should be the prime of his career, that inconsistency and underachievement could wear thin with the coaching staff.

Verdict: Whether it is with Montreal or another team if he is traded, look for Joel Armia to bounce back and deliver one of his best seasons offensively.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman got off to a bad start with the Canadiens as injuries kept him from joining the club immediately after training camp. With the club having a disastrous start, he never really settled into his role with the team.

Why it will happen: Hoffman’s offense is something the Canadiens could use and Martin St-Louis could find a way to take advantage of that.

Why it won’t: As one of the older players on the team, Hoffman may be on the downside of his career. His lack of defensive awareness may also wear thin. And finally, he may not be with the team when the season starts.

Verdict: Hoffman’s offensive production this season will be an improvement over last year but it may not be with the Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin

Due to injuries, Jonathan Drouin played less than half a year and had only two games with Martin St-Louis behind the bench. Despite a lack of goals, he was one of the leading point producers on the team when he succumbed to his injuries.

Why it will happen: Injury recovery aside, Drouin may have finally been teamed up with a coach he can unlock his considerable talents.

Why it won’t: Drouin continues to be an enigmatic player and a rebound under St-Louis may simply be wishful thinking. He has also suffered injuries to both wrist that have required surgery and admitted that he has had to make adjustments because of that surgery.

Verdict: No player has more potential to bounce back under St-Louis than Drouin. The coach wants his players to be creative and not fear a benching for making a mistake. That should be music to Drouin’s ears and he will have one of his most productive years in the league.

Paul Byron

Byron played only 27 games last year due to injury. He has since undergone another surgery and continues to recuperate from that.

Paul Byron

Why it will happen: If Byron does fully recover he brings speed and penalty killing to the team. Those are two things the team could use and a fourth line with Byron can be dangerous to other teams.

Why it won’t: Byron never seemed to fully recover from that devastating fight with MacKenzie Weegar. His hip injuries remain a big question mark and he is unlikely to join the team immediately out of training camp – if at all.

Verdict: Due to injuries, Byron remains a long shot to make the team this year, never mind bouncing back to peak form.

Sean Monahan

Monahan is the biggest wildcard on the team. It’s not a gamble for the Canadiens because they give up absolutely nothing to acquire him. But it could turn to be something akin to buying a lottery ticket – chances of winning are slim but if you do, the payoff can be fantastic. Monahan has played the last three seasons through injury. The fact that he played 65 games last year despite needing hip surgery tells us something about his drive.

Why it will happen: Monahan had surgery in April and will have a substantial amount of time to rest and recover. He revealed that he is already on the ice four times a week and feels good. He also sounds determined to prove he is still a high level NHL player.

Why it won’t: Hip injuries can be difficult to recover from and Monahan has already had two of them. He has also had a wrist injury which could have affected his shot and puck handling.

Verdict: Monahan won’t join the team out of training camp as they monitor his progress. He could begin the season on the injury list before joining Laval on a rehab assignment. In the end, Monahan will bounce back to significant degree and while he won’t regain his peak performance, he will be a positive influence on the Canadiens.

Final Verdict

Many Canadiens had sub-par seasons last year and the expectation is that at least some of them will bounce back. New additions to the team, a change in coaching philosophy and an opportunity to recover over an extended off-season bodes well for the upcoming season. It’s unlikely that all of this group will bounce back completely and some of them may not even be with the Canadiens when the regular season begins – but it is equally unlikely that everyone in this talented group will suffer through the same kind of season as they did in 2021-22.

The potential for bounce backs is another reason to be positive about the upcoming season.

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