By JD Lagrange – The Canadiens have gone through a rough stretch with injuries lately, particularly up front. But it seems like some of those players are getting closer to a return and that will inevitably bring back the issue of numbers up front. Fans should enjoy watching Juraj Slafkovsky on the top-six lines as the odds are that he will be returning to the bottom-six when these guys return.
The irony is that we’re seeing articles pop-up claiming that the Canadiens should not be sending Slafkovsky to the World Juniors with, as a main reason, the fact that he is playing more. Do fans truly believe that with Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin having ditched their non-contact jerseys and practicing with their teammates will be the ones playing third and fourth line when they return?
Brendan Gallagher is not skating yet but he was injured on November 29th against the San Jose Sharks. It was said that he would be out a couple of weeks. Well, the two weeks mark is this coming Tuesday so unless he suffers a setback, he should be back at some point next week.
With those three veterans back in the line-up, and with Evgenii Dadonov showing signs of life offensively, it is very unlikely that those guys will be penciled into the fourth line. The two players most likely to be are Slafkovsky and Joel Armia.
It is no secret that Kent Hughes wants to trade Drouin and Dadonov, two pending UFAs at the end of the season. Rumours are rampant that they would also like to unload Hoffman as well. None of those guys were having a great season, although Hoffman has been the better of the three, particularly the last couple of weeks before his injury. But in order to get value, those guys need to play better and the only way they’ll do that is by playing significant minutes on the top-nine forwards.
A couple of weeks ago, I’ve explained in length why it would be beneficial for Slafkovsky to go spend a couple of weeks in the high tempo, high level World Junior Championships. With the injured players back while that tournament is being played, I have not changed my mind.
The fact is that Slafkovsky has things to work on and having coached for many years, I can tell you that a temporary step back will, more often than not, lead to three steps forward. By the time the tournament starts, Hoffman, Drouin and Gallagher will be back in the line-up. It is my humble opinion that Slafkovsky would greatly benefit from more quality ice time, but also in a leadership role, something he hasn’t done since Midget hockey. Temporarily slowing the game down one notch (as the WJC is very high caliber), allowing him to better apply what he’s worked on with the Canadiens… reuniting Batman and Robin for the tournament.
Will I be upset if the Canadiens decide to not loan the big winger to Team Slovakia for the Holliday break? Of course not, as it is their decision to make, not mine. They know their own plan, I don’t. In fact, I don’t get why people are bellyaching by having what is too strong of an opinion on the matter. It is one of those situations where, at this time, there is no right or wrong answer. Of course we can share our opinion on the matter but mine isn’t better than yours… and vice-versa.
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