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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Collateral Damage Of a Stanley Cup Run

By JD Lagrange – As my colleague JAG so eloquently described it, the 2021 playoffs’ run by our beloved Montreal Canadiens was epic, to say the least. Wait, are young folks still using that term to describe how exciting and entertaining that run was for us, Habs’ fans? Next, I’ll turn my hat sideways and wear my pants halfway down my butt showing my underwear! Nah, let’s say that it was electric, breathtaking, heroic, impressive, stimulating, thrilling, mind-blowing, sensational…

But it came at a cost. In fact, this playoffs’ push that saw us so invigorated was the beginning of the end for not only our hopes, but for many people in the Canadiens’ organization. Shea Weber, Carey Price, Joel Edmundson, Paul Byron didn’t start the season

Carey Price had knee surgery after that playoffs’ run. He missed most of last season, coming back on April 15th. He played five games in total but the swelling in his knee came back, and according to Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes, he will likely miss the entire 2022-23 season. His career could very well be in jeopardy.

Much like his good friend and teammate Price, Shea Weber payed the ultimate price by playing with many injuries, including some very serious ones, for the hope of bringing the Canadiens their 25th Stanley Cup. The captain missed all season and is basically waiting to announce his retirement, due to injuries.

Joel Edmundson missed the first 57 games of the season. One of the four Clydesdales – as qualified by coach Dominique Ducharme – with Weber, Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry, he was monumental in the Canadiens’ playoffs’ push. His back took a beating for it.

Paul Byron‘s first game of the season didn’t come until January 30th. He played one game, missed a few thereafter. Today, he’s unsure about his future (hip)

Brendan Gallagher, a regular 30-goals’ scorer the past few seasons, only managed to play a total of 56 games last season. His production dropped to seven goals. He wasn’t the shadow of his old self,

Jeff Petry was relatively healthy but a combination of short rest, over-use, playing in a position (first pairing) he’s not cut for, missing his defense partner Edmundson and missing his family who stayed in the US to get help with the kids, all contributed to his worst season since joining the Canadiens.

Further, General Manager Marc Bergevin, Assistant-GMs Trevor Timmins and Scott Mellanby, as well as head coach Dominique Ducharme have all lost their job over that playoffs’ run. Well, they didn’t lose their job because they made it that far in the playoffs, but they sure did because of the repercussions and side effects, the devastating losses caused by that run. They too paid the ultimate price.

That Stanley Cup run came in like a tsunami. It swept everything with it, good and bad, putting us through a range of emotions only limited by our imagination and where we, Canadiens’ fans, stood on different topics. But it did leave a devastating mess behind it. Had the team been able to reach their goal, fans would all claim that it was well worthwhile. But because they ran out of juice against a team that was $18 million over the cap, many are left with a sour taste in their mouth.

So fans, members of the media, before you throw stones at any player, coach or GM, think about the sacrifices these guys have made for the Montreal Canadiens, the fans and the City of Montreal. They made us proud. They brought us feelings that we haven’t felt in years. And they came oh so close. Many paid the ultimate price to make it happen.

Be lenient, understanding and show a little bit of compassion instead of jumping on the bash train. “Oh but it’s their job” simply won’t cut it. It will only make YOU look bad.

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