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.

Shea Weber

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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Guhle – Skating In Weber’s Shadow

By JD Lagrange – History has taught us that every prospect develops into his own player. Therefore, when playing the comparison game, it’s not to say that prospect A will be player B in the NHL, the current or past player he’s being compared to. However, when talking about young hockey players, prospects, it is hard not to fall in the trap of trying to compare them to an established one, or to a former player.

The reason why we tend to do comparisons to start with is to provide a rough idea of a prospect’s skills’ set and style of play. No more. For example, there’s no sense trying to compare Juraj Slafkovsky to Johnny Gaudreau. It’s an overall idea of the style of play this young prospect displays, and a somewhat similar style played by the NHL player in comparison.

With that out of the way, allow me to preface this by stating that I was given the privilege of watching Shea Weber play junior hockey in Kelowna, British Columbia. At the time, I lived in Penticton and I made the 40 minutes drive to watch the Rockets play. They had great teams back then. Little did I know then, that Weber would become one of my very favourite players in the NHL one day. And that happened well before he was traded to my beloved Montreal Canadiens.

Similarities in Guhle

When I saw Kaiden Guhle play at the World Junior Championships last winter, I immediately got flashbacks of Weber. Of course, with Man Mountain playing in Montreal, it was easy to recall his junior days in Kelowna. I could not help myself but noticing the similarities not only in their styles, but in their demeanour and personality.

Shea Weber – 2004

Both guys are big. Both play defense. Both are well rounded defensemen, not the uni-dimensional offensive-minded defensemen catching the average fans’ eye. They can produce offensively but won’t be the top points getters, for the most part. But they are both dominant in their zone as shut-down defensemen, and they are physically imposing, causing opponents to take notice when they’re on the ice.

But one similarity jumps to mind as well, one that is not quite as noticeable. Guhle, much like Weber, is a man of few words. He is not exuberant or flashy. While he will face the media, he likes to fly under the radar, although his success makes him stand out. Like Weber, young Guhle is well respected by his teammates and has this maturity level, this look like he means business. Both are players that teammates will rally behind.

Junior hockey comparison

We cannot talk about both guys without drawing the similarity in their junior career. Let’s look at their statistics for the three years they each spent playing junior hockey.

Season WHLWEBERGUHLE
1st season70GP65
2G3
16A14
18PTS17
+25+/-+17
167PIM40
2nd season60GP64
12G11
20A29
32PTS40
+23+/-+23
126PIM56
3rd season55GP42
12G7
29A33
41PTS40
+12+/-+22
95PIM57

For one thing, although they played in different times, both players played their junior hockey in the WHL, a ligue known for its physicality. It seems like Guhle, at this point, has more offensive upside and while physical, he is not as susceptible to taking penalties. True that Weber did drop the gloves quite a bit in junior, something Guhle doesn’t do as much. I wish the WHL had the hits statistics as I’d be curious to see the difference. And of course, Weber is known for having a bomb of a shot.

Future

In his first year pro, Weber played 46 games in the AHL and 28 in Nashville. Guhle looked pretty good in exhibition games for the Canadiens and he could have been rushed and stuck with the team. But Marc Bergevin and his team didn’t want to repeat the same mistake they had just made with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, by letting a good camp blind them of what’s good for the kid and for his development. This is why Guhle was sent back to junior hockey.

“He has pro habits. Even when he’s playing junior, he carries himself and he plays and he leads like a pro. So much to like about his game, about him as a person and his personality and his character. So, it’s just about him continuing to progress. Whether he’s captain or not, he’s experienced and he’s been through it. That’s just his nature, too. He has a presence about him already. Having said that, you never stop learning. You never stop progressing and getting better. That doesn’t even have to be said to him; he knows it, that’s engrained in his thought process and his DNA.”

~ Canadiens Director of Player Development Rob Ramage on Kaiden Guhle

Habs’ fans will remember that Josh Brook almost made the team out of junior as well, but the following camp, he didn’t do as well. He has since been victimized by countless injuries but it will be interesting to see how Guhle does at camp this upcoming fall.

Guhle will not be nicknamed Man Mountain. But he will certainly earn a nickname of his own. With that said, he does have some Weber in him and that’s exciting if you’re a Habs’ fan.

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