By JD Lagrange – It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been too long since the Montreal Canadiens counted an impact player from Quebec in its ranks. Historically speaking, the team was created to be a group of French Canadians to rival the Montreal Maroons, way back in 1909. While some are quick to blame the organization for it, they are not the biggest reasons, believe it or not, as we’ve demonstrated before. But they are also not blameless. Over the years, management has passed on some very good local talent only to draft slugs instead. Every team does, but it makes matters worse when it’s the Canadiens passing on quality French Canadians, it seems.
On the Hockey Sans Limites podcast last week, I was debating with my friend and host Yanick Gagné on the topic. He, like many others, feels like no Quebecois can survive the pressure of being a top-6 forward or top pairing defenseman in Montreal. Many feel like these guys would be devoured alive by both fans and media.
There is no denying that there is added pressure being a local talent, speaking the language and playing in Montreal. The examples are countless. Look at Jonathan Drouin today. Look at the likes of Patrice Brisebois, David Desharnais, Mike Ribeiro, Pierre Dagenais, José Théodore or Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, just to name a few. Fans and media are the first, year in and year out, crying about the lack of French Canadian speaking players on the team yet, they are the first ones to chase them out of town. It’s hypocritical, nothing less.
A long time coming
Just yesterday, I was discussing with someone on Twitter on the topic. He said something that hit me. He claimed that he didn’t remember the last time a Quebecois worked out in Montreal. I advanced the name of Phillip Danault but then, the topic turned to the fact that he wasn’t an impact player. While playing on the Canadiens’ top line and being the most productive center on the team, he certainly wasn’t amongst the top centers in the NHL, for sure.
Digging a little further, I realized that the last impact Quebecois on the team was none other than Patrick Roy. He was traded in 1995, so it will be 27 years ago to the date in December! Wow… no wonder younger fans don’t remember the last impact French Canadian on the team! Many of them weren’t even born back then.
Prior to Roy, you have to go back to Vincent Damphousse, Pierre Turgeon and Stéphane Richer. I’ll let you do the math but I’ll tell you right now, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Which brings me to a hot topic this summer… You have a 24 year-old from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, who is openly stating that he won’t sign a long term deal with the Winnipeg Jets because he wants to play for the Canadiens. Not impact enough? We’ve provided our readers with Pierre-Luc Dubois’ statistical comparisons to Jonathan Huberdeau at the same age. We’ve debunked his so-called “attitude” issues…
Still, instead of welcoming the idea, being excited about the fact that a top-end local talent, an impact center of 6-foot 2-inches, 210 lbs wants to wear the jersey, fans are questioning his character and finding every excuses NOT to trade for Dubois. That’s right, you can’t make that stuff up!
So, fans and media… You want to play the blame game? Grab a mirror and take a deep, long look folks. Perhaps it’s us who don’t deserve to have them play on our favourite team.