We are starting afresh! | The Journal of Montreal
When I look at where the Canadiens are today and where they were a year ago, I have to pinch myself to know if I’m dreaming or if I’m in reality.
I feel like 10 years have passed in the last 12 months. At the same time last year, the Habs returned to work after a presence in the Stanley Cup final. Marc Bergevin was still the general manager and Dominique Ducharme, the head coach.
Team stalwart Carey Price was on the injured list, but it was only a matter of weeks before he returned to action after undergoing knee arthroscopy.
Then, on October 7, a bomb fell. Bergevin announced that Price is joining the NHL’s Player Assistance Program and will be out for at least 30 days.
We know the rest. His absence was prolonged, the Canadiens had an awful start to the season, and on November 28, Geoff Molson fired Bergevin and unloved head scout Trevor Timmins to hire Jeff Gorton as vice-president of hockey. After a long process, Gorton appointed Kent Hughes as GM on January 19.
On February 9, Hughes relieved Ducharme of his duties to name Martin St-Louis head coach.
The new management team made other changes and implemented its philosophy in the following months, but we can say that their real departure begins with this training camp. The job hunt is on.
The era of stagnation
I hope the era of stagnation is over. For twenty years, there has never been a real recovery and the organization has gone in circles, regardless of who was behind the bench. Alain Vigneault, Guy Carbonneau, Jacques Martin, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme succeeded each other with similar results.
There was this surprising presence in the Stanley Cup final in 2021, when the Canadiens emerged from the Canadian division, but there we are starting afresh at all levels, whether in the offices, behind the bench, on the rink and especially in front of the net.
The absence of veterans like Price, Shea Weber or even Jeff Petry means no one has privileges anymore. St-Louis will be able to give ice cream to those who deserve it.
There are no more big names in this roster and even in the cases of captain Nick Suzuki and young sensation Cole Caufield, there is no talk of established stars yet.
How to manage the bench?
I can’t wait to see how St-Louis will lead. He will use his strengths as a communicator and teacher to work with each individual, but from a collective point of view, how will he manage his bench?
He will have to live with the mistakes of young people, but only up to a point. What will his tolerance level be?
The context differs from that of his arrival in a lost cause last season. St-Louis must aim for victory and keep his team in the playoff race for as long as possible. I only hope that the CH will not be eliminated in January.
We are not dreaming of the Stanley Cup this year, but the team must compete and progress. With all the question marks in the roster, making the playoffs seems like mission impossible, but approaching 10e11e and 12e Eastern Association ranks is not excluded.
We don’t want to talk about reconstruction, but let’s say we’re starting over with a long-term vision that, hopefully, will pay off quickly.
– Interview by Gilles Moffet
Even if the injury suffered Nick Suzuki does not seem very serious, I do not like the moment when it occurs. He will miss training camp and maybe more, and it is very difficult to find his rhythm in these circumstances. When you come back to the game, it feels like you’re behind everyone else. It’s easier to come back from an injury mid-season because you’ve already reached a certain rhythm.
Subban, it’s official
Archive photo, Martin Chevalier
I briefly talked about P. K. Subban last week, just before he announced his retirement. I find it hard to believe that this is the end for him at only 33 years old. Still, he took care of himself and he was an explosive skater. It shows how difficult it is to stay in the NHL in your mid-thirties and how players like Alex Ovechkin (37), Sidney Crosby (35), Patrick Kane (33) are exceptional athletes.
I rejoice for Nathan MacKinnon who signed a $12.6 million per season deal with the Colorado Avalanche for eight years for a total of more than $100 million. He thus overtook Connor McDavid as the highest paid hockey player on the planet and it is well deserved. MacKinnon is a real deal in every way and he led his team to the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche will be one to watch again this season. I’m not worried about MacKinnon. He’s still going to deliver the goods, but I can’t wait to see how former New York Rangers backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev performs as Darcy Kuemper’s replacement for Washington. Georgiev might surprise.
Theo and Louis
I was really very proud to present, yesterday, at Le Mirage golf club, the first Omnium Théo & Louis, for the benefit of the Véro & Louis Foundation and the care, research and teaching in neuromuscular diseases of the CHU Sainte-Justine and the CRME. We expected to raise over $500,000. I’ll tell you about it.