In today’s Montreal Canadiens News and Rumors rundown, there’s news on Claude Julien’s health. There are confirmations on Brendan Gallagher’s injuries, as well as speculation on Ryan Poehling’s conditioning and his lack of game time in the playoffs has been brought up in the media. Also, what could general manager Marc Bergevin do now that the Canadiens’ playoff run is over?
Claude Julien’s Recovery
After Game 1 of the series versus the Philadelphia Flyers, Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was rushed to hospital for chest pains. He had a surgical procedure completed in Toronto and as of now (August 23), Julien is home resting with his family.
While the team has commented that they expect a full recovery for Julien, it does beg the question, will he be able to coach again. He has a young family and at 60 years of age, having a heart attack is a serious matter. He will need to discuss with his family and doctors if he will be able to resume his coaching duties. If he decides he cannot handle the stress and rigors of being an NHL coach, then he has to consider what that means for himself moving forward. There is no question that the Canadiens would support Julien and his family with whatever his decision may be.
Brendan Gallagher Played Hurt
In Game 1 in the play-in series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brendan Gallagher went down hard into the boards, coming up favoring his right leg. At the time, nothing was released, but it was obvious to those watching that he was missing a step and some of his usual intensity.
Once the Canadiens were eliminated by the Flyers, it was officially announced that Gallagher had suffered a broken jaw from the crosscheck that cost Matt Niskanen a one game suspension, as well, Gallagher had indeed suffered a tear in his hip.
On Habs Unfiltered episode 84, one of the podcasts featured on The Hockey Writers‘ podcast network, Eric Engels confirmed that this injury was serious, but that management does expect Gallagher to be 100% recovered in time for the next season.
Ryan Poehling Out of Shape?
Ryan Poehling was on the official Canadiens roster for Phase 4 of the NHL’s return to play, meaning he was practicing daily with the Canadiens. He was also seen taking line rushes in warm ups to be ready in case there were injuries. That being said, Matthias Brunet of La Presse posed a question about Poehling’s conditioning and offseason training during the pandemic pause.
Fans should take note that general manager Marc Bergevin did state during his post-playoff press conference that the team has not given up on Poehling. They should also note that Poehling was a rookie professional player this season. He will have his ups and downs during his development.
His NHL debut of a hat trick and a shootout winner versus the Toronto Maple Leafs may have raised expectations for many fans, but keep in mind his projected upside was as a middle-six center. The 21-year-old center will take some time to reach his potential, and it will take more than the unexpected pandemic return to play plan to shake management’s faith in the young player.
Where to Now?
In his post-playoff press conference Bergevin stated:
“The experience of our young players and the way they showed their progression has no price,” Bergevin said. “So to move back seven picks (from ninth to 16th), that’s a very small price to pay. What we experienced the last month will really help the organization to move forward… The trade-off was worth it, to have lived this experience with our kids, how they showed their character and also the evolution of our organization.”Eric Engels, Bergevin’s best opportunity to improve the Canadiens is in front of him, 22 August 2020, Sportsnet.ca
However, a lack of patience with the rebuild is now being vocalized in the press. Stu Cowen wrote:
“Bergevin still has a lot of work to do to make this franchise a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and he shouldn’t be given eight more years to do it. He has to make some upgrades — especially when it comes to scoring goals. The Canadiens scored 11 goals in six playoff games against the New York Rangers three years ago. This year, they scored 13 goals in six games against the Flyers and were shut out twice.”Stu Cowan, from ‘Canadiens’ first-round exit shouldn’t really be celebrated,’ The Montreal Gazette, 23 August 2020
It is true, the NHL’s 24th-overall Canadiens lacked the fire power to defeat the Alain Vigneault-coached Flyers. Some will point to the numerous posts hit by Canadiens’ skaters in those two games in which they were shutout as proof they “could have” won.
However, there are some holes to fill in the Canadiens’ lineup and style of play that must be addressed in the offseason. That being said, Bergevin is well positioned to take the next step with this franchise. He has his centers of the future in Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Also, he has one of the NHL’s top prospect pools, 14 draft picks in the 2020 draft — including 4 in the top 60 — as well as some salary cap space that he could use to take on salaries.
As Bergevin and the Canadiens enter this important offseason, keep an eye on The Hockey Writers and the new Podcast Network for the latest Canadiens news, notes and rumors.