The management of the Montreal Canadiens was delighted on Monday that around forty players were already working at the CN Sports Complex, even if the Montreal hockey club’s camp will not officially start until September 20.
According to her, this not only means that the players are united, but also that they care about the team’s success. “It shows that the players love each other, that they like being together and that they love the city of Montreal,” declared general manager Kent Hughes on Monday, on the sidelines of the Tricolore golf tournament at the Laval-sur-Montreal club. Lake. They wanted to start working sooner. When the season ends early, it’s great to see them here in mid-August. »
Captain Nick Suzuki, who spent the summer in Montreal, did not have to be active in the discussion groups between the players to bring everyone together.
Suzuki said it happened organically as the summer progressed. “I don’t know what role I played in that. People asked me if I was in town. Personally, I think it’s good to experience Montreal differently during the summer,” said Suzuki.
“A lot of guys have come in over the last couple of weeks. It’s good to skate together, to have a minicamp before the “real” in the hope of finding our bearings and our cohesion,” he added.
But if seeing players start skating together early again has such great value, why isn’t that the norm across the NHL?
“I’m not sure,” admitted forward Josh Anderson. A few teams do that. I think that here, it shows that the guys care about the team. We didn’t have a set date to arrive, but the guys wanted to come back early to get the machine running again. »
A healthy club, for now
The Canadiens players were also able to take advantage of the long summer to regain their health. Vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton mentioned that only center Christian Dvorak had not received the green light for the start of camp, he who has knee problems.
Everyone else who didn’t finish the season — Josh Anderson, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovský, Sean Monahan, Arber Xhekaj, Kaiden Guhle, Kirby Dach, Jordan Harris and David Savard — will begin camp recovered from surgery or injury .
The players had the opportunity to begin working with Jim Ramsay, who replaced Graham Rynbend as Director of Sports and Performance Medicine and Head Sports Therapist.
While it is too early to say if this change will have an effect on the health of the players and limit the number of injuries for the Canadian, after two record campaigns, the players are encouraged so far by Ramsay’s approach.
“I think things are going well with him,” said Caufield, who had surgery on his right shoulder in January. He communicates well with everyone and that’s something we all appreciate. »
The Canadian’s depth could be relatively spared if the infirmary is less busy than last winter. That didn’t stop head coach Martin St-Louis from praising the Habs’ depth at every position.
“We are going to use the camp to see where everyone is,” he said. There is the external battle, against the other team, but also the internal battle. You want to get the best chair available and you can’t be happy with your role or you’ll get it stolen. »
St-Louis added that it does not have a pre-established hierarchy in mind when it comes to its goalies. Samuel Montembeault did well last season, before helping Canada win gold at the World Championship. However, veteran Jake Allen often seemed to be favored by St. Louis and goaltending coach Eric Raymond. Cayden Primeau, who is now 24 years old, and veteran Casey DeSmith, 32 years old, will also confuse the issue.
All four are eligible for waivers, which could make it difficult for Hughes at the end of camp, when it comes time to cut the remaining skaters to establish his 23-player roster. Moreover, Hughes has not closed the door to trading a goalie or even starting the season with three goalies in his lineup.
Mailloux still waiting
Gorton mentioned that prospect Logan Mailloux was given the green light to play in the American Hockey League.
Mailloux was convicted by Swedish justice for having distributed an explicit photo without the consent of his partner before he was drafted by the Canadian, on 31e rank, in 2021. He served a long suspension in the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2021-2022, then did well last winter with 25 goals and 28 assists in 59 games with the London Knights.
Gorton said the Canadiens would need to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman one last time before Mailloux can play with the big club, when he will be recalled or if he earns a position with the team by the end of the year. end of camp. Gorton’s comments, however, suggested that this would only be a formality.