Monday, 31 hours before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Center, only four Canadiens forwards and three defensemen in training had played for their team in the final.
The turnover of the workforce from year to year in the era of the salary cap is an inescapable reality, but it is something else.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said after practice. “It’s not what we planned for sure. … Every day we lose a guy or two. Hopefully at some point this will stop and everyone will come back healthy. “
This day does not seem for soon.
The players who have been away the longest won’t be back for some time. Ducharme said Carey Price, who signed up for the NHL / NHLPA Player Assistance Program before the start of the season, is unlikely to be back until Christmas.
Price left halfway through his rehabilitation after off-season knee surgery and returned in early November to resume the process, but has yet to set foot on the ice with the goalie gear and there is no timeline in place to do it.
Joel Edmundson injured his back just before training camp started and while he finally started full training last week, he likely won’t be back this month. Doctors ruled out surgery, but Ducharme said he was back at Square 1 when he recovered.
Also missing for weeks: Josh Anderson, with an upper body injury.
And on Monday, Tyler Toffoli received a similar prognosis, also for an upper body injury suffered on Saturday.
“Looks like he’s going to be out for a while,” Ducharme said.
Who knows how long it will take for Joel Armia and Jeff Petry, who both missed Monday’s practice and are considered uncertain to face the Lightning.
We know Brendan Gallagher and Sami Niku won’t be playing. The two are in quarantine for several days after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
Shea Weber, the team’s captain, may never play again. This downhill slide for the Canadiens 6-17-3 began with news out of season that he was too injured to continue his career.
Things got worse with the departures of Phillip Danault, Corey Perry, Eric Staal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and now the squad that faces Tampa on Tuesday is nothing like the one who dressed for those games in July.
Ducharme said he has yet to receive any direction from new executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton to give more opportunities to young players in his roster, but it’s not as if he has. the choice.
The injury situation required it anyway.
Ryan Poehling, 22, has already taken on more responsibility at center, Alexander Romanov, 21, played 24 hours against the Nashville Predators on Saturday and Cole Caufield, 20, is expected to rise after registering two assists against Nashville.
Ducharme will have plenty of reasons to give 23-year-old Kale Clague a meaningful opportunity against Tampa.
The Canadiens claimed the young defensemen’s waiver from the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, which gave him the chance to step up to full-time NHL employment.
“It’s an interesting project,” said Ducharme. “He’s still young too. He has some good qualities: he skates well, has good vision, skates with the puck and moves it well. So he has good tools, now it’s up to him to decide. He has the opportunity to show that he can contribute here and make a place for himself.
Clague believes he will achieve this by relying on his skating, puck movement and power play ability.
There is certainly some offense in this player. While still chasing his NHL goal, he’s produced 11 assists in 33 games at this level. But if Clague is to solidify his place in the league after bouncing back in the AHL a few times since being drafted 51st overall by the Kings in 2016, he knows he’ll have to prove what he can do defensively as well. .
“I think when I first came to Los Angeles I always wanted to improve my defensive game from the hash marks,” said the six-foot, 177-pound player who also acknowledged that outdoing the players would not be his method of defending.
“I think I’ve made huge strides in this area and I think when I have the puck on my stick I think my game is really effective. I just want to stay focused on the defensive end and make sure I interrupt a lot of plays, then take the puck in my hands and get it to the forwards as fast as I can.
This is the key for any defender with his skills.
Mattias Norlinder has a similar one, but he struggles to show it at that level. And while many point the finger at Ducharme for that – Norlinder only played 8:58 am against the Predators – it really is because the player appeared to be trying to survive his shifts.
It’s a normal thing for any 21-year-old defenseman who is playing the North American rink for the first time and doing so in the NHL of all places. The fact that Norlinder missed several weeks due to an injury he sustained early in training camp certainly didn’t help his adjustment.
Yet it is undeniable that he has already gained valuable experience. From just spending so much time in Montreal, getting to know the organization and new teammates, and practicing and playing in the NHL, this experience will serve Norlinder well as he continues to grow.
But we’ve reached the point where he’s not likely to gain much more valuable experience in Montreal this season. And we don’t think more ice time in games with the Habs is the answer – it would likely be even more detrimental to his development to put him over his head.
“I think Jeff (Gorton) will have some discussions with him and we’ll see what we’re going to do,” Ducharme said.
What they should do is obvious at this point: it’s time to send Norlinder back to Sweden, where he can play big minutes with Frolunda, who are currently the best team in SHL.
How to create an analysis department
We asked this question of Meghan Chayka, who founded a data and analytics company Stahletes 11 years ago and now overseeing a massive operation and staff.
“I think it totally depends on the staff, how much staff you have in other departments and what they can do to understand and interpret datasets and be able to act within their group.” , said Chayka. “And I’m just saying that because I know that when I work with other leagues, be it the NBA or the MLB, some of them have analysis departments of up to 20-30 people who interface and have different points of contact with data, with data scientists. , data analysts and data engineers.
We don’t expect Canadians to go from zero to 30 employees on the tech side, but Chayka’s argument about having all different types of people in an analytics department resonates.
As she pointed out, there is too much data and too much to do with it for just one or two people to make a tangible difference.
“No one is an engineer, data scientist, data analyst and translator all at the same time,” Chayka added, stressing the need to have multiple people to design front-end software and solutions that scouts and other members of the the organization can use as tools for input information, the need to have other people to experience and analyze the data and, last but not least, people in place to translate the findings to senior management and coaches.
When it comes to getting the most out of building a dedicated analytics team, having someone at the top of the hockey operations chain as a translator is a must.
“He’s typically someone who has a lot of knowledge on both sides,” Chayka said. “I have a lot of reps who deal with agents, scouts, managers, and players, and you come to understand the issues from these people’s perspective and learn the language they speak. If you have enough technical knowledge to explain how certain models or applications work and how they can use them to the best of their ability without being misled, it is important to do so in their language.
We asked her if she would be interested in it, but she seemed to have bigger ambitions than that.
“We have a very good group,” said Chayka. “I manage over 100 people. Unless Canadians have a department that will be much bigger than I think, I already have a more fulfilling job in terms of skills. I like being an entrepreneur, I like building, I really like the tech side. I think I have so much more to accomplish right now, but I’m always interested to hear what’s going on.
“I think, touch the wood, that there should be more women not only at the head of departments, but also as deputy general managers, general managers and presidents. I actively seek to network so that women not only reach these levels, but stay there. “
Would Meghan want to become the second Chayka (brother John led the Arizona Coyotes from 2016-2020) to become NHL general manager?
“I am incredibly interested,” she said. “I work alongside agents, players and coaches. But I think you need a lot of reps to really be successful in any field, so for me, getting points of contact in all of these different areas is essential. I wouldn’t want to step into a role until I had a slam dunk in terms of understanding how I might be successful.
“But I didn’t set my goals in terms of it’s my only goal. I would like to be Prime Minister of Canada just as much as that sort of thing. I consider my career to be quite fluid, and I think that’s what makes it exciting.