By Lori Bennett
After a stronger start than anyone anticipated, the Montreal Canadiens have run into some adversity. With Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin already on the injured reserve list, the Habs lost several of their regulars on their west coast road trip.
On Monday, Dec. 5, the Canadiens announced that Brendan Gallagher, who was unable to play last week in Calgary, would be out for at least two weeks. They also announced David Savard would miss Monday’s game in Vancouver and be evaluated day-to-day. Then during the game in Vancouver, Sean Monahan left and didn’t return.
After losses in Edmonton and Vancouver, it was a depleted line up that travelled from Vancouver to Seattle to face the Kraken. It was the first meeting of the teams since the 2022 Amateur Draft, and that meant Juraj Slafkovsky and Shane Wright were facing each other for the first time in their NHL careers.
Wright was long predicted by much of the hockey world to go first overall in that draft. But on draft night, GM Kent Hughes surprised everyone when he called Slafkovsky’s name. New Jersey and Arizona also passed on Wright before he was finally selected by the Kraken.
In made-for-TV-movie fashion, Wright scored his first NHL goal in his first game against the team that snubbed him. But the celebration would be short-lived. The Habs would go on to win the game with a score of 4-2, and Slafkovsky had an assist on the game-winning goal from Josh Anderson. The two players may face off again soon if they are released by their teams to participate in the World Juniors. Fans can look forward to this rivalry for many years to come as both NHL teams build to contention.
The Vancouver Canucks continue to be a bit of a spectacle. Their place in the standings is not as abysmal as reports would make it seem. They are just a couple of points out of a wild card spot with lots of games left to play. The concern seems to revolve around the team’s confused direction.
After signing J.T.Miller to a 7-year contract extension worth $56 million in September, the Canucks are open for business. Captain Bo Horvat is a pending unrestricted free agent and insiders expect him to be dealt at the trade deadline. And 25-year-old Brock Boeser is under contract for two more years after this one, but reports have surfaced that his agent has been given permission to talk to other teams to try and negotiate a trade. Here is where the confusion lies: are they going for it, as the Miller deal would suggest, or are they rebuilding, as the availability of Boeser and Horvat would suggest?
There is an obvious pressure on Coach Bruce Boudreau, who is in the last year of his contract, to get wins. But the whole team knows he’s a lame duck coach, and that the GM is making core players available by trade. These are less than ideal conditions for a coach to effect change.
The NHL holiday roster freeze goes into effect at 11:59 on Sunday, December 18th. Teams who want to make a trade deal before Christmas are on the clock to get it done before the freeze.
With families getting back to their typical Christmas traditions following a long and arduous pandemic, another Canadian tradition is ramping up. The 47th International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship is scheduled to take place between Dec. 26, 2022 and Jan. 5, 2023. This year’s tournament will be held in Halifax and Moncton.
A 29-man roster was invited to Moncton to participate in Team Canada’s selection camp this past week, and the final roster of 23 players is due to be announced on Monday, Dec. 12. Two Newfoundlanders are in Moncton for camp and hoping to see their names among that elite 23-man group.
Ryan Greene, 19, is from Paradise and was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round this past summer and is continuing his development at Boston University. Zach Dean, who will turn 20 during the tournament, was born in Alberta but was raised and played his early hockey on the Avalon Peninsula. Dean was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights at 30th overall in the 2021 draft and is currently with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL.
We’re crossing our fingers that both young men crack the final roster and are wearing the Team Canada jersey on Boxing Day.
Blue Jays Babble
Jays pitcher Jordan Romano has won the 2022 Tip O’Neill Award, given for Canadian baseball excellence. He’s just the third Toronto Blue Jay ever to win the award.
The Major League Baseball winter meetings got underway this week in San Diego, in-person for the first time since 2019. Last year the meetings were cancelled due to the MLB lockout, and in 2020 the meetings were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The winter meetings take place every year for four days in December, and representatives from all 30 MLB teams, along with player and league representatives, convene to discuss league business.
As you might imagine, all those executives and agents in one place during the off-season means one thing – wheeling and dealing. Typically, a few free agents make their decisions about where they will play next year, and a few trades get consummated.
As of press deadline, the Jays were quiet but by the time you’re reading this, there may be an addition to the Boys in Blue. Hopefully he comes with a good arm.