Chris Higgins’ name has certainly been mentioned enough times in the early going this season. The trouble is: it’s not because of anything he’s done on the ice.
Higgins has been dealing with a groin injury since training camp, and has yet to make an appearance on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens this season. Higgins was, in the words of head coach Guy Carbonneau following an optional skate Sunday, a 98 per cent sure thing to start in Monday’s game against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre. However, when the puck dropped on the contest, won 3-1 by the Habs, Higgins was on the sidelines yet again. His name, however, continues to make the rounds in the rumour mill, which has him linked to a deal that would send the native of Smithtown, NY to the Minnesota Wild for Marian Gaborik. Other names linked to the rumoured deal include Minnesota native and can’t-miss prospect, defenceman Ryan McDonough, and backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
It’s a rumour that has been fueled by the false starts associated with Higgins’ anticipated return to action, causing a feeding frenzy on the part of fans and some media alike. Higgins must be used to this trade talk by now. He was rumoured to be on his way out of Montreal back in March, as teams jockeyed for position leading up to the National Hockey League trade deadline. The deadline came and went, and Higgins remained the property of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Chris Higgins trade rumours surfaced again when Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey was granted exclusivity by the Toronto Maple Leafs to talk contract with Mats Sundin. In fact, a deal had been put in place between Gainey and his Leaf counterpart, Cliff Fletcher, that would have been kicked in, had Gainey been able to convince Sundin to sign with the Habs.
The player rumoured to be on his way to Toronto, in return?
The exclusive opportunity to talk contract with Sundin ended when the Leafs Captain opted for unrestricted free agency. While Sundin remains on the sidelines, contemplating his options, Chris Higgins remains in a Canadiens’ jersey. Now he’s simply waiting for a chance to finally slip on that jersey number 21 and play in a hockey game.
Higgins was at his best with the Canadiens when he returned to the Habs following his stint as a member of Team USA at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. He came back from that experience a different hockey player; a more confident hockey player, and more productive hockey player. He finished the 2005-2006 season with 23 goals and 15 assists as a rookie; with a promise of more to come the following season. That promise was cut short early on in the 2006-2007 season, when Higgins suffered an a high ankle sprain that put him on the shelf for an extended period of time. He managed to come back and play in 61 games, chipping in with 21 goals, but he struggled to rediscover his game after the injury.
Last season, Higgins was healthy but inconsistent.
This season, well, there hasn’t been a “this season” for Chris Higgins, and that’s unfortunate. He’s a talented, gritty, fiercely competitive individual who wears his heart on his sleeve. There’s more pride in his 5-11, 188-pound body than hockey players twice his size. There’s a reason why he has the “A” on his jersey. It’s a shame that an injury has left him waiting for his first chance to wear that jersey, this season.