Let me take you back to the off-season, at a time when it became clear that Mats Sundin didn’t want to have anything to do with the Montreal Canadiens, and before GM Bob Gainey went out acquired Plan B, in Robert Lang.
Once it became pretty clear that Sundin had very little interest in Montreal’s overtures, Gainey was asked who he felt could step in and help fill the void at centre.
His answer: Kyle Chipchura.
However, that was until Gainey went out and signed Lang as a free agent, effectively squeezing Chipchura out of the Plan B picture. Unfortunately for Lang, his season came to an end at 8:33 of the third period in the game against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 1st, after the 38-year old suffered an Achilles tendon injury. At the time, Lang was leading the team with 18 goals and had distinguished himself rather nicely as a big, productive, if somewhat slow-flooted, force at front.
That was until 8:33 of the third period against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 1.
Exit Robert Lang. Re-enter Kyle Chipchura, the original Plan B, called up today from the Hamilton Bulldogs, and expected to join the team in Denver in time for tonight’s game against the Avalanche.
Chipchura, a 1st-round 2004 draft pick, has had a number of cups of coffee with the Canadiens this season, most recently as a call-up in December when veterans like Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins were dropping like flies. He spent eight games with the big team before being sent back down to Hamilton; eclipsed on the prospects depth-chart by the likes of fellow-Bulldogs Max Pacioretty and Matt D’Agostini, who are still with the big team.
Chipchura returns to the Habs after scoring 13 goals and adding 13 assists in 33 games with the Bulldogs this season, good for a plus-18 rating. Obviously this time, he’s hoping to stick. His best opportunity to make a full-time impression came last season, when he spent most of the first half of the campaign with the Canadiens, before being sent back down to the American Hockey League: the clock ticking on his long-term prospects as a bona-fide big-league talent, within this organization.
Now he’s back.
Chipchura will never be confused with Robert Lang. He’ll never be nearly the offensive talent that Lang has been throughout his career. But Chipchura has the potential to be a solid, two-way contributor at the N.H.L. level. Although it’s unfortunate that this latest opportunity comes at the expense of Robert Lang’s season-ending injury, it’s an opportunity, nonetheless.
One door closes, another one opens.
Personally, I’m rooting for the personable young man from Westlock, Alberta, who would love nothing more than to celebrate his 23rd birthday, just six days from now, on Feb. 19, as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.