The final line in a medical update recently released by the Montreal Canadiens reads as follows:
All three players are expected to fully recover in time for the Canadiens’ training camp in September.
The three players are Alex Tanguay, Sergei Kostitsyn and Max Pacioretty. The question is: Will all three players be MEMBERS of the Montreal Canadiens when training camp rolls around in September?
Tanguay underwent successful arthroscopic shoulder surgery on April 28. He missed 32 regular- season games due to injuries in 2008-2009 and was out of the lineup for the last two games of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins because of a shoulder injury.
He was missed. Particularly, after coach and GM Bob Gainey put him on a line with Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev down the stretch and into the playoffs. The fact that Gainey did not keep those three players together to start the series against the Bruins left many Habs’ observers scratching their heads. But that’s ancient history. As we look ahead to NEXT season, the question begs to be asked: Will Tanguay be in a Canadiens’ uniform next year?
Tanguay is one of 10 Habs eligible to become unrestricted free agents as of July 1st. He was a terrific off-season acquisition and paid immediate dividends playing on a line with Saku Koivu; the two found instant chemistry. Bringing Tanguay back won’t be cheap. The contract the Habs inherited paid Tanguay $5.25 million this season, making him the club’s most expensive forward. Tanguay would like to return to Montreal, and at age of 29, this guy still has plenty of upside. With the lack of success that Gainey has had attracting UFA’s to this city (it’s not as if he hasn’t tried), I suspect the Canadiens will overpay in an effort to keep Tanguay right where he is.
The second player mentioned in the Habs’ medical update? Sergie Kostitsyn, who was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery May 1st. Kostitsyn missed six regular-season games due to injury this season.
The Canadiens missed him. Not strictly as a result of his injuries. They missed him because Sergei Kostitsyn was a no-show far too often in the 56 games he did play. Far too often, S.K. was simply a passenger with this team. He showed none of the spark, hustle and desire he exhibited when he was called up midway through the 2007-2008 season, and he ended up back in Hamilton with the Bulldogs toward the end of the campaign.
Yes, S.K. will be back next season. But which Sergie Kostitsyn will show up at training camp? The one who showed up at training camp this season and started the campaign like a house-afire? Or the Sergie Kostitsyn who finished this season on the bench?
The third player mentioned in the Habs’ medical update was Max Pacioretty, who underwent successful surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdominal wall on April 29. Pacioretty missed all six Bulldogs’ playoff games against the Grand Rapids Griffins after being sent down to Hamilton on Mar. 23. Pacioretty had been called up by the Canadiens earlier in the season at a time when the injury bug was biting this team hard, and the 21-year-old showed some real flashes of power-forward promise during his stint in a Canadiens’ uniform. It’s ironic that Pacioretty played his two most effective games while playing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn as a replacement for Alex Kovalev, after Kovalev had received, from Gainey, an unscheduled two-game vacation.
Pacioretty’s performance as a Hab will no doubt offer Gainey much food for thought as he grapples with his 10 potential UFA’s, and looks for replacements for the likes of, let’s say, Alex Kovalev, should Kovalev take his act elsewhere as one of those 10.
Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that Pacioretty’s performance this season will earn the Connecticut native a long, hard look when this Habs’ team gathers for the start of training camp in four months time.