As October starts to inch closer and closer dragging a new NHL season with it, 31 teams all sit dead even with a campaign full of possibility ahead of them.
Some teams are readying to build on the momentum of years past, others are looking to cash in as their competitive windows close and some are looking for a fresh start after disappointing finishes.
The 29-year-old captain only played in 64 games after his season was cut short in March due to a knee injury, during which he recorded just 37 points, his least-productive season since his third in the league when he put up 24 through 37 games. Under his leadership, the Canadiens totalled just 29 wins and 71 points, better than just three teams in the entire NHL.
“I’ve never had an off-season like this where I’m coming off a bad year,” he told TVA-Sports’ Felix Sequin after taking in the women’s final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. “It was my first bad year, our team is coming off a horrible year as well.
“So, [it’s] a clean slate [and] I’m just going to worry about things I can control, and that’s making sure I’m ready to come in to camp in shape and ready to be able to produce this year, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Among the injury concerns and lack of production, a cloud of trade rumours hung over Pacioretty for much of this past season, which he admitted took a toll on his personal and professional life. It’s an understandable sentiment, especially considering he is one of the few hockey players to remains in the city he plays for during the off-season despite hailing from New Canaan, Conn.
He even goes on to tell Sequin that Montreal is, “home for me,” and “there’s nothing like it.” But while the results and rumours of his past year were mostly negative, he was pleasantly surprised by the support offered by his fanbase.
“I get a lot of support,” he said. “This summer especially opened up my eyes a lot. I always knew that the support was there … everyday that goes by I meet someone who says something positive to me and it’s really encouraging to me that I have such great support in the city.”
A healthy season for Pacioretty will be pivotal if there is to be any sort of rebound for either him personally or the Canadiens as a whole, and it will be a true test to get off to a timely start considering he hasn’t played since March 2. By his indications, however, his health shouldn’t be a problem.
“I think as soon as the season ended I got cleared the day after,” he said. “I’ve been healthy throughout the whole summer. It’s been a long time since I’ve played. I waited a while to get back on the ice, I’ve only skated for [two to three] weeks right now. That’s something that’s not ordinary for me, but now I’m ready to ramp it up and I’m spending a lot of time on the ice now … I feel really good about where I’m at.”
It’s going to take much more than just one player rebounding off a bad season to vault the team up the standings. Montreal scored just 209 goals in 2017-18, the third least in the entire NHL, prompting general manager Marc Bergevin to make a move sending Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for the dynamic Max Domi in June.
It’s unsure where Domi will slot into the lineup as of yet, whether it’s alongside Pacioretty or not, but he certainly likes what he’s seen of the youngster so far.
“He’s a great kid, he works very hard. He works at his game … So it’s always encouraging when players like that work on their game. I think he has tremendous potential, he’s a great play maker and [has] good vision.”