As if Max Pacioretty needed another dose of adversity on top of everything he’s already dealt with this season.
Without question, these past few months have been the most trying of Pacioretty’s illustrious 10-year career with the Montreal Canadiens. The player who led the team in goals in each of the last six seasons suffered through two lengthy slumps this season — scoring only one goal in 22 games between Nov. 14 and Jan. 3 and only one in his last 15 games. You can just imagine how that played for him as captain in a hotbed market like Montreal.
Unpleasant would be a mild way of putting it.
Pacioretty’s name being featured more than any other in the NHL rumour mill from late October to the Feb. 26 trade deadline was downright unbearable for him. He recently admitted it took a considerable toll on both his personal and professional life.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, a knee injury suffered last Friday now threatens to possibly turn a meaningless March game against the plummeting New York Islanders into the last one he ever plays for the only NHL team he’s ever known.
If it takes Pacioretty as long as six weeks to recover, he won’t make it back before the Canadiens put the finishing touches on this agonizing season in Toronto on April 7. And if general manager Marc Bergevin elects to trade him this off-season — we believe it’s all but certain he will — a 17-goal, 37-point season cut short by injury will be the final impression he leaves in Montreal.
That wouldn’t be remotely representative of Pacioretty’s tenure in a Canadiens uniform. Stacked up against five 30-goal campaigns and leading the team in points for seven straight seasons, this one is a total outlier.
In an ideal world, Pacioretty would go out guns blazing. He’d be making as strong of a case as he could to remain with the Canadiens or he’d be boosting his trade value even higher than what it is today. There would be more smiles along the way, more pleasant exchanges with the media, and more of a resolved feeling of having done whatever he could to make the best of a bad situation.
But being robbed of that opportunity and having a pointless, 14-shift, minus-2 performance against the Islanders be his last of this miserable season would be enough to make you believe Pacioretty has done something unforgivable to the hockey gods.
Conspiracies aside, it will have negligible impact on his value. We’re still talking about an elite player who’s on the right side of 30 and counts for only $4.5 million on next year’s salary cap.
But Pacioretty was hoping for a different ending.
And even if the Canadiens stand to lose a few more games than they might have if Pacioretty were available for all of their remaining 17 — an outcome that would only increase their odds at choosing first overall in the NHL Draft this summer — this isn’t what they would’ve hoped for, either.
Add it to the list.
The Canadiens weren’t happy to shut down No. 1 defenceman Shea Weber in December, and they’re definitely not happy that he’ll have to undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot. They’d also rather have goaltender Carey Price healthy and making his bid to prove he’ll be worth every penny of that new eight-year, $84-million contract that kicks in next fall instead of sitting on the sidelines with a concussion.
Losing promising defenceman Victor Mete to a broken finger for the remainder of the season was another blow for the Canadiens to absorb on Monday. These final games mean virtually nothing to the team’s playoff aspirations this year, but they mean a lot to its future — with the opportunity at hand for a 19-year-old like Mete to continue to develop in the best league in the world.
We’re sure the Canadiens were hoping the drama of this season would finally subside after the deadline, but alas that hasn’t happened.
We didn’t think it would ramp up for Pacioretty, but here we are. He didn’t need this.