Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s biggest blunder of the off-season will be on full display Tuesday night.
Los Angeles Kings’ forward Phillip Danault will make his first and only appearance this season at the Bell Centre. The Kings won the first meeting 5-2 on Oct.30 in Los Angeles. The former Hab recorded an assist.
He’s currently doing what he does best. Strong effort at both ends of the ice while providing offense occasionally.
Danault, is in the first year of a six-year deal, worth $33-million dollars. The Canadiens deemed the price tag too high for a defensive specialist. Danault felt he was more than that and was being pigeonholed by the team.
With the Canadiens, Danault was part of one of the best five-on-five lines in hockey with Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar. Now, he’s with two offensive minded players in Alex Iafallo and Andreas Anthanasiou.
And he’s thriving in his new surroundings. Danault has eight points in 12 games, including three goals. The Kings have been playing well, winners of five games in a row.
The loss of their top centre has had a catastrophic impact on Montreal’s roster. Brendan Gallagher, although also battling an injury, has been moved around the lineup. He’s played with Adam Brooks, Mathieu Perreault, and Jakes Evans after years of playing almost exclusively with Danault.
“We went through quite a bit here, he’s a big part of the success I was able to have and he’s a good friend,” Gallagher said Monday. “In terms of what he brings to their group, we know he’s an important player. So, for the 60 minutes, or 65 if needed, you got to turn off that friendship and do what it takes to find a way to win a hockey game.”
Montreal lost their best penalty-killer, faceoff man and dependable matchup centre, in Danault. Nick Suzuki has been able to produce like a top line centre, but his new contract will cost substinally more than Danault’s. You pay for offense.
The rest of the centre group hasn’t played to expectations.
Christian Dvorak, who the Canadiens acquired in a trade this summer, has struggled with his new team. His minus-13 rating is the worst on the team and one of the worst in the entire league.
Jake Evans was thought to be the heir apparent to Danault and hasn’t be able to take the step forward that the team was hoping for.
Canadiens head coach Dominque Ducharme is in a tough spot. He’s outgunned nightly, especially at hockey’s most important position.
“I think we know him as a player and I don’t want to go back in the past,” said Ducharme. “He moved on and we’re looking at our side and I have nothing more to say about that.”
The Kings are slowly building a nice core and it starts down the middle of the ice. Anze Kopitar and Danault will help bring along youngsters like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte.
The reason for the departure doesn’t matter. But Danault’s impact isn’t only determined by his offensive numbers. His ability to limit the other team from scoring is something the Canadiens will miss for a long time. The team is worse without him, and everyone has been affected.