Is Brendan Gallagher winning over Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes and head coach Martin St. Louis with his inspired play as of late?
When Hughes was hired, the common speculation was that he would do his best to find a way to get out from under the five years left after this season on Gallagher’s six-year contract that carries a $6.5 million contract. With the oft-injured Gallagher turning 30 on May 6, the feeling was that the Habs alternate captain would be part of a purge to pave the way into the future for Hughes and the Canadiens. However, in a recent one-on-one interview with Sportsnet Canadiens Insider Eric Engels, Hughes spoke of Brendan Gallagher as being an impactful and important player for the Canadiens, a sign that the veteran winger has impressed the Habs’ new management team with his recent play.
“He’s been pretty impactful on this road trip. When you watch him, he’s missed a couple of great chances, which always happens when you’re snake-bitten. But he’s averaged close to 30 goals a year in his career. He missed one in Edmonton — I don’t know if you saw — where there was a rebound right there and it just popped over his stick. When you’re not having puck luck, that happens.” said Hughes in an interview with. “We can say it’s all (former coach) Dom (Ducharme), but there’s also a component of you start feeling good about yourself and all of a sudden you start scoring goals. So, hopefully the same will happen with Brendan Gallagher, who’s a pretty important player to this organization.”
Gallagher has seen a resurgence in his play since the appointment of Martin St. Louis as the Montreal Canadiens head coach, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Gallagher had been playing some of the worst hockey of his career up until that point, putting up just four goals in 37 games prior to the Canadiens’ meeting with the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Getting Gallagher back to his offensive ways has to be one of the biggest priorities of St. Louis’ mandate as head coach and his efforts are already starting to pay dividends.
Through the first half of the season, it became very apparent that something was missing in Gallagher’s game: confidence. He had lost that swagger that made him one of the most annoying players to play against in the NHL, and that confidence needed to be rebuilt from scratch; something St. Louis seems to be succeeding in doing early on.
Brendan Gallagher had a miserable season prior to the appointment of St. Louis as coach due to injuries, covid-19, and an ever-changing cast of linemates throughout the season. After each game, he felt an extra amount of pressure to produce, which took him away from the style of play that made him such an effective player in the past. The frustration was mounting for Gallagher as he had gone almost 20 games without a goal for the Montreal Canadiens.
“I’ve been through slumps or droughts in my career before, but nothing quite like this. I just got to remind myself that I’ve always been a process-over-results guy. Just the last 5-6 games I feel like I’ve had one or multiple opportunities to put the puck in the net.” said Gallagher in regards to the frustration in his game after an 8-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on March 1. “For whatever reason, I’m just not beating goalies. I got to puck a puck in the net.”
Brendan Gallagher was being hard on himself. His play was noticeably better under St. Louis. He was crashing at the net and causing all kinds of havoc in the blue paint, producing multiple scoring chances; the first sign that a player is back on. Gallagher continued to work through that adversity, continuing to crash the net and jump on loose pucks, until one night, it finally paid off. In his native Edmonton, Gallagher was able to pot home his first goal in 18 games off a rebound on the powerplay, and you could just feel the confidence coming back to him as the game went on.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 6, 2022
After finally scoring his goal, Brendan Gallagher seemed 20 lbs lighter during his press conference, and he seemed to be showing much of that swagger Montreal Canadiens fans know and love. Gallagher took the time to credit St. Louis for keeping him focused and motivated throughout his slump in order to improve all the facets of his game.
“You want to produce, you want to help the team” said Gallagher after the Canadiens’ 5-2 win over the Oilers. “Marty has been talking to me quite a bit. It’s something as a player you appreciate because he doesn’t have to do that.”
Nick Suzuki tosses the monkey off of Brendan Gallagher's back pic.twitter.com/KBDvo8JIuY
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 6, 2022
St. Louis also praised Gallagher for his improved play and his hard work, believing that he was too hard on himself all season and needed to let go of that emotion to get back to his game. When reporters had informed him of the credit that Gallagher had sent his way in helping find his game again, St. Louis provided a retort that helped contextualize just how important he’ll be to helping Gallagher find consistency moving forward.
“One thing I have is the experience of having been one of those players. I’ve gone through the things that Gally is going through and it’s important for me to communicate with him about that” said St. Louis. “It’s about helping him see the big picture, be patient with himself and not judge himself simply on his offensive production. For me, he’s been playing great, but he’s just got to be more patient with himself to maintain his confidence.”