Former Montreal Canadiens captain and current Carolina Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty believes one of the reasons the Vegas Golden Knights missed the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs was a lack of accountability.
Just prior to the 2018-19 season, Pacioretty was traded to the Golden Knights in exchange for for forward Tomas Tatar, forward Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The Golden Knights then signed Pacioretty to a four-year, $28 million contract extension with a $7M AAV. Coming from the hockey and pressure-filled fishbowl that is Montreal, Pacioretty welcomed the more relaxed atmosphere in Las Vegas where the city’s happiness doesn’t depend on the most Knights game.
“There was a relief when I got there. But then I found myself being like, ‘I’ve got to reel this in and hold myself to a higher standard which I had always done.’ But maybe I got away from it when I had everyone else holding me accountable (in Montreal).” Pacioretty said on the most recent episode of Chris Nilan’s Raw Knuckles Podcast.
The former Canadiens star winger continued by mentioning how some of the other Golden Knights players , who “don’t know really what it’s like,” to have mounting pressure on them as they “haven’t played somewhere else” and clearly not in a place like Montreal.
“I mentioned that at the end of the year that no one is really holding us accountable,” Pacioretty said. “If we have a bad year like this, the city would be half on fire in Montreal. Here in Vegas, it’s 80 degrees, and it’s sunny. We’re getting our car washed and getting our organic food, and going to play golf. I was kind of like, ‘we’ve got to police this thing a little better amongst each other.’ I don’t want to say it was a country club, but you have no one from the outside holding you accountable.”
While Pacioretty admitted the media and fan scrutiny of the Montreal Canadiens is, for lack of a better term, insane, he believes it made him a stronger person and better player.
“I think when I look back on my time in Montreal, I think if you handle the negatives and kind of turn them into a positive, you’re going to be better off in your career for it,” Pacioretty pointed out. “You’re going to always have someone holding you accountable. You play bad that game. …fans let you have it, media let you have it. You go back to your house that night, turn on any channel and they’re talking about you.”
Max Pacioretty acknowledged that always being held accountable no matter where you turn in Montreal was difficult at times but he always did his best to channel it into improving his game. However, the player the Montreal Canadiens drafted 22nd overall at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft did admit that he cracked under the pressure in his final season with the Canadiens. After four straight seasons with 30 goals or more, Pacioretty struggled in the 2017-18 season with just 17 goals and 20 assists in 64 games.
“So many people view that as a negative and listen, there are times when you’re sitting there and you’re like ‘Geez, could you just lay off me’ and at the end of the though, if you handle that the right way, you say ‘I gotta have a good game tomorrow,” Pacioretty said. “No matter what, I gotta do what’s right to have a good game tomorrow’ and I’ve found myself in that position a lot. Maybe my wife wasn’t too happy with how pleasant I was when I was getting some of the heat because I was just so dialed in because I was like ‘I could get traded if I go a couple more games here without scoring a goal or they’re really going to come down on me’ but I seem to have always found a way to dig myself out of that by really baring down and making sure that I had that good game or I scored that big goal up until my last year. It was a really tough year; for our team, for our organization, for everybody. I was really proud of everything I accomplished in terms of that except for my last year, it got away from me.”
Still, it was clear that playing in a culture like Las Vegas, where hockey isn’t the end all, be all, made him realize how lucky he was to have the experience of playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
“I watched last night, that documentary about Patrick Roy and Claude Lemieux and it was no different from him, I felt like he was talking to me through the TV screen about what happened,” Pacioretty said. “It seems like a lot of people, most players that have been there for a long time, kind of go through that and at the end of the day, you can be a better player because of it if you just tackle it and handle it the right way.”