The Montreal Canadiens have a health crisis, so to speak.
The team finished as the NHL’s leader in man-games lost last season, the second consecutive season in which they ranked as the unhealthiest team in the league.
It was a hot topic throughout the year, particularly at the end-of-season press conference by general manager Kent Huges.
“We could have all the greatest plans in the world,” said Hughes. “But if we don’t find a way to improve what’s going on from a medical standpoint, we will never build a winner.”
The team has proceeded to fire two of their longtime employees, Head Athletic Therapist Graham Rynbend and Head Physiotherapist Donald Balmforth. The firings were first reported by Tony Marinaro.
Rynbend had been with the team for well over 20 years, starting as an assistant athletic therapist for three seasons before becoming the lead athletic therapist in 2000.
He’s known as one of the most affable members of the organization, one that clearly endeared himself with current and former players.
Graham Rynbend was one of the greatest people I met throughout my NHL journey. Sad to hear he’s moving on. But greener pastures are a head.
— Craig Rivet (@craigrivet52) June 13, 2023
There’s no word regarding Dr. David S. Mulder, the team’s head physician who has been part of the organization since 1963.
It’s doubtful the Canadiens would part ways with Dr. Mulder, given his status as one of the most respected doctors in sports. However, Tuesday’s move does open the door to adding more members to their medical staff, members that would work closely with the roster players as Dr. Mulder serves as a consultant.
Even though it’s hard to solely blame either Balmforth or Rynbend for the unfortunate streak of injuries over the last 24 months, you’d be hard-pressed to argue a change was not needed.
If the Montreal Canadiens stopped playing hockey today it would take the New York Rangers 870+ more games to catch them in number of injuries https://t.co/s7Q67p9E4L@CanadiensMTL @NYRangers pic.twitter.com/l2bOErBFm4
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) March 11, 2023
Given the unreasonable number of man-games lost, or rather, the record-setting number of man-games lost, the Montreal Canadiens had no choice but to re-evaluate their entire medical process.
Not only did the injuries take their toll on the standings, but they also led to the Habs icing one of the most expensive rosters in the NHL.
Owner Geoff Molson ended up spending over $105 million to finish among the bottom-5 teams in the league, a rather disappointing return on his investment.
The aftershock reached well beyond the Canadiens.
The Laval Rocket were pillaged throughout the season, leaving them with very few reliable options in the lineup. Consequently, the Trois-Rivieres Lions were also called upon to provide warm bodies, leaving the organization’s ECHL franchise in a situation that forced a bevy of hasty signings as they desperately attempted to fill the roster.