Unsung Hero – Phillip Danault

The date is February 26, 2016. The Chicago Blackhawks, who had just beaten on the Toronto Maple Leafs by a decisive score of 7-2 the night before, were gearing up to take another run at the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens, on the other hand, were trying to survive having lost Carey Price after only 12 games in the season to what could be a season-ending injury. They were flirting with the .500 mark and were likely going to miss the playoffs. For a few days, Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman was on the phone negotiating with his counterpart and former employee Marc Bergevin, now at the helm of the Montreal franchise.

The centre of their discussion? Two pending unrestricted free agents: Dale Weise and Tomas Fleishmann, two solid and serviceable veterans. When the dust settled and the deal was announced, the Canadiens had acquired centre Phillip Danault and the Blackhawks’ second round pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. Danault, a Victoriaville native who had just turned 23 two days earlier, was Chicago’s first round pick in 2011.

“Phillip Danault is a young and gifted player who will be part of our core group of young forwards for many years to come. I am very pleased to have him join our organization. As a member of the Blackhawks management group, I was instrumental in the selection of Phillip in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft.” ~ Marc Bergevin after the trade.

In his first full season with the Canadiens, Danault had a career-high 13 goals and 40 points while playing all 82 games. The following season was more difficult for him due to injuries, but he still managed 25 points in 52 games, a pace to match his previous season’s 40 points.

200-foot player

When the Canadiens traded away Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk last summer, many “experts” were questioning where the offense would be coming from. Downplaying the impact that both Max Domi and Tomas Tatar would have on the team was their first mistake obviously, but Danault losing his left winger in Pacioretty brought questions marks. You see, they were several who were claiming that Danault’s offensive success was because he played with the captain on his wing. In retrospect, it turns out that they were wrong.

This season, Danault has already matched his career-high of 40 points… with 27 games left in the season! With 23 points in his last 24 games, he is also coach Claude Julien‘s appointed centre to face the opponents’ top line due to his great defensive awareness. Recently given Jonathan Drouin on his left wing, both French Canadian skaters are giving their opposition all they can handle alongside team sparkplug Brendan Gallagher. Last night against the powerhouse Winnipeg Jets, that line finished the game with a combined 10 points… while checking the Jets’ top line. It’s tough to attack when you don’t have the puck and Danault’s line put up a clinic of puck pursue and puck possession.

If you look at the definition of “underrated” in the dictionary, you will find Phillip Danault’s picture. Not literally of course, but as a figure of speech. Either way, he has found his niche in Montreal where he is well liked by his teammates, his coaches, and by the fans as well. We can only hope that he keeps on having that kind of impact when more skillful young centres are ready to contribute as ultimately, it will make the Canadiens even better.

Oh about that second round draft pick that Bergevin received from the Blackhawks… Trevor Timmins selected Alexander Romanov with it. How is that for a trade? Go Habs Go!

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Unsung Hero: Andrew Shaw

He was a victim of the anti-Bergevin crew, those who will never forgive and forget that the Canadiens’ General Manager dared trading their Golden Boy P.K. Subban. Everything Bergevin did since is bad, according to them, and they would jump on every opportunity to try to prove their point. Some still do, even in the media. But Andrew Shaw is doing what Jonathan Drouin is doing. He’s following the trend set by Max Domi and Tomas Tatar in taking every ammunition out of their hands, deflating their bubble of criticism one by one.

The proof is in the pudding. Instead of recognizing that Shea Weber has had an immense impact on the Canadiens since returning to the line-up after almost a full year absence, something that everyone around the NHL acknowledges, one of Bergevin’s biggest detractors, Arpon Basu, typed this garbage after Weber was caught flat-footed against Andrei Svechnikov, last summer’s second overall pick: 

Basu was so excited and in such a hurry to write that tweet that he misspelled Weber’s name! But guess what? While it may please the Brendan Kelly’s and company of this world, most Habs’ fans are knowledgeable enough to read right through the blind hater. Perhaps is it the fact that even Canadiens’ second best defenseman Jeff Petry is schooling their Golden Boy, the need to try to get back to Bergevin is just too strong… like a kitten unable to resit a laser-pointer!  

Shaw on a roll

As pointed out, one of the victims of this blind hater has been Andrew Shaw. How many times have we seen local “reporters” throwing former Canadiens’ Lars Eller and his stats down our throats? Funny we’re not seeing that trend anymore. Funny how we don’t hear about Alex Galchenyuk and Mikhail Sergachev either. Why? Because it so happens that Domi, Drouin, Shaw and even Weber are outplaying those who were traded away. But don’t you worry… vulchers like Basu and company, while ignoring the current trend, will be waiting in the weeds as soon as the roles are reversed, as they’ve done in the past.  

Shaw is a great contributor to the Canadiens’ success

With a goal last night against Carolina on a beautiful feed by Weber, Shaw has extended his points streak to six games (2G-4A). As a matter of fact, the 27 year-old gritty forward has racked up no less than 17 points (8G-9A) in his last 17 games for the Canadiens since November 8th. 

Since joining the Canadiens, Shaw has played 147 games and has put up 68 points on the board (0.46 Pts/GP). So far this season, he has 9 goals, 19 points in 28 games (0.68 Pts/GP) while being the same polivalent and gritty player that he is, providing sandpaper, creating havoc in front of the opposing net, and taking faceoffs when needed. 

Some people wrongfully felt like Shaw wasn’t worth the $3,9 million cap hit the Canadiens are giving him, but few around the NHL share that feeling. Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews was quoted back then saying that he was disappointed to see Shaw leave the Hawks’ organisation who traded him for no other reasons than the fact that they were tight against the salary cap and couldn’t afford to re-sign him. They wanted to keep him.

For inquiring minds, here are a few comparative contracts to Shaw around the NHL:

  • Craig Smith (NSH) $4.25M
  • Casey Cizikas (NYI) $3.35M
  • Carl Hagelin (ANA) $4M
  • Cody Eakin (DAL) $3.85M

* Source: capfriendly.com

Marc Bergevin has many reasons to smile. Andrew Shaw’s play is one of them.

Another comparative often used in the past by those with an axe to grind against Bergevin is Lars Eller, whom the Canadiens traded to Washington for two second round picks. Ironically, that’s the price that Bergevin paid Chicago to get Shaw. I say ironically because they complained about overpaying for Shaw but conveniently “forgot” that Bergevin received the same return for Eller. But what exactly has Eller done to be placed on a pedestal by those people, other than in an attempt to put Shaw down?

With the Canadiens, Eller, who carries a $3.5 million cap hit, played a total of 435 games in which he accumulated a grand total of 154 points (0.35 Pts/GP). With the Capitals, he has 73 points in 192 games (0.38 Pts/GP) and this season, he has 14 points in 30 games (0.47 Pts/GP). That’s a far cry from Shaw’s numbers, isn’t it? Now consider that Shaw is one of the leaders on the Canadiens… 

So before you read – and mostly start believing – the junk thrown out there by certain “reporters” and/or “fans”, please ensure to consider the source as too many of them simply cannot make an unbiased assessment if their lives depended on it. Because you know… 76 now belongs to prospect Josh Brooks. Now here’s hoping that Shaw’s concussion issues are behind him, as they seem to be for the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby amongst others. Go Habs Go!