Sophomore Slump: How Does It Apply To Montreal?

Photo: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

Photo: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

“It’s in the back of your mind when you’re training. You know it can happen to you.” – Brendan Gallagher

 

Various observations, forms of research and statistical projections have attempted to size up the slump of second year superstars but there is some x-factor, some intangible that often times enables it to wriggle free of numerical grips.  One projection sees Alex Galchenyuk as the highest slide risk with 50% odds of seeing his slump become a reality this fast approaching season; however, the very same statistical projectors predict teammate Brendan Gallagher to be the lowest slide risk at just 5%.  Their logic was that Galchenyuk faces bottom pairing defencemen with his relatively limited ice time but logically Brendan Gallagher would also at some point face those same said defenders.  The two found themselves on a solid part-time basis being lined together and with less ice time, Galchenyuk only totalled one less point than Gallagher.

 

This logic: DENIED.

 

However, there is one critical factor to look at.  Should said projection hold any kind of credibility, the very same source cited Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau as a 15% slump risk, the very same that beat out Brendan Gallagher to win the trophy.  There would inherently be some positive writing on the wall.

 

Looking specifically within the Montreal Canadiens for past slump evidence, the first glance will be taken at PK Subban on a strictly numerical basis.

 

2010-11: 77 games/38 points

2011-12: 81 games/36 points

 

Not much of a slump there.  In fact, if factors included where the team finished in the standings then by that standard PK’s second year was considerably better.  PK’s third year, of course, resulting in his first of what could be many Norris victories, showcased that his slump wasn’t simply put off by a year either as he went up as nearly a point per game defenceman.

 

Enter: Max Pacioretty.

 

2008-09: 34 games/11 points

2009-10: 52 games/14 points

 

Okay, perhaps there was some cause for concern there.

 

Max went on to serve the next two years back in Hamilton where he only played a pedestrian number of games but in 2010-11 he amassed 32 points in just 27 games.  He would then go on to be called up once again to the main roster and this time around people actually knew and remembered his name… or that he had even played a single game.

 

Max’s second year in the eyes of many, 2011-12, saw him as one of the team’s only bright spots in an otherwise dismal year where he became a thirty goal scorer for the first time.

 

The final selection for recent Canadiens rookies: Lars Eller.

 

2010-11: 77 games/17 points

2011-12: 79 games/28 points

 

His rookie year was pedestrian to say the least but his second expedition actually ended up being a fair step bigger and better, albeit padded by a game on January 4th of that season against the Winnipeg Jets in which he racked up four goals and five points.

 

Eller has since lived up to the potential of a breakout season this past year so the question of a slump for him would not be of the same variety as the likes of Galchenyuk and Gallagher if he were to have one but the kid has put on at least seven pounds more of solid muscle this off season.

 

The only true cause for concern for this team as well as others around the league with their rookies is that they’ll be facing a full 82 game schedule but the optimism therein is that unlike most facing such a schedule, they had a 48 game preview last season to adjust to the NHL pace and physicality.  These are young men going up against fully developed men as opposed to going in as fresh bait kids.  The results herein will be particularly unpredictable going forwards due to conditions unfamiliar to all parties involved, including the fans.

 

Looking back to the specifics within this team, Brandon Prust faces his second year as a Canadien and has been well chronicled as being no average fourth liner and reason for being paid handsomely compared to others in such a role as his.  For a guy that spent 110 minutes in the penalty box in 38 games, 14 points isn’t a bad number at all and that grows especially true as he scored just three more in a full season the year prior.

 

Was Prust a one time glimmer of hope and expectations with numbers considerably higher (on a point per game basis) than any other in prior times or has he found the team that will enable him to do his job to the best of his abilities?

 

Refusing to pass judgement on Rene Bourque for his brief tenure of 2011-12 following the Michael Cammalleri trade and having still not played a full season with the team, his name is brought about in hopes of what was seen from him in Calgary.  Seeing as Bourque has played roughly a full season in his combined outings with Montreal, he will be included here.  Bourque displays some impressive numbers prior to his Montreal arrival as seen here.

 

2008-09: 58 games/40 points

2009-10: 73 games/58 points

2010-11: 80 games/50 points

 

Those numbers are all from his full seasons spent in Cowtown.  He played 27 games this past season and put up 13 points in total, near the half point per game mark.  However, Bourque’s rise amongst some Canadiens fans came mostly as one of the only performers during these past playoffs in that he both produced 3 points in 5 games as well as putting in shift work that everyone would have liked to have seen more of from other players on the team.

 

Not bad for a guy that’s making about 3.3 million for a cap hit.

 

The Sophomore Slump? The role it plays this coming season in Montreal is an intriguing one that –typical of its nature– is difficult to particularly pin down.  The team’s mindset coming in, though, can be summarized by Brendan Gallagher himself.

 

“A big part of my game is bringing energy to my teammates and bringing energy to how they play and what they can do.  It’s just something to focus on every game.  I try to be the hardest-working player.  I try to focus on the things I can control and not worry about the things that you can’t.”

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