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The week that was for the Hamilton Bulldogs was full of surprises, the biggest being a victory over the Western Conference leaders. In Wheeling, a depleted Nailers lineup was able to pull off three straight wins to move into a playoff spot for the first time all season. Training camp in Montreal kicked off with a shocker, my Final Thought looks at the end of the Scott Gomez era in Montreal.
The Dog Pound
Heading into the week, I think most would have been hopeful for the team to go 1-1. Interestingly enough, they lost to the team they were more likely to beat and won against the team that most thought they would lose to rather handily.
News and Notes:
- Joe Stejskal was called back to the Bulldogs in anticipation of the callups to NHL training camp. The team also signed forward Joey Tenute, who wasn't playing anywhere this year, to a PTO as well as forward Tyler Murovich, the 4th leading scorer on the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL.
- Early Sunday, the club released Aaron Palushaj, Frederic St. Denis, and Cedrick Desjardins from their AHL-only lockout contracts. In order for them to rejoin the club, they must clear NHL waivers; Desjardins has already hit the waiver wire. The others will likely take longer to get back as St. Denis will be participating in training camp in the intrasquad game while Palushaj is still recovering from a shoulder injury and is still a couple of weeks away from returning to the lineup. He cannot be waived until he is healthy which means there's a good chance he begins the season on Montreal's roster.
- Speaking of injuries, defenceman Greg Pateryn is nearing a return to the lineup, perhaps as early as this coming week. Joonas Nattinen is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Olivier Fortier also missed both games for unspecified reasons (likely an injury).
- Lines from the most recent game:
Blunden - Holland - Gallagher
Bournival - Tenute - Dumont
Quailer - Chaput - Leblanc
Hagel - Lefebvre - Stortini
Tinordi - DeSantis
St. Denis - Commodore
Beaulieu - Ellis
Patrick Holland hasn't scored often this year (five goals overall) but good things happen when he does. Two of his goals are game winners while the other three were game tying goals, all also in wins.
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (12)
Assists: Nathan Beaulieu (11)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (22)
+/-: Dumont/Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (128)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117)
January 15: Hamilton vs Abbotsford
January 16: Hamilton vs Abbotsford
January 19: Toronto vs Hamilton
The Farm's Farm
The end to the NHL lockout more or less depleted a lot of the depth on the farm although that didn't stop the Nailers from pulling off three wins in as many nights.
As the Habs/Bulldogs have players affiliated with multiple teams presently, the stat table below now covers all of those players, not just the ones with Wheeling.
January 17: Wheeling vs Orlando
January 19: Wheeling vs Orlando
We learned on Sunday that the Scott Gomez era in Montreal has come to an end 48 games (plus possible playoff contests) earlier than anyone thought as the club announced they have sent him home to avoid any chance of jeopardizing an early July compliance buyout. He will sit the entire season and collect his full pro-rated pay. The team says the decision was made to eliminate the risk of him suffering a long-term injury which would negate the ability to buy him out but I suspect there is another reason.
Last season was nothing short of a media and fan circus when it came to the player with the highest cap hit in franchise history. Questions/complaints about who he was playing with, what line he was on, and quite often, why he was playing followed him and the team around, creating unnecessary distractions. The fact that the team itself was in disarray for the latter months of the year made this less of an issue than it would have been had the team been competitive and in the playoff race. This season, one where most teams will be in the hunt until the very end, that won't be the case.
I don't think this decision means that the team thinks Gomez couldn't have possibly been helpful. He was coming into camp with some momentum after a quality stint in the ECHL to stay in shape and he had a clean slate with the coaching staff. But how productive would he have to have been to avoid the likely firestorm? We all knew that regardless of what happened in the next few months, he was going to be bought out. Being asked about that fact regularly surely wasn't going to help things either. Basically, I think it came down to a risk/reward valuation where the risk was a combination of injuries, potential performance struggles, and off-ice baggage (the buyout situation, his cap hit, fan backlash) and the reward being any potential for a bounce back season. In the end, they felt the risk outweighed the reward.
Personally, I'm disappointed that Gomez's tenure with the Habs ends this way. I thought he could still be a somewhat useful player as I figured Michel Therrien would be able to bring some of the spark back that was lacking at times the past couple of years. But at the same time, it's hard to argue with the decision, there would have been an awful lot of things that could have gone wrong had they kept him. What a way to kick off the season.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.