There won’t be a fun playoff run for Laval this season as they were swept in the opening round by Utica. We look back at the series plus an interesting comment from head coach Jean-Francois Houle at the end-of-season presser.
The Week That Was
Apr. 19: Comets 4, Rocket 0 – While Laval had plenty of success against Utica during the season, they played rather tentatively in this one, especially early on. Eventually, the Comets found their stride with an early goal in the second making it a two-score game that really got the Rocket scrambling. Eventually, they started to play better but weren’t able to solve Nico Daws, putting them in a spot of needing to win two straight on the road to stay alive.
Apr. 21: Comets 2, Rocket 1 (OT) – An injury to Tory Dello finally got Frederic Allard into the lineup and he made an impact, scoring in the second to open up the scoring. For the longest time, it looked like that would hold up with Cayden Primeau playing well at the other end but Reilly Walsh tied it up with two seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for Samuel Laberge to score a little before the three-minute mark in overtime to end the series.
News and Notes
– Many Laval players met with the media over the weekend after cleaning out their lockers. We covered most of the key items here but among the key highlights is that Danick Martel isn’t expected to return next season and that Jesse Ylonen, a pending restricted free agent, won’t play at the Worlds next month.
– Emil Heineman’s hot start wasn’t sustainable and that crept up over the last couple of weeks as he was held off the scoresheet in the final five games. Still, seven goals and two assists in 13 games (playoffs included) was a nice debut in North America.
– William Trudeau didn’t have a guaranteed contract to start the season but finished the year as Laval’s highest-scoring defenceman with 27 points in 60 regular season contests.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Abbandonato – Richard
Simoneau – Condotta – Ylonen
Heineman – Gignac – Dube
Bourque – Yaremko – Teasdale
Trudeau – Schueneman
Struble – Galipeau
Norlinder – Dello
Generally, when a coach speaks with the media after a season, there usually isn’t anything interesting that comes out. And frankly, there wasn’t anything of note from Jean-Francois Houle but there was one rather innocent quote that still caught my eye:
“I don’t think we were built for the playoffs; all you guys could see that. I’m not going to sit here and say we were built for the playoffs. We’re young on defence. In the playoffs in the AHL, if you want to go far, you need some veteran presence and you need some size."
He certainly isn’t wrong. This was a team that didn’t have a lot of depth up front and had three rookies on the left side of their back end against Utica. But that was by design. Montreal’s management hasn’t exactly hidden their intentions of making Laval more of a development squad compared to the veteran-laden group that made the final four last season. They also haven’t hidden that their plan isn’t changing for next season. If anything, it’s only going to become more prospect-heavy with players like Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney, and Logan Mailloux among those making the jump in 2023-24.
I think it’s fair to classify Houle as an older-school coach. He trusts his veterans and youngsters don’t always play a lot until that trust is earned. I don’t mean that as a negative either, I think he has done a nice job with a roster that, honestly, hasn’t been the greatest. But was there value in publicly pointing out what he was missing when he ought to know that next year is going to be more of the same? I’m not trying to stir anything up here, it’s just something I found interesting amid a bunch of typical quotes.
Houle is going to need to adapt to Montreal’s change in philosophy moving forward as I expect the Habs won’t give him much choice with a roster that probably won’t be loaded with veterans (or size, for that matter). Here’s hoping he’s willing to do so.