MONTREAL – Colby Armstrong impacted the Canadiens in his own unique way this past season.
Slowed down by several injuries over the course of the last few years, the veteran forward had an opportunity to start anew in 2012-13. Having been given the opportunity to do it in Montreal with the team he admired most as a child, Armstrong was the character-type player the Habs sought out to instill a new culture within the locker room. He is the first one to admit, however, that he didn’t manage to have as big an impact on the ice as he had hoped for.
“After the way that things finished up for me last year in Toronto, I really wanted to get myself back on track here,” explained Armstrong, who finished the season with two goals and five points in 37 games. “It’s unfortunate that I hurt my knee at the end of the year. I was able to come back a little bit early to try and salvage a small part of the shortened season. I had some highs and lows, but I believe that I still managed to do a good job fulfilling my role.”
If there was one person who knew exactly what Armstrong could bring to his team this past season, it was Michel Therrien. The veteran coach knew that the Saskatchewan native could offer up a measure of physicality and toughness on the ice, elements that the Canadiens lacked the last several years. They may have only been together for a few months because of the lockout, but Armstrong was happy to have another opportunity to play for Therrien.
“I’ve known Michel for a long time. He coached me since I got going in the American Hockey League at 20 years old and I’ve always been comfortable with him,” recalled Armstrong on the subject of the 49-year-old bench-boss. “He taught me how to become a professional when I was younger and he used the same style he had in the past with the guys here this year. I really enjoyed playing for him.”
He may not have produced the results he had hoped for on the ice, but Armstrong left his mark in the Canadiens dressing room nonetheless. Appreciated by all of his teammates for his sense of humor and love for life, the 30-year-old veteran proved to be an excellent resource to help the younger players on the team. Fulfilling that role helped Armstrong become more accustomed to the new, primarily francophone environment in which he lived over the past several months.
“I managed to improve my French a little bit. It was one of the things that I wanted to do when I got here,” explained Armstrong, who made more than a few people laugh when he put his French-speaking skills on display on 24CH. “I was lucky to sit next to Davey [David Desharnais] for the whole season. It was different to live amongst a different culture, but I really enjoyed living here.”
When the Habs’ season wrapped up a few weeks ago, Armstrong’s contract also expired at the same time making him an unrestricted free agent come July. Conscious of the fact that a return to the Canadiens in 2013-14 is not a guarantee, he greatly appreciated his stint in Quebec and hopes to pursue his career here to continue building on a season in which the team took a giant leap forward.
“I loved Montreal. There’s a great group of guys here,” Armstrong said. “My family and I loved this city. Being a part of this team was an incredible experience.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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