MONTREAL - In life, there are times when you lose it. You lose your bearings, your confidence; you don't feel like yourself anymore, and you stop doing all the little things that helped you succeed. That's what Brandon Davidson went through this year. But the good news is that he's seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and he's now more motivated than ever to become an important cog in the Canadiens' machine.
The 25-year-old defenseman was hoping that his third NHL season would be his best. He was ready, after spending last summer training like he never had before. But a concussion sidelined him during the preseason. Then, he suffered an upper-body injury in the first game of the regular season, while still a member of the Edmonton Oilers. He ended up sitting out the next 30 games as a result.
"It slowed me down a bit after a really good summer. When I got to Edmonton, I hit all my marks during physicals. But when I got hurt, it really set me back. It was a tough one for me and I lost a lot of my confidence," admitted Davidson, who was acquired by the Canadiens on February 28. "Even when I came back, I felt I wasn't the same, I wasn't playing as well. I was still having trouble because of the injury. I wasn't moving like I wanted to, I wasn't doing what I wanted to be doing. So it was really frustrating and hard."
You could sum it all up by saying that Davidson had reached the bottom of the barrel.
"That would be a good analogy," confided Davidson, who only played 10 regular season games with the Habs - collecting two assists - and three more in the playoffs. "I definitely touched bottom and I am very optimistic that I'll be better next season."
Sometimes, you have to reach the bottom before you think to step back and gain some perspective on your situation - and that's just what Davidson did.
"I had a lot of time to reflect. I understood what I needed to do, what I needed to work on to be successful. I learned a lot about myself," he recounted. "I learned to manage the challenges that come with getting injured, and also the confidence side of things. Because hockey is a very mental game, isn't it?"
Davidson believes that his 2016-17 campaign was a learning experience. He matured, and now he hopes to transform all the negatives from last year into positive energy, in order to be ready for next season. To that end, he didn't even take any vacation after getting eliminated from the playoffs. Instead, he got right back to work on his training upon his return home to Taber, AB, a little town of 8,500 in the suburbs of Lethbridge.
"I had to take all the negatives, take some lessons out of it all and transform it into something positive. It's easy to say, but I worked on that all through last year. It was a process, it was trial and error," explained the Habs' No. 88. "It's one of the toughest things I've done in my career."
The good news, though, is that the native of Lethbridge is an optimist by nature.
"I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It's given me a new perspective," he continued. "I realized once again that I'm a good hockey player, and that's what'll motivate me through the offseason."
Davidson started to see that light emerge through the proverbial tunnel during the playoffs, where he regained his footing. Unfortunately, the abrupt end to the Canadiens' second season cut his momentum short. But the blue-liner has no intention of losing his rhythm and has big things in store for next season on the Habs' backend.
"This summer, I'm working on my shot and my mobility, among other things," Davidson noted. "I honestly think I could be the go-to guy. I could be a leader and after learning everything I learned, I think that for next year, the sky's the limit."
On top of all his personal growth, Davidson, who has suited up for 101 NHL regular season games - got to witness two of the NHL's best defensemen up close - Shea Weber and Andrei Markov.
"You learn just by being around them, seeing how they carry themselves - both on and off the ice. It was a privilege to see them go," he concluded. "I came away with all these lessons that I'll be putting into practice this summer.