MONTREAL - Any teams looking to saunter in and cake-walk their way into the Canadiens’ zone this year may want to consider a backup plan.
During the offseason, general manager Bob Gainey hit the phones and signed a trio of gritty free agents to beef up the Habs’ blue line this season. With Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill and Paul Mara bolstering Gainey’s defensive corps, the Montreal D zone promises to be less appealing than ever for visiting forwards.
Stalwart blue-liner Josh Gorges
has already gotten a taste of what’s to come on the points this year, and the 25-year-old likes what he sees.
“We definitely have a more experienced blue line with Hal coming off winning the Stanley Cup and Jaroslav having played in the Finals a few years back. As a young veteran, I can learn a lot from those guys,” explained Gorges. “The learning curve is a little steeper for us to get to know each other and that will take some time, but there’s already a certain buzz in the dressing room and a level of enthusiasm I haven’t seen in there before.”
Having inked a two-year deal with the Canadiens on July 1, Gill already feels right at home in his new Montreal environment surrounded by his new teammates.
“It honestly feels like we’ve played together for two or three years,” said the veteran defenseman. “All of the guys made it a point to come into Montreal a little early. Last season was tough for a lot of these guys and having some new faces come in could do them a lot of good. The atmosphere is already great. We’re already joking around and stuff and the mood has been really light and easy-going.”
While he has yet to discuss his precise role with his new team, Gill knows what to expect.
“I know what I have to do: clear the front of net. You’ve all seen me play before, right?” smiled Gill. “If Carey can’t see every puck coming his way, then I’m not doing my job. I also expect to take on a leadership role with the younger guys, but I think a lot of us will do that, whether we end up starting the season with a captain or not.”
Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.