MONTREAL -- In addition to setting new personal bests this season, Max Pacioretty also proved that he’s more than just a goal scorer.
Labeled as a power forward primarily tasked with filling the back of the net, the American winger nevertheless discovered a new facet of his game in 2014-15.
In addition to his 37 goals and 30 assists totaling 67 points – a career best – over the Canadiens’ most recent campaign, the Connecticut native also finished the regular season with a +38 differential, tying him for first in the category league-wide. In other words, the 26-year-old took the next step in establishing himself as a complete player – one who Michel Therrien was able to count on in a big way both offensively and defensively.
“Personally, I’ve gotten better every year over the last three years,” underlined Pacioretty during an end of season media availability. “I’ve improved every area of my game. I’m much better defensively, and I’m killing penalties while putting up the best numbers I’ve ever put up. I don’t know how I could ever argue that this system isn’t turning us all into better players.”
But for all of the success the Canadiens’ first-round pick in 2007 enjoyed on the ice, he also proved himself to be a leader among his peers in the dressing room.
Wearing the assistant captain’s “A” on his jersey for the first time alongside P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, and Tomas Plekanec, Pacioretty demonstrated a level of maturity – the kind that only comes with experience – worthy of the title he was given in September.
”I know that in the long run, experiences like these will only make us better,” affirmed the six-foot-two winger following the Habs’ Game 6 elimination in Tampa. “We have a core group of guys who have been playing together for a long time now. It was tough to lose [to Ottawa] in five games two years ago, but we had a lot of success in the playoffs last season. We had the opportunity to do even better this year, but we fell short. It’s hard to identify what we learned exactly, but as the years pass, we’ll realize this was a good lesson.”
In the nearer future however is the topic of the team’s captaincy debate, an issue which Pacioretty has his own unique take on.
“With our leadership group in this room, it doesn’t matter which letter you have on your jersey,” insisted the seven-year NHL vet. “We have a good system in place right now. It’s not just the leadership group; it’s the entire team. We’re leading by committee and we’ve had a lot of success. We just need a little bit more out of everybody.”
So while his name continues to be circulated among rumors this summer regarding who will be the 28th captain in Canadiens’ history, Pacioretty will instead be focused on preparing for the upcoming campaign.
“It’s not something I think about,” concluded the three-time 30-plus goalscorer. “At the end of the day, I can’t control what happens, but we expect everyone in this room to be leaders.”
Vincent Régis is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
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