MONTREAL – The 2010-11 season wasn’t an easy one for Josh Gorges
, but it might just prove to be the most important year of his young career.
After taking a Mike Green slap shot to the back of the head last February, Gorges didn’t even consider missing practice the next day let alone sit out a game. It takes more than that to keep the rugged blue-liner out of the lineup, so when the Habs announced that Gorges’ Iron Man streak would end after 150 consecutive games in December, you knew it had to be serious.
Forced to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL he had been playing through for the past seven years, Gorges spent the second half of his sixth NHL campaign on the shelf.
“First of all, sitting there and watching is tough enough, but you can also see the disappointment and frustration of losing on the guys’ faces. As hard as that is to deal with, it’s even harder to not be able to stand beside the guys and go through it with them,” revealed Gorges. “No matter what the outcome is, you want to be out there standing beside them and being a part of what they went through. Not being able to be a part of that was tough.”
Watching the playoffs in a suit instead of his usual No. 26, Gorges was determined to improve his game any way he could this spring.
“There are a lot of little things you learn – I think you definitely learn how to deal with frustration. And watching games on TV or even from the press box, it seems very easy. You realize that you can see all the mistakes from there,” explained the 26-year-old defenseman. “You forget that when you’re on the ice, it’s a lot faster than it seems. Being able to watch, I think I learned a lot about timing or what other guys do that makes them great.
“I got a different perspective on how Hal [Gill] kills penalties,” continued Gorges on his D-partner. “Or you learn from watching P.K. [Subban] even though he’s young, because you really see how he can protect the puck and the angles he takes or how he uses his body. There are a lot of things you can learn by watching.”
Gorges can’t wait to put those lessons into practice as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Kelowna, BC native will be spending his vacation the way he does every offseason: in the gym preparing for another season of sacrificing his body.
“It’s been a long time and there’s still a little ways to go yet [in the rehabilitation process], but things are progressing and moving along pretty well so I can’t complain about that. I have a long summer of work ahead of me to get myself ready for September,” described Gorges, who finished fifth in the league with 55 blocked shots during the 2010 Playoffs. “I’m looking forward to having a knee that’s going to work properly – I don’t know what that’s going to feel like because it’s been so long since it hasn’t.
“I’m excited to know that if everything goes according to plan – which it has been – that I should be that much better of a player coming out of this surgery,” he added. “I should be stronger and faster and a more efficient skater. That was the whole plan coming into this.”
Eager to skate with two healthy ACLs for the first time in his career, Gorges is hoping the contract he’s set to sign this summer is the last one he’ll need to worry about for a while.
“This is where I want to be. I don’t want to go anywhere else; I want to play here as long as I can,” underlined the pending restricted free agent. “Obviously it was a huge turnaround being traded here [from San Jose] because it’s something you don’t get anywhere else. To have a taste of what it’s like to win in the playoffs, I don’t think there would be any other place you’d want to go to win. This is the city you want to win the Stanley Cup in.
“It would be great to win it anywhere else, but to win it in Montreal with the history and the fan support and the outlook of hockey here in the city, as a player, you couldn’t ask for more than that,” he added. “Being an RFA, I know that I’m going to be back and that’s great because this is where I need to be. Now it’s just a matter of getting the deal done and being ready for next year.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOContractual status of Habs players Mr. Versatility Only the beginning