MONTREAL – Most hockey players don’t reach their prime at age 34. But Mathieu Darche
has never been like most hockey players.
When Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier rewarded the hard-working winger with the first one-way contract of his professional career this past June, even he couldn’t have realized what a steal Darche would turn out to be.
“Honestly, for me it was an honor to finally get that one-way deal with the Canadiens,” explained the Montreal native, who made the most of the 40 regular season and playoff games he spent with the Habs last year to earn a full-time spot with his hometown team. “I just wanted to prove that what I did last season wasn’t a fluke.”
Darche followed up his debut with the Habs by posting career-highs across the board, finishing the 2010-11 campaign with 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games.
“Maybe when you make the league minimum, no matter what you do, people think you’re exceeding expectations,” joked Darche, who enjoyed his longest season in the NHL since his 73-game campaign with the Lightning in 2007-08.
In 2010-11, the gritty forward spent as much time bolstering the top two lines as his did adding some depth to the bottom two. The veteran winger also added power play duties to his workload, averaging 1:21 of PP time per game and notching 26.9% of his points with the man advantage.
After seeing his tenacity and years of perseverance pay off this season, the icing on the cake came when Darche was voted the Canadiens’ candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this April.
“There’s no set age where you stop improving,” warned Darche. “I’m 34 years old, but next year, I’m going to want to keep getting better. I want to do even more and that’s the attitude I had coming into this season from the start.”Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.SEE ALSOBulldogs hit the end of the line Stepping Up Czech Mark Good as new Mr. Versatility Only the beginning