MONTREAL – This past season wasn’t the easiest of Mathieu Darche’s career for a number of reasons, but he’s ready to prove he’s still got a lot of hockey left in him.
One year after delivering the best offensive output of his career, Darche – like his team – suffered a few setbacks in 2011-12. After finally hitting his stride mid-way through the campaign, the 35-year-old suddenly found himself sidelined with an upper-body injury in February and was forced to watch the remaining 21 games from the pressbox.
“For sure I would’ve liked to have played all the games. Things were going well with Pleky [Tomas Plekanec]. The unfortunate thing is I thought I was playing some of my best hockey of the year before I got injured,” admitted the Saint-Laurent native, whose season was cut short on Feb. 21. “In addition to some of the things I’ve brought to the table the past few years, I also added penalty killing to my list of responsibilities this season. But injuries are just one of those things you can’t really control.”
Getting some key shorthanded minutes will only help the veteran winger down the road, set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Bolstering his resume with two shorthanded goals this season – just one shy of Plekanec for the team lead – Darche didn’t just keep opposing power plays at bay; he also chipped in with some timely offense.
Heading into the summer cautiously optimistic that his game against the Stars in late February won’t be his last with the Canadiens, the pending UFA is aware he might have to wait a little longer than usual to learn his fate this summer.
“With the new management coming in, we don’t know who’s going to be in there or what decisions they’re going to make. It’s out of my hands so I can’t be worrying about that too much,” explained Darche, who just finished his third season in Montreal. “I still have some good hockey left to play and I’d love to be back here.
“I know it’s going to be a long offseason,” he added. “The doctors gave me the green light at the end of the year, so my health is coming along and I have some time to recuperate and make sure I’m completely recovered and ready to go.”
Since his arrival in the organization in 2009, much has been made of Darche’s mentorship skills off the ice, particularly with fellow Quebecers David Desharnais and Louis Leblanc. Though the Habs might have a very different look next season, the Montreal native is looking forward to being a part of the resurgence.
“The team knows what I can bring and they know what I can do. You need veteran guys on your team. I’m confident that I’ve shown them enough to stay,” mentioned Darche, who has 12 seasons as a pro hockey player under his belt.
“But if the organization decides they want to go in a different direction, that’s out of my control,” he underlined. “I hope with all my heart that I’ll be back. I wouldn’t want my career with the Montreal Canadiens to end in 15th place.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
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