MONTREAL – If there’s one player who gave it his all every time he hit the ice in 2014-15, it was Brendan Gallagher.
While things like character, effort and heart cannot be represented statistically, here are a few numbers that speak volumes about Gallagher’s campaign.
He registered 254 shots on goal during the regular season, which was good for 16th spot in the NHL. He scored 21 goals at even-strength, which ranked him fourth among right-wingers behind only Corey Perry (29), Vladimir Tarasenko (29) and Nikita Kucherov (27). He was the third-best goal scorer on the Canadiens in 2014-15 with a career-high 24 goals and he also ranked sixth on the team with 47 points, another personal best. Through three seasons, Gallagher boasts 116 points in just 207 career NHL games.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, take into consideration that the Canadiens’ No. 11 is just 23 years old, stands just 5’9” tall and was a fifth-round pick, 147th overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
How about another number for you? Six. That’s the number of years Gallagher received in a contract extension general manager Marc Bergevin afforded him last November, rewarding the consummate warrior with a lucrative deal just 24 games into the season. That enabled the Canadiens to avoid the standard bridge contract scenario in the process.
“There are a lot of factors that you have to take into consideration when you’re evaluating a player. Both myself and the organization were comfortable with giving him six years from the start,” shared Marc Bergevin, just minutes after making the contract extension public late last year. “We did a lot of comparisons and we looked at his numbers. There’s always a risk when you decide to go with a long-term deal with any player. Right now, we feel that the risk is worth it. From Day 1, Brendan has shown a love for Montreal. He wants to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He’s proud to be here. He likes the city and the fans. That made the job a lot easier.”
Canadiens fans will have the opportunity to watch Gallagher for at least the next six years, but all that matters to the young forward right now is readying himself for next season.
His objective? Helping his teammates in any way possible and continuing on a path towards lifting the CH to new heights in 2015-16.
“Now, we have to get ready for next season and focus on being better for each other. We’ll take a few weeks to rest and then get back to work,” explained Gallagher, an Edmonton native, during his season-ending media availability session at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “We can do some things out there to help Carey [Price]. Being a part of a team and being a good teammate is about doing the little things. It’s about doing things that often go unnoticed to help someone else do their job. If we want to win, we’ll learn those lessons as we go along. Our group continues to mature and learn.”
Gallagher’s outstanding work ethic didn’t go unnoticed by the fans or his general manager, who certainly appreciated his unwavering commitment to sacrificing his body for the sake of his team, particularly by working hard in the blue paint and pestering opposing netminders.
“We love the way he plays,” praised Bergevin. “Whether you’re 6’8” or 6’1”, he sees everyone the same way. He’s always got his foot on the gas. We know what type of player he is. He never takes a shift off. He’s never done it. Some nights are harder than others for him, but in general the effort is always there and his character has no limits. He works hard. He gets to loose pucks. He’s not afraid of anything. He battles every night.”
While no player in the Canadiens’ fold sported the coveted “C” in 2014-15, Gallagher showcased his brand of leadership by paying the price night in and night out, creating scoring chances and chipping in with 47 points between October and early April, before registering five more points during the playoffs. With that in mind, Bergevin didn’t rule out adding a letter to Gallagher’s jersey at some point down the road.
“A player like Brendan Gallagher has a ton of potential,” confided Bergevin at his end-of-season press conference on the South Shore. “Maybe one day [he’ll wear one], if we decide to go that route. His work ethic is exceptional. He never takes a break during a game. He’s a player who could eventually wear a letter on his jersey. He’s got a lot of leadership qualities.”
Regardless of what the future has in store, Gallagher insists he’ll continue exhibiting those qualities that have earned him a stellar reputation early on in his NHL career.
“I try not to change who I am. I think leadership is about leading by example. You have to prove that on the ice. If I feel that something needs to be said, I’ll say it,” concluded Gallagher. “If someone has something to say, whether they wear a letter on their jersey or not, they’ll stand up and say it.”
Here’s to six more good years, Brendan.
Élise Robillard is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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