BUFFALO – While a trade like Hal Gill’s may be part and parcel of pro hockey, the Habs agree, it’s never easy to see a friend go.
Clearly one of the most liked members of the Canadiens’ roster for the last three seasons, Hal Gill saw his tenure in Montreal end Friday afternoon as he was traded to a Nashville Predators team intent on making a deep playoff run. Hours away from squaring off with the Buffalo Sabres, it’s certain that Gill’s presence on the team will undoubtedly be missed.
“It’s always a tough day when a friend has to leave,” expressed Josh Gorges, who counted Gill as one of his closest friend in the Canadiens’ dressing room. “It’s too bad because I never got a chance to see him to actually say bye. But that’s the business side of hockey, now we have to move forward.”
|The Canadiens react to Hal Gill's trade. |
Many attribute Gill’s steady aura both in the room and on the blue line as one of the main factors in the development of Gorges and then-rookie, P.K. Subban, into two of the Canadiens’ most reliable rearguards.
“We were pretty close friends and he was really like a mentor to me over these last couple of years. He showed me a lot about what it takes to be an elite player, and good penalty killer, an effective shot blocker, so it’s tough to see him go. Guys like him are hard to find,” finished Gorges. “There’s no replacing Hal Gill, he’s one in a million – anyone who knows him will tell you that.”
Upon arriving at the First Niagara Center Friday night, Habs head coach, Randy Cunneyworth took a moment to meet with the media and offer a few words on Gill’s departure for Nashville and what it signifies for his team.
“The trade obviously means that we lose a leader like Hal in the room and also on the ice,” dropped Cunneyworth. “He was a great veteran for this team. Clearly, he was a guy that a lot of other teams held in very high regard. We all wish him the best for the future. Now his responsibilities are going to be transferred onto our younger players and they’ll be expected to raise the level of their game.”
Despite the trade, Cunneyworth made it clear that the white flag is far from being waved in the Canadiens’ camp.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s not the case at all,” answered Cunneyworth when faced with the question. “I think our younger guys are going to embrace the chance to carry more responsibility. It’ll be important for every guy playing on the blue line to take his play up a notch. We know they’re all capable of it.”
When looking for examples of what Gill accomplished on the ice in his time with the Canadiens, his former teammates were more than happy to offer up some answers.
“When we went to the semi-finals two years ago, he was always up against the oppositions’ top lines. Whether it was Ovechkin or Crosby, he continuously did an incredible job on the penalty kill and 5-on-5,” praised Darche, another member of the team’s veteran core. “He was great with the young players too. The way he helped P.K. last year and then Emelin and Diaz this year. He brought an indispensable element to the team and we’re all sad to see him go.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSO
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