HEFTER: Jacques Martin was right
In the final weeks of his tenure as coach of the Montreal Canadiens, I asked Jacques Martin if Louis Leblanc had made enough of an impression on management to warrant a long-term look in Montreal.
Martin did not skip a beat in answering the question. Martin said a growing injury list had made room for Leblanc on the Canadiens. As players returned from sick bay, Martin said Leblanc would find himself back with the Hamilton Bulldogs, playing major minutes in all kinds of situations to continue his development as a pro.
Exit Jacques Martin.
On the day when Randy Cunneyworth was introduced as the new (interim) head coach of the Habs, General Manager Pierre Gauthier appeared to soft-peddle the inevitability that Leblanc would find himself back in the American Hockey League, sooner, rather than later. Assistant coach Larry Carriere seemed to drive that point home during the team's recent road trip, when he suggested it would be difficult to send Leblanc back to Hamilton, considering how well he was playing.
Well, Louis Leblanc, a healthy scratch the last two games for the Habs, woke up this morning as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he will play major minutes and continue to develop as a pro.
The move to send Leblanc to Hamilton was lost in the shuffle of Lars Eller's coming-out-party: a four-goal performance in the Habs' 7-3 win over the Jets last night at the Bell Centre. I ask you: when was the last time you saw so many smiling faces on the Canadiens' bench? While Eller was grabbing the spotlight in Montreal, Leblac was quietly making his way to Hamilton to rejoin the Bulldogs.
The move to send Leblanc to Hamilton will be questioned by many Habs' fans. But Jacques Martin had it right when he said that Leblanc needs to play as a member of the Bulldogs, not sit, as a member of the Canadiens.
Remember November of 2010, when Max Pacioretty, then a member of the Bulldogs, came to town when Hamilton played a "home game" at the Bell Centre? Pacioretty was lighting it up in the AHL, but, at the time, said his development was best served playing first-line hockey in Hamilton, as opposed to fourth-line hockey in Montreal. Lots of Habs' fans couldn't understand why Pacioretty would rather be riding the bus in Hamilton than living the big-league life in Montreal.
Pacioretty was right.
So was Jacques Martin.