Rocket: the lucid mourning of Danick Martel

LAVAL — Danick Martel had an outstanding playoff. Fifteen points in as many games, including nine goals, is the kind of production that makes an agent’s phone buzz when it comes from a player preparing to enter the free-agent market.

Martel is likely to be wooed by the Laval Rocket this summer. His end of the season in crescendo alone would justify his return. But another indication of his value, and even more significant, came from the team’s end-of-season report on Thursday.
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First, consider this response from Jean-François Houle to a question from colleague Patrick Friolet about the importance of an American League coach being able to rely on veterans who understand and accept their role.

“It’s of great value. A player who is less intelligent and knows his place in the organization, who had his chance in the NHL and for whom the American League made his league and who is willing to help young people, these players are very important. They are veterans who can help tremendously and make a difference. »

Combine those words of wisdom with the clarity of Martel’s remarks an hour earlier and you have a right swipe that has the potential to lead to something far more serious than a one-night stand.

“Even though we didn’t have the ending we wanted, I had a very good playoff. I’ve proven that I’m a leader, that I can lead a team to victory. I know my career at the NHL level is over unless I have some great seasons in the years to come. But at the same time, I think my role at 28 is to be a leader in the American League. It’s a league I know well, where I’ve always “performed” well. »

Martel was never drafted and was spotted by the Philadelphia Flyers at the end of a 102-point season with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He reached the NHL three years later in a four-game Test. The following year, he played nine more with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since then, he has learned to keep his grief quiet.

The Rocket is the fourth organization to host him in the last three years. He arrived there with a contract that gave him no option to be recalled to the NHL and he doesn’t expect things to get any better next year.

“Unfortunately, with the offers I have right now, it’s not even close. So I think I’ve stalled on a mental level. I would never say no because I know I’m still capable. We saw it in the Canadiens camp when I played the Whites vs. the Reds game. I was noticed, but I knew my place was in the American League. In a way I know it’s a “business”. »

At least a “business” in which he has found the belief that he can claim a place of his own. This was no longer necessarily the case prior to arriving in Laval, when the reality of COVID had made job vacancies scarce. “It sure plays in your head,” he says with his own authenticity. That weakened confidence was tested early in the season when his coach decided to sit him out for one game.

“I got scratched for the first time in my American League career. But so far it has been going well. But then it really got stuck in my head. »

It wasn’t until mid-season, when a COVID-enforced hiatus gave everyone a breather, that Martel felt like he was finding his feet. Looking back, he can look back on the upswing he experienced in the last few months of the season.

The series? It was the topping on the cake.

“I think I was able to start from scratch mentally,” says the energetic striker. That helped me produce a lot and helped the team go far. »

“A great win” for Brandon Gignac

Brandon Gignac’s story is very similar to Martel’s. The former New Jersey Devils contender came to Laval after a nearly full season in the ECHL and a shell to rebuild.

In fact, moving down to a lower division had been restful for Gignac. It was everything that had happened before that got him through hell. The quick center player said his last two seasons under Mark Dennehy with the Binghamton Devils have been difficult.

“The ‘coach’, I knew he didn’t like me and he didn’t hesitate to tell me. It really wasn’t fun for confidence. It wasn’t a good season for me there. I don’t want something like that to happen Happened again in my career because it just destroyed me and it destroyed my confidence.”

With Jean-François Houle and his assistants, Gignac began to breathe again. Like Martel, he had a rather slow start before finding a definite rhythm. His best moments came in the playoffs, picking up nine points in 13 games. A knee injury prevented him from bringing in his full potential in the Eastern Finals.

“When I was in the Binghamton organization I knew I could skate well but it seemed like I was never put in the situations to show it. JF gave me so many chances that the veterans told me to “up the pace”. This year it was really good for me to show my speed. »

“I knew I had the talent to play in the American League, I just needed a chance. This year I got it and slammed it. I’m happy, it’s a great win for me. »

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