SAINT-JEAN, NB — General manager Kent Hughes recently said the Montreal Canadiens players have been gradually trying to bridge the leadership gap created by the long absences of Shea Weber and Carey Price last winter.
Goalkeeper Jake Allen admits the absence of the captain and the face of the franchise left a void in the dressing room last season. But although the Canadian officially cut ties with Weber by selling his contract to the Vegas Golden Knights last week and Price’s future is uncertain, Allen is not concerned that history could repeat itself next season. Rather, he believes that everything is in place for the Habs to develop a prosperous culture.
“I only played with Shea for one season, but you could tell straight away that he was the alpha male. He is exactly what everyone imagines: a real leader. It’s part of his nature. Everyone follows him,” Allen told The Canadian Press earlier this week after appearing in conference play at the Memorial Cup.
“The season was difficult in his absence. You could see we needed his guidance at times, he added. Other players have filled the gap. I was really impressed, especially by the likes of “Gally” (Brendan Gallagher), “Suzy” (Nick Suzuki) and (Jeff) Petry. »
Price also missed most of the campaign, only returning to action in mid-April and limiting himself to five appearances. Although he was able to spend more time with the squad during his rehabilitation, his absence from games obviously caused a gap.
“He doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his jersey, but when you think of the Montreal Canadiens, you think of Carey Price,” Allen said. He has this attitude that you can’t teach him or inculcate. He’s a leader, a very good person and a very good teammate.
“Once again it was difficult last season without him. He is someone you will rely on to stabilize the ship,” he added.
Hughes has said many times since being hired that he would like to appoint a new captain before the start of next season.
The names of Suzuki, Gallagher, and Joel Edmundson are the ones that come up most often in discussions on the public forums.
“I think a lot of people learned from Shea. Obviously, Nick is one of those guys, but he’s still young and it will depend on the direction he (Hughes) wants to take the club, Allen noted. We have many good managers. For real. »
Allen pointed out that several players spoke up during the difficult times last winter, so there are many candidates for the captain’s role.
“But I think it’s going to be important to have someone to steer the ship now that Shea is officially gone,” he said.
Allen also noted that the new top three in management – Hughes, vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton and head coach Martin St-Louis – have brought a breath of fresh air to the organization.
He noted St. Louis’ infectious positive energy and how quickly the Hall of Famer gained the players’ trust. Allen also spoke about little things management did that were appreciated by the band.
“They have made some resources more accessible and are open to our ideas,” Allen said. They are not afraid to ask us what we think, what we need, what could be done better.
“I think that’s a sign that we’re going in the right direction,” he continued.
Allen was asked to comment on Hughes’ comments on 91.9 fm on May 4th. He then said that if Price isn’t back next season, “we still don’t have one of our goalkeepers who has shown from one year to the next that he’s number one”.
The 31-year-old New Brunswick goaltender was about to hear the comments but didn’t seem shaken.
“You know what, I don’t even label goalies these days because there are so many good goalies in the league,” Allen said. In nine seasons in the league, I’ve learned that you just have to work and be ready to play. »
Allen said he wanted Price to get well again and was willing to return to the auxiliary chair if asked.
“Due to our second half of the season, I am really looking forward to next season. I think it energized everyone,” Allen said. If I have to play a lot, I will play a lot. If I have to play a little, I will play a little. But I think my game is on point. I’m happy with my last season and I hope to have the opportunity to continue to build on that,” he concluded.