On a normal day, news of a long-term injury to Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty would be enormous.
But this hasn’t been a normal day or year for Pacioretty or the Habs and the announcement of the captain missing four to six weeks of action on account of a knee injury registers more as the end of an era than another bump in the road.
The 29-year-old was injured Friday as his club faced off against the New York Islanders. The Canadiens managed the win, but they lost Pacioretty and Victor Mete.
Mete is expected to miss six weeks with a broken finger.
Montreal is all but eliminated from playoff contention. Nothing is official, but the Habs sit with a 25-29-11 record and are sixth in the Atlantic Division ahead of Monday’s action. That puts them 10 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Pacioretty has seen his share of disappointment this season and his production is less than indicative of a player of his skill. He has just 17 goals and 20 assists in 64 games. He’s a minus-16.
Pacioretty has scored at least 30 goals in five of his last six seasons and he’ll fall short of that this year.
This season has been peppered with slumps for the New Canaan native. He scored just one goal in the 22 games between November 14 and January 3, plus he has just one goal in his last 15 games.
To make matters worse, Pacioretty was at the centre of trade rumours and had to rebut reports that he’d asked for a trade out of Montreal. He has a year to go on his current deal, which is to the tune of $27 million for six years. The situation took a personal toll and was in large part the construct of an eager sports media, but that’s hardly tempered any effects.
While many reports of Pacioretty’s injury will include the inevitable line about him possibly playing his last game in a Habs sweater, this situation is bathed in conjecture.
The bottom line is that it would be wise to let Pacioretty sit for the rest of the year. The Canadiens play their final game on April 7. If Pacioretty is out for six weeks, he won’t make it to the closer.
There’s no good reason to rush Pacioretty back at this point and every good reason to let the man rest up, get things in order and let some of the heat blow off what’s been an awful year all around. If he can do that and return to business for 2018-2019, he may be able to right the ship in Montreal.
And if he’s traded in the off-season like so many salivating sports writers suggest, so much the better.