Bartlett: Gorges committed to turnaround in Montreal

John Bartlett

1/3/2012 2:44:00 AM

BROSSARD - The decision for Josh Gorges to stay in Montreal was very simple. He wants to finish what he started with one goal in mind, to win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens.
As Gorges, the ever-so-well spoken veteran on the Habs put it, it's a bittersweet time. Yes, his future with the team he wants to remain with is now locked up for the next six years, but his team is struggling right now, and trying to find that playoff form.
The move to extend the contract of Gorges in mid-season has much to do with talks that were well underway last summer, and the Canadiens wanted to wait to see how his recovery from knee surgery turned out. After a scary moment during the preseason against the Lightning in Quebec City, he got up, skated to the bench and realized he was fine. Since then, he has been his outstanding self both on and off the ice.
Gorges is a hard working player who will give you everything he's got each shift. He leads the NHL in blocked shots, which is a tell tale sign of the commitment he puts out on the ice every night. He is the kind of player who can lead by example on the ice, but also knows the right thing to say at the right time. He has worn the "C" before when he captained the 2004 Kelowna Rockets to a Memorial Cup championship. He was never drafted and was signed by San Jose, where he got his pro hockey start playing for the Cleveland Barons in the American Hockey League. He worked his way into 96 games with the Sharks before the trade that brought him to Montreal, where he has become a model of hard work and consistency.
With Gorges under contract, the focus will no doubt shift to players such as Carey Price and P.K. Subban, who are both restricted free agents at the end of the season. These players form the foundation of the future for the Canadiens and the organization has full intention on keeping them around for the long-term. The signing of Gorges is a great step in the right direction to not only lock up a player of his character for the long term, but also get it done and out of the way, so as Gorges even said, he can just focus on one things, which is winning.
Pierre Gauthier held his mid-season state of the union address following the Gorges announcement, and did not hold back on his feelings regarding the start to the season. While he did admit that all the organization needs to be better and owe it to the fans, he didn't shy away from challenging his team to perform better on the ice both as a team and individually. While he did admit that missing some key veterans due to injury has not helped the cause, other teams in the league are facing the same situation and are still in the playoff picture. And that the youth has performed well to try and help out, but there are some veteran players that need to be better for the sake of the team. It's been some individual break downs that have caused some of the team's collapses, and that can't continue to happen.
Randy Cunneyworth put the team through a very intense practice following the New Year's break. Almost the entire practice involved one-on-one drills, driving the goal and battling for space in front of the net. He then ended practice with a mandatory 30 minute session in the gym. Many of the Canadiens losses this year have been caused by a collapse in the third period, and Cunneyworth wants to ensure his club is fully engaged both physically and mentally for a full 60 minutes. The practice even saw a tussle between Subban and Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec shrugged it off after, while Price noted he liked to see the competitive spirit. Gorges also noted that it brought up the intensity of everyone on the ice after the event, which was a good thing. In fact, it was great to see that emotion from Plekanec, who has struggled at times this year like several of the veterans. Sometimes that emotion gets channelled into the next game, which would be a good thing for not just Plekanec, but the whole team.
The Habs month of January will be a big one for them to get back into the playoff race. It starts on Wednesday night against the Jets. The game kicks off a big homestretch for the Canadiens where they will face plenty of Eastern Conference opponents this month. If there ever was a time to get hot on home ice, now would be it. The Canadiens return to the Bell Centre for the first time since Cunneyworth's first NHL game. Despite having won just once, the team has a different look to it now and plays more aggressive in the attacking zone, something fans will enjoy seeing. It has produced some positive results so far, but the bottom line is not enough to generate 2 points each night.
Just as the General Manager laid out in his address, it's time for everyone to step up their game, and bring that extra level of intensity and hard work, and there is no place better to do that than home ice. And if they're looking for a role model of how to make that commitment, look no further than Josh Gorges, as he's still working on finishing what he's started.
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