This is not the season to play injured players

There was a gasp from most Montreal Canadiens fans when Brendan Gallagher went down while stepping on a stick on the ice early in the second period. There are a couple of takeaways from that whole segment: there should have been a slashing call and the game should have been stopped, and if not, one of the officials could have taken away the stick from the position right in front of the goal as play was in the Montreal zone for some time.

However, Gallagher got a scoring chance and being his usual self he went hard for it, and caught the stick and went hard into the boards.

Gallagher left the ice in pain, but did come back later in the second period to play two shifts before leaving again. He then reappeared in the third to play a few more shifts, to many a people’s disbeliefs.

If Nick Suzuki is the calculated cool mind of the Montreal Canadiens, as illustrated by his penalty shot the other night, Brendan Gallagher is the (often bleeding) beating heart of this team.

While the season has started better than many would have guessed, the expectation for this young and exciting team is that it will be fighting for a lottery pick, not the playoffs, down the line. Playing injured players in the push for the playoffs, or in the playoffs is one thing. Even if it can lead to something devastating and career-affecting. The Canadiens have several players still nursing wounds from their surprising final run, after all.

Playing them in the sixth game of a season where the team is expected to bottom out is not something that should happen with regularity. You would have to hope that it was a medically-informed decision. We all know how a player like Brendan Gallagher can say it’s nothing because they want to play as much as possible. It is up to the medical team to draw a line somewhere, and I personally would have loved to see it drawn before letting Gallagher get back onto the ice last night.

This is not the season to bet on an injured player. This is a season to make sure the players develop and come back ready for next season, however boring that might sound.

You can replace a lot of things, but it is tough to replace the beating heart of any team, especially a team where Brendan Gallagher is that heart.

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