Canadiens Making Sure Rocket Are Ready For Playoffs

LAVAL, QC - APRIL 08: A detailed view of the Laval Rocket logo on a jersey during the second period against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell on April 8, 2022 in Laval, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Rochester Americans 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - APRIL 08: A detailed view of the Laval Rocket logo on a jersey during the second period against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell on April 8, 2022 in Laval, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Rochester Americans 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens have been out of the playoff picture since practically day one of this season. Win or lose, the past would dictate that the Canadiens’ upper brass never necessarily cared about the overall performance of their AHL affiliates. Their focus were spent squarely on player development. That attitude has shifted and the Rocket can only benefit from this.

The Laval Rocket are in their 5th season as the official AHL affiliate of the Canadiens and have not made the playoffs once thus far. Arguments can be said that COVID-19 was the culprit the last two seasons, but that’s besides the point.

LAVAL, QC – APRIL 08: Cedric Paquette #13 of the Laval Rocket celebrates his goal with teammates Sami Niku #14, Xavier Ouellet #43, Brandon Gignac #37 and Kevin Roy #15 during the second period against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell on April 8, 2022 in Laval, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC – APRIL 08: Cedric Paquette #13 of the Laval Rocket celebrates his goal with teammates Sami Niku #14, Xavier Ouellet #43, Brandon Gignac #37 and Kevin Roy #15 during the second period against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell on April 8, 2022 in Laval, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

In the two seasons the Canadiens were affiliates with the St. John’s IceCaps, they barely squeaked into the playoffs once and were quickly disposed 3-1 by the Syracuse Crunch in the best of 5 series.

You would have to go all the way back to 2011 for the last time an AHL affiliate made a meaningful playoff run. The Randy Cunneyworth-led Hamilton Bulldogs made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs. They would then miss the playoffs for the following five seasons.

The last championship victory came in 2007 when a rookie named Carey Price carried the team on his shoulders in the playoffs and won playoff MVP honors.

Ever since the Canadiens affiliated themselves with the Fredericton Canadiens in 1990, that 2007 team is the only Championship to have been won.

Both Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton are seeing that the approach given to their AHL team changes. Much like the approach given to their NHL team as well.

When John Sedgwick was appointed as Assistant-General Manager, they immediately gave him the reigns of the Laval Rocket. In the past, Marc Bergevin would “run” the day-to-day operations of their AHL affiliate but would very rarely grace the team with his presence.

Quotes of the day: John Sedgwick
Quotes of the day: John Sedgwick /

Sedgwick on the other hand, has been given the task to make sure his presence is felt, all the while he continues to manage the Canadiens’ salary cap.

The Rocket only need one win to ensure a playoff birth and have 4 games to do so. Saturday in Syracuse against the Crunch, then Wednesday and Thursday in Laval against the Toronto Marlies and finally, their season finale in Syracuse again.

Team leading scorer Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was sent back down to Laval because he was an emergency call up in order to replace an injured forward. Same with Jesse Ylönen. Those two players definitely deserve ice time in the NHL, however, both Kent Hughes and John Sedgwick went on record saying they want to give Laval all the chances to win.

This is why Corey Schueneman was sent down as well. He is the only player at the NHL level that qualifies to play for the Rocket during the playoffs. He definitely deserves to play in the NHL after impressing everyone, however not only does Laval benefit from having him in their lineup, but Schueneman will benefit from playing more minutes and have a more important role with the team.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – APRIL 02: Corey Schueneman #64 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates a goal in the second period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on April 02, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA – APRIL 02: Corey Schueneman #64 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates a goal in the second period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on April 02, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Again, same for Harvey-Pinard and Ylönen.

The Rocket have an exciting club with a high emphasis on offence. Even Cedric Paquette is scoring, having netted 7 goals and an assist for 8 points in 12 games in the AHL since clearing waivers.

Even Nate Schnarr who was brought in purely as a depth AHL player has registered 6 points in 16 games since joining Laval, is making an impact on and off the ice.

The players at the AHL are being treated with equal respect. Something that will definitely be a huge weight off the shoulders of head coach Jean-Francois Houle.

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