Montreal Canadiens Year-In-Review: Down on the Farm with the Laval Rocket and Trois-Rivières Lions

The farm teams for the Montreal Canadiens had seasons to forget.
Syracuse Crunch v Laval Rocket
Syracuse Crunch v Laval Rocket / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Over the next few weeks, I will tackle year-in-reviews for some Canadiens players. Tyler Major Mcnicol is currently ranking the Top Habs Players Under 24, so we will look at some of the Habs' veteran leaders in this series. First, let's examine the Montreal Canadiens farm system, as the Laval Rocket failed to make the playoffs, and the Trois-Rivières Lions bowed out in the North Division Semifinals.

The Laval Rocket failed to make the postseason for the first time in three seasons. It's unfortunate for a rebuilding parent club to see their AHL team take a step backward. The Rocket needed two wins in regulation against Belleville to end the season but lost the first game 4-2. The Rocket had a 2-0 lead, but Belleville mounted a comeback. The Canadiens added Jayden Struble, Justin Barron, Logan Mailloux, and Joshua Roy to the roster for the final two games, but it wasn't enough.

The Trois-Rivières Lions had a stressful season off the ice. The ECHL imposed an April 2nd deadline for Deacon Sports and Entertainment to sell the team. Deacon Sports and Entertainment owned the Lions and Newfoundland Growlers, but they found a buyer in the final hours to keep the Lions season alive. The same couldn't be said for the Growlers, as their operations terminated before the regular season ended. The Lions stuck around long enough to make the North Division Semifinals, bowing out in Game 6 to the Norfolk Admirals.

Trois-Rivières Lions

The Trois-Rivières Lions were bought by Spire Hockey, a group led by American businessman Jeff Dickerson. Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Spire Holdings, which also owns the Rapid City Rush and Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He also co-owns Spire Motorsports, which has three full-time cars in the NASCAR Cup Series.

"“Spire Hockey is thrilled to expand our footprint and begin immersing ourselves in the Trois Rivières market. We take tremendous pride in being pillars of the communities where our teams call home and are wholly committed to being an organization that everyone in Trois Rivières can be proud of. It’s a new day and Spire Hockey is eager to write a new chapter in the Lions’ history.”"

Jeff Dickerson, Spire Hockey Co-Owner

The Lions had just two players under contract with the Montreal Canadiens this season, goaltender Joe Vrbetic and defenseman Miguel Tourigny.

Vrbetic played in 33 games in his second season with the Lions. He boasted a .891 save percentage and a 3.52 goals-against average. Vrbetic has a long way to go to become a Montreal Canadien, and the impending arrival of Jacob Fowler will only make him even more of an afterthought.

Tourigny made his North American pro debut after spending a year in Slovakia. The 22-year-old opted to go to Europe after his final season in the QMJHL, tallying 24 points in 39 games. A spot opened for him with the Lions, and he made the most of his opportunity, netting nine goals and 30 assists in 64 games.

Laval Rocket

Jean-Francois Houle knew it wouldn't be an easy season, as Laval started the season with one of the AHL's youngest teams. The season began poorly, going 0-3-1 on a four-game opening homestand. They won their fifth game but then lost four more, holding a 1-6-1 record. Poor defense and goaltending were the storylines from their season, as the forwards did plenty to win games, but the team always managed to choke late.

The Rocket improved as the season went on, winning five straight games in January and having their best stretch through March with eight wins in ten games. However, the Rocket needed to keep that pace for the entire season to recover their lost ground. Laval failed to do it, losing six of their last ten games, including the final two they needed to win.

The Canadiens have been adamant that their AHL team is more about development than results. This was even more evident when they dressed ten rookies in their must-win games against Belleville. However, the season can't be looked upon as a complete failure, as they won as many games this season as they did in 2022-23 when they finished fifth in the division and made the playoffs.

The Rocket also still has plenty of popularity in Laval. They had 17 sellouts this season and were third overall in league attendance. Rocket fans were treated with the arrival of David Reinbacher in the season's final weeks. This could be the last time they see Reinbacher, as he will contend for a spot on the Canadiens next season. However, it was fun while it lasted, as Reinbacher tallied two goals and three assists in 11 games with the team.