04 May 2010

If They Keep This Going, He'll Be a Sung Hero Pretty Soon

I enjoyed this article in the Globe and Mail this morning because it got me to thinking a little bit about one of my favourite players.

For a good long time now, people have been referring to Josh Gorges as an "unsung hero" for the Canadiens. Once considered the "throw-in" to the deal that sent Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks for a 1st round pick (which turned out to be Max Pacioretty), Gorges has quietly and solidly developed his game and became a mainstay on the Habs' blueline. Since coming to Montreal he's missed only one game due to injury, due to a vicious headshot delivered by LA Kings thug Denis Gauthier in January 2009. He took a Mike Green slapshot in the back of the head earlier this season, a shot with such force that it left the puck's imprint on his helmet. Josh played the next game, but that puck hasn't been seen since.

In the much-maligned centennial season of 2008-09, Gorges came 2nd in the voting for the Jacques Beauchamps Trophy, awarded to the Canadiens' unsung hero. He was a bright spot in an otherwise dark season that many would like to forget. He continued that upward trend this year, becoming a highly-trusted half of the Habs' penalty-killing shutdown duo with Hal Gill. The "Of Mice and Men" (thanks Mike Boone) pairing was superb throughout the season, and the ice time for both has consistently increased concurrent with the pressure of each game. While on many nights Josh's scoresheet would be a block of 0's (until you reached the blocked shots category), that spoke to his quiet efficiency on the ice. For his efforts, he was named the Jacques Beauchamps Trophy winner this season.

So this begs the question: can a player who wins an "Unsung Hero Award" be from that time forward still be considered an unsung hero?

It appears that the answer is yes, though with dwindling legitimacy. All throughout the series with Washington, when Gorges & Gill threw a blanket over Ovechkin & company, Pierre McGuire would often sing their praises. McGuire even went so far as to label Josh the undeclared captain of the Canadiens. Surely the captain of the Montreal Canadiens isn't an unsung individual.

I don't know when the Habs will announce their next captain, but in my mind it comes down to a very small number of people, really only two in my mind: Gorges or Brian Gionta, another diminutive player who plays much larger than his actual size. Perhaps landing that gig for the former will finally put an end to the "unsung" portion of his heroic nature on the ice.

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