“Juraj already feels the urge to return to play.”
Less than 24 hours after learning that he would have to miss the rinks for the next three months due to a knee injury, Juraj Slafkovsky, says his father Juraj Slafkovsky senior, made it clear to him that he was already bored of the action, that he would gladly join his teammates to help them.
And what was the father’s response?
“There is no need, under the circumstances, to rush too much”.
A very wise advice, considering the recent and questionable medical report of the CH, but also taking into account the fact that we can fully understand the ardent desire for the return of the number 20 of the Canadians.
After a long crossing of the desert having spread out from mid-December to mid-January, the young man, during the last five games played before his injury, finally seemed to have found his way back. We felt he was more incisive in his actions, but also more involved in all facets of the game.
Defensively, he was blocking shovel shots, hitting multiple times and retreating hard and in the right way.
Photo credit: Martin Chevalier / JdeM
On the offensive side, we also saw him join his teammates thanks to brilliant discounts, then benefit from several good chances to score. He didn’t materialize, but it felt like the end of his 15-game pointless lethargy was approaching.
Slafkovsky had even reached an NHL-high 16:03 in ice time during the January 12 game against the Predators.
“I would say that since the game against the Blues, he really looked like an NHL player, agrees Slafkovsky senior. Even though he didn’t produce, he looked very good. Too bad for the injury, because we felt that his performance curve was going higher and higher.
Nothing too serious
We feel, and this is quite normal, a certain disappointment in the words of the father.
Fortunately, he says, his son’s injury should not leave any long-term consequences.
“No surgery is necessary. He is a young man and at this age he is recovering quickly. It’s not a glitch that will affect his progress.”
“Everyone can have their own opinion, but it’s not always the right one”
In the weeks leading up to the news of Slafkovsky’s injury, one of the main topics of discussion/debate in the Montreal sports world revolved around how the CH were handling the development of the imposing striker.
Some, if not many, suggested that Laval, in the American Hockey League, was the most logical destination for him. Others hammered the opposite.
Asked about the subject, Juraj Slafkovsky senior gave a rather revealing answer.
“The management of the CH seems to have decided that Laval is not a place conducive to the development of Juraj. I am convinced, and my son too, that Canadians know what they are doing. We trust them completely in this process. I read General Manager Kent Hughes’ mid-season review and agree with everything he said regarding Juraj.
Photo credit: QMI Photo Agency, Thierry Laforce
Visibly in high spirits on this subject, the friendly man continued with a fairly clear message to people who are speaking everywhere about the development of his boy.
“The supporters? The experts? There are many and everyone can have their own opinion, but it may not always be the right one. Some wish Juraj well, while others hate him, but no one has the absolute truth. Sometimes it’s quite fun to read people. Luckily, I’m sure the majority of Canadiens fans have a normal opinion…”
“The more Juraj is used, the better he plays…”
Discussions about how CH were developing Juraj Slafkovsky this season not only touched on which league he should have played in, but also his time in use.
In December and January, the Slovak was used 13:09 per game on average.
When asked about this, Slafkovsky senior showed great transparency.
“Yes, for sure sometimes we would have liked to see him play more often in certain situations. I am thinking in particular of the first wave of numerical advantage or at the end of the match, for example. My opinion on this is that the more Juraj is used the better he plays. In general, this is what he demonstrated to me throughout his career.
“But ultimately, coach Martin St-Louis decides and Juraj respects him enormously. We’re just happy that Juraj has the opportunity to play in the NHL at 18. You have to remember that he is the only player from the 2004 draft class to play regularly in this league.
“The best is still to come”
As of now, it’s still unclear whether Juraj Slafkovsky’s season is officially over.
If the absence initially announced of three months is really respected, we will see the skater again only next year. It is in any case the scenario that seems the most plausible and above all the most realistic, especially considering the current position of CH in the standings.
When you ask the young skater’s dad what he retains the most from this first NHL experience on a family level, he offers an answer that will please many fans.
“The whole family will forever remember the year 2022. Juraj’s medal at the Olympic Games with the national team, his draft in July, his first game in the NHL, the atmosphere at the Bell Centre, the enormous interest Canadiens fans… It was all just awesome. But I still believe that the best is yet to come. I am convinced that my son’s progress will continue adequately in the coming years.”
This is certainly the wish of the leaders of the CH… and its many supporters.