A Case for More Grit


Summer months for hockey fans can be long at times, especially after free agents are mostly signed and before rookie camps kick in around the NHL. Habs’ fans and media were able to satisfy their cravings recently during the 2016 Michel Therrien Golf Invitational where several players made an appearance, including new comers Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber.

The Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien, unpopular with many in the fan base, took the opportunity to provide reporters and fans with some fresh quotes which they could use to put him down. The best example of that being when he openly stated that the team wanted to get tougher than last year.

What is Grit?

Webster defines grit as firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. Synonyms of grit include: courage, bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fibre, steel, nerve, fortitude, toughness, hardiness, resolve, resolution, determination, tenacity, perseverance, endurance; informal guts, spunk.

In hockey terms, grit is the willingness to do whatever it takes to help your team win, even if you know it’s going to hurt. Whether it’s standing in front of the net getting pounded by massive defensemen at the risk of getting hit by 100 mph shots, taking a hit to make a play, dropping the gloves to defend a teammate or sacrificing your body with bodychecks or blocked shots. Grit is as much a mental state as it is physical and because it cannot be measured statistically, some fans refuse to acknowledge its benefits to a hockey team… but that’s their mistake.

On last year’s squad, the pure definition of grit was none other than 5-foot 9-inches Brendan Gallagher and when he got injured, the team collapsed, particularly offensively. He is considered the spark-plug of the team as the coach puts him on a struggling line to give it a jump start and in most cases, it works. His work and dedication, his grit is contagious and makes others put in a better effort.

A grittier team

When Marc Bergevin traded fan-favourite P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, not only did he get the better player (at this time), but he did it for multiple reasons. Weber rarely turns to puck over and Subban is amongst the league leaders in that department every year, showing that he keeps the puck too long on his stick trying to make plays that are not always there. Weber is also a much more disciplined player as Subban is also amongst the league leaders in minor penalties. But mostly, Weber is a grittier player. At 6-foot 4-inches and 236 pounds, he plays a very physical game and he is an intimidating force at the blue line. He is not afraid to drop the gloves either to protect himself and his teammates. He brings respect and a certain fear in opponents because he can and will hurt you!

Shaw and Weber do bring more grit to a team that desperately needed some depth in that department. They also bring leadership, another underestimated and downplayed value by analytics’ fans as it’s another key factor that cannot be measured statistically.

Having said all of that, I have a hard time with them saying that the team needs to be grittier and yet, it looks more and more like they will be keeping two guys who have regularly disappeared when the going gets though in David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec

Still need scoring

The biggest mistake that some fans are making is taking Therrien’s word for the need for grit for him saying that it was their only need. He did not say that but those who like pouncing on every opportunity to put the coach down are using that quote to do just that. It’s not only unfair, but also ill intent. Bergevin and Therrien both know that the team needs to find a way to score more goals and they both acknowledged that since the end of last season.

The addition of a motivated Alexander Radulov, also described by Sergei Fedorov as a guy who will do anything for his team, should help Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Gallagher in the scoring aspect of the game, but there is still a glaring need for another top-6 forward who can put the puck in the net for the upcoming season. I personally think that a guy like Rick Nash, who is rumoured to be shopped by the New York Rangers, would be a perfect addition but as we know that Marc Bergevin won’t overpay in a trade, he may want to see what youngsters Sven Adrighetto, Nikita Scherbak, Charles HudonArtturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway have to offer at this stage in their career before addressing that need. Eventually, some of those prospects will be ready to take the next step to the NHL.

In the meantime, enjoy the following videos of Shaw and Weber, showing the added grit to a team in need.


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