Julien to fans hoping Habs falter for shot at Lafreniere: ‘There’s no guarantee’

Julien to fans hoping Habs falter for shot at Lafreniere: ‘There’s no guarantee’

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien is well aware of the chatter.

In this most unusual of years, a section of the team’s rabid fan base finds itself pulling for the club to lose out in the qualifying round of the NHL’s return-to-play plan — if the blueprint does indeed go ahead this summer — in hopes of snagging the first pick in the 2020 draft, and the right to select Quebec-born star Alexis Lafreniere.

The door to that unlikely scenario swung open last week when a placeholder club beat the draft lottery odds to claim the top spot, meaning one of eight teams eventually eliminated from the best-of-five showdowns leading into the typical four-round playoffs will secure the No. 1 pick, and then presumably choose the flashy winger.

Those eight losing franchises, which are set to come from a pool of 16 that also includes Edmonton, Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver, will each have a 12.5 per cent chance of winning the No. 1 selection in a subsequent lottery.

Don’t get Julien wrong, he’d be thrilled to see Lafreniere suit up in red, white and blue.

But not at the expense of the lifeline his 24th-ranked Canadiens have been handed by the league’s proposed restart after the 2019-20 season was suspended in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Trust me, I’d love to have this player on my team,” Julien said of the 18-year-old from the Montreal suburb of St-Eustache. “But there’s no guarantee even if we go out in the qualifying round that we would have that player. The only way to take a step forward is to go out there and play hard and play to win. If we win, then we’re getting better as a team.

“If circumstances go the other way, then maybe we do get a shot at (Lafreniere). But we’re all built to win. There’s no reason in the world to think otherwise.”

While some will disagree with that sentiment, Julien added it’s “totally normal” to have different views and priorities.

“There’s no issues there,” he said. ”Everybody’s got their opinions and are entitled to them because some fans, and rightfully so, get excited about seeing the possibility of having that guy. But imagine if we didn’t win the qualifying round and we don’t get Lafreniere? How are the fans going to react then? It’s one of those situations where as an organization, as a group of players, coaching staff, everybody, we go out there to win and we go out there to try and move forward.

“The best way to move forward is to do the best we can.”

The Canadiens were limping towards the season’s finish line, all but eliminated from playoff contention, when the schedule was halted amid the widening novel coronavirus outbreak nearly four months ago.

Montreal, which suffered through two eight-game losing streaks and a number of injuries to key personnel, had already shipped veterans Ilya Kovalchuk, Marco Scandella and Nate Thompson out of town prior to February’s trade deadline with an eye towards the future.

That was before life in and out of hockey changed drastically.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have a crystal ball,” Julien said. ”We let a lot of good players go that you wish we still had, had you known that was going to happen.

“But everything has a purpose and a reason.”

While the Canadiens still have the playoff-tested Carey Price, Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher, youngsters like Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, if he gets a shot after spending a chunk of the season in the AHL, could be in the thick of the action when Montreal meets Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to kick off the NHL’s 24-team format.

“It’s going to allow us to give some of our younger players some experience which probably they wouldn’t get had we still kept those (veterans),” Julien said. ”You take what you have. We have a great opportunity here to grow as a team.”

Growing and gaining experience, however, isn’t the primary goal.

“We’re looking to win. That’s the bottom line,” Julien added. ”If you’re going to get better as a team, you need to win. The ethic of our sport is about winning.

“We want to do exactly that.”

And for a franchise with a proud history that’s missed the post-season three of the last four years, this second chance isn’t one Julien wants to see pass by.

“A few months back, our mind was probably in an area where you’re saying, ‘Oh boy it’s another long summer here,’” he said. ”We need to take this situation and really run with it. We need to take advantage of what’s been given to us right now and make the best of it.

“We’ve got a lot of potential. We have an opportunity to do something really great.”

Getting a 1-in-8 shot at Lafreniere, however, would represent a decent consolation prize.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2020.

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

NHL

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Sabrina Wilde in front of a recently purchased monster truck. Submitted.
Thorsby business women a finalist for 2021 Alberta Women’s Entrepreneurship Award

Sabrina Wilde with Lone Wolf Mechanical is a finalist for the entrepreneurial award.

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read