Mike Matheson didn’t expect to leave, but now that he’s gone, he’s happy to be back.
Posted at 11:29
Updated at 12:43 p.m.
Because in his case, moving means coming home. While Jeff Petry takes the direction of Pittsburgh, with a smile, Matheson, a guy from Pointe-Claire, comes here to wear the jersey of the club of his childhood, which his idol Saku Koivu has already worn.
It also happens that the general manager of the Canadian Kent Hughes, who concluded this transaction with the Penguins, was formerly the agent of the defender of 28 years.
It’s starting to make a lot of nice coincidences.
“It has been a whirlwind since the announcement of the exchange [samedi]I didn’t see it coming, began by explaining Matheson, Monday morning, during a conference Zoom. When I found out it was Montreal, it was pretty special. I grew up in the West Island and learned to play hockey watching the Canadiens. Now I can put this jersey on and play at the Bell Center every night…it’s almost surreal. »
What is also surreal is the almost complete transformation of Montreal’s defensive squad since the club’s presence in the Stanley Cup final a year ago. Of this group, Joel Edmundson is the only survivor, and Matheson comes into a context of refurbishment, where he will have to acclimatize to a new environment in addition to playing the role of big brother in front of the youngest.
“I want to bring myself with my style of play, and also help the young people in the reality of the National League… They are here for a reason already, but I will have to be a leader, while making sure to put in some effort. ‘Before my style of play.
And what is this style of play, exactly? If you have to read between the lines a little, we understand that Matheson may not have had carte blanche in terms of artistic expression in Florida, where he spent the first five seasons of his career, in the jersey Panthers.
At Sunrise, this former first-round pick (23e overall in the 2012 draft) had 17-point, 27-point (twice), and 20-point seasons before moving to the Penguins in 2020-21. It was the last season that he obtained the best production of his career, with 31 points in 74 games with the band at Sidney Crosby.
In his own opinion, Mike Matheson is that defender, with an offensive character, capable of restarting the game.
“I’m at my best when I’m skating with the puck and I pass it to the other players on a raise,” he replied. I like to use my skating on the counter-attack and support the attackers.
“I had the opportunity to be able to use my skate a little more in Pittsburgh, instead of having to stay behind, at the back… There is a good system of play there and also, I got to watch guys like [Kristopher] Letang, to observe what they do every day. So I’m ready to take the next step, to take on those responsibilities. It’s a challenge, and that’s what I want. »
The new defender of the Canadian still does not know the nature of his exact role for the next season. But this southpaw explained that he is able to play left and right, which could help the Montreal club, which is not exactly complete in the department of right-handed defenders at the moment.
Also, he is looking forward to skating under the orders of Martin St-Louis.
“We all know the kind of player he was… How much adversity he had to face, how much he had to persevere. I think he commands respect from the players because of that, because of his reputation. I haven’t set foot in the Bell Center locker room yet, but I know he’s the kind of coach guys want to get high for. »
Also, and this could not be underestimated, the Canadian has just found a player who will not arrive here backwards, but really wanting to put on the blue, white and red jersey.
“If you’re not from Montreal, it’s hard to understand… The Canadiens aren’t just a team, they’re a religion. It is in this environment that I grew up, it is where I learned to play. It will be special to wear this sweater. »