Making his mark
MONTREAL – The Canadiens haven’t had much time to get to know new Hab Brad Staubitz yet, but so far they like what they’ve seen.
When Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier traded for sniper Rene Bourque in January, he indicated that it was a reflection of his team’s need to get bigger and tougher. Counting just eight career NHL goals in 196 games before arriving in Montreal, Staubitz may not be coming in with the same offensive credentials as Bourque, but his value inside the dressing room isn’t being measured in goals and assists.
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With 54 NHL fights already under his belt before donning his Habs jersey for the first time on Tuesday, the 27-year-old winger wasted little time making a good first impression on his new teammates. After seeing Lightning forward Ryan Malone take issue with Alexei Emelin at center ice, Staubitz came to his new teammate’s rescue, despite being on the Habs bench at the time.
“It was a 2-1 game so it was getting pretty competitive,” mentioned Staubitz, who intervened after seeing Malone trying to force Emelin to drop the gloves. “That’s part of my game – sticking up for teammates and being physical. There was an opportunity there where I got a chance to do that so that’s just kind of the way it unfolded.”
Malone’s rage earned him two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 10 minute misconduct and a fighting major – the only player on the ice actually involved in the fight. While Staubitz may not have been aware that Emelin can’t fight for fear of damaging a titanium plate that was inserted in his face after fracturing his orbital bone three years ago, he didn’t hesitate to step in to defend the rugged blue-liner in his time of need.
“I was just as surprised as everybody to see Malone come flying over there like that,” admitted Staubitz, who got a 10 minute misconduct of his own after wrangling Malone from the players’ bench before getting in his first real fight as a member of the Canadiens in the third period. “I think coming here this team knows what I’m all about and the way I play. I play hard for my teammates and I’m trying to get to know them. Hopefully I’ll be a good fit here.”
Staubitz has already earned his stamp of approval from Ryan White, who was happy to see the four-year NHL veteran making his mark in his Habs debut.
“He did his job last night and he showed up for the team – and not only in the fight. I love it,” praised White, who has dropped the gloves twice in seven games this season himself. “He’s a good acquisition and I think he’ll bring some help to this team. We definitely had a little more spark last night. It’s good to have a guy like that.”
A player who also won’t hesitate to have a teammate’s back, White knows better than anyone how quickly that trait can build street cred in an NHL dressing room.
“I think as a team we have to do a better job of sticking up for each other and getting in there. If a guy is in trouble like that you have to do it by committee,” explained the Brandon, MB native. “I remember a couple of years ago in the minors I was in a situation where I was in a line brawl and a guy was about to pound me pretty good and our goalie pretty much saved my life. He grabbed the guy’s arm right before he smacked me in the face. He got a 10 minute misconduct but I was definitely pretty happy with that guy, I’ll tell you that much. That’s a good teammate. A 10 minute misconduct goes a long way. I appreciated it then and I think Emelin probably did last night, too.”
The players weren’t the only ones impressed by the newcomer’s willingness to get his hands dirty.
“Nobody will admit it openly, but I think it makes a team more cohesive,” admitted head coach Randy Cunneyworth, who was known for his gritty style as an NHL player. “When you’ve got that element and players can back up certain actions on the ice, the other team knows it. Players of that nature can even out things or not allow things of that nature to go on.
“I think it makes everybody a little more physical and a little bit braver to some extent,” he added. “Nobody will admit that, but I think I’m allowed to. I think that’s the element we’re trying to create. But it’s more about team toughness. It has to be everybody. I like it when a skilled guy plays a more physical game. If he can be effective at doing it in a legal way, that’s exciting hockey.”
While Cunneyworth still hasn’t had a chance to sit down with the new winger and lay out a specific job description just yet, it seems like Staubitz is already up to speed with what his coach – and teammates – are expecting to see from him.
“I think it’s pretty straightforward for me,” he shared. “Come in, play hard and compete.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.