MONTREAL – With 13 years of NHL experience under his belt, it should come as no surprise that Jeff Halpern is his own toughest critic.
Having been claimed off waivers from the Rangers on March 23, the 37-year-old centerman had high expectations for his second stint in Montreal, only to see a premature playoff exit at the hands of the Senators put an end to the Canadiens’ 2012-13 campaign.
“Losing out in the first round, no matter what, is a pretty disappointing end to the season and I don’t think it’s where anybody wants to be right now,” affirmed Halpern, who suited up for 16 regular season and three playoff games for the Habs this year. “As far as for myself, you always want to be able to do more and contribute more and in some way affect the outcome differently. I think there are a lot of good things that happened within this team this year. It just wasn’t enough.”
Brought in to shore things up in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill, the 907-game NHL veteran struggled to produce offensively, registering two points and a minus-3 differential while logging an average of 12:06 of ice time per game during the latter stages of the year.
“I thought my game was good in Montreal, but in this league you have to be able to produce whether it’s on the scoresheet or it’s fights or hits or just to bring something [to the table],” explained Halpern, who won 56.2 percent of his draws on the season between Montreal and New York. “I’m disappointed that my production, as far as goals and assists goes wasn’t as high as it could have been. As far as my play, it was good, but sometimes you need more.
“I think I’m always a guy who somehow is probably able to place full blame on myself,” added the journeyman, who has spent parts of his career with six NHL teams. “You always want to be able to do something, have a big goal or a big play that helps your team win. I’m sure there are a lot of guys who feel that way right now just because we came up short.”
An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Halpern isn’t shy about where he’d like to continue his hockey career come October. Having amassed 11 goals and 26 points in 72 games during his previous stint with the Canadiens in 2010-11, the pivot is hopeful that his services will be sought after by the Habs once again during the offseason.
“This is a special place to play,” acknowledged Halpern, who has consistently praised Montreal as a market all NHLers should experience at some point during their professional careers. “It’s a great place to play and an even better place to win and that idea of winning in this city is something that any hockey player dreams about. I enjoy the city and I enjoy the hockey.”
More importantly, Halpern is convinced that the Canadiens already boast many of the ingredients necessary for long-term success, and he believes it’s a winning formula he can contribute to going forward.
“The good news for this organization is that there’s a ton of young talent. There’s a good mix,” praised the Princeton University alum. “There are pieces in place that any championship team needs, and for myself, you always try to complement those types of players and provide different parts of the game that enable those star players to play well. I think the way this team plays, they expect consistent play from all of their lines and it is something that I tried to do when I got here.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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