Stu Cowan: Canadiens' Kirby Dach setting sights on next season

Road to recovery from season-ending knee injury suffered in second game this season will be a long one both physically and mentally.

Article content

If you were to enter the press box at the Bell Centre and look to your left before the start of a Canadiens game, the first person you would see is Kirby Dach.

The first of about half-a-dozen chairs reserved for Canadiens players who are either injured or healthy scratches has become Dach’s regular seat. He has sat there for the Canadiens’ last 28 home games and will keep that seat for the final 12 games at the Bell Centre this season.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

I feel sympathy for Dach every time I see him sitting there.

Since being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks during the NHL Draft at the Bell Centre on July 7, 2022, Dach has only played 60 games with the Canadiens and has missed 77. Several other teammates have joined him in the Bell Centre press box over the last two seasons, but Dach has his regular spot.

The 23-year-old forward missed 24 games last season with injuries — including the last eight with a knee injury. In the second game this season, he tore both the MCL and ACL ligaments in his right knee and required season-ending surgery.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“It sucks,” Dach told reporters Sunday morning after his teammates had practised at the Bell Centre following Saturday night’s 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. “I had a good summer, felt good coming in. Had a lot of confidence, felt good in my game and then just a little fluke play. Not much I can really do about it.”

Dach was injured when he was checked into the boards by Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Jarred Tinordi, who was the Canadiens’ first-round pick (22nd overall) at the 2010 NHL Draft.

“To have the whole season kind of ripped away, it’s not a great feeling,” Dach said. “But you have to get up the next morning, the sun came up and it was a new day, and had to start figuring out what to do with my leg surgery-wise, where the best spot was for me and what to do with rehab. Once you have that all figured out, it’s just kind of take it day-by-day and hope it feels better each and every day.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Dach is feeling good enough now that he recently started skating again. His goal is to be back to full health in time for the start of training camp next season.

“I feel good,” Dach said. “It’s nice to be able to skate and get on the ice a little bit. There’s still a little bit of a road ahead of me.

“It’s just nice to have something new,” he added about getting back on skates. “Something a little bit to refresh the mind and feel the love for the game again, and get back out there and just have some fun. Even if it’s just getting out there and messing around. It’s just nice to be able to skate again.”

Dach has watched a lot of games from press boxes since the Blackhawks selected him with the third overall pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. He was limited to 18 games with the Blackhawks in 2020-21 after they loaned him to Team Canada for the world junior championship and then he broke his wrist after being named team captain in an exhibition game against Russia before the tournament started.

For such a young player trying to find his place in the NHL, the injuries take a mental toll as well as a physical one.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“I feel good,” Dach said. “My body, the way I move. I was walking around without a brace two or three weeks after surgery and skating three-and-a-half months after. I feel good there, feel strong. I think it’s just more of a mental battle when you’re out for this long to constantly stay tracked in and to be focused on what’s going on and the task at hand.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

Dach said he has had great support from family and close friends, adding his mother has spent time living with him in Montreal while providing some home cooking. Head coach Martin St. Louis has helped with the mental aspect by having Dach sit in with the coaching staff for morning pre-scout meetings on game days at home. Dach also sits on the bench often to watch practices.

“As much as you are a part of the team and are around the guys, you’re still missing a big part of your life on the road trips, in the games, before the games, all that little stuff,” Dach said. “So it’s just nice to be able to stay connected with everybody.”

Recommended from Editorial

Dach’s injury was a big blow to the Canadiens’ rebuilding plans this season. St. Louis didn’t want to use the word frustrating to describe Dach’s injury — noting that’s a negative energy — preferring instead to say disappointing. The coach added it’s only normal to wonder where the Canadiens might be now if Dach hadn’t been hurt.

Dach would like to be able to practise with his teammates before the end of this season and be at full health to start next season.

“The season’s eight months long and this injury takes eight months,” he said. “So by the time it’s over and all’s said and done I should be fine and go into the summer training and have no real worries or questions about my leg.”

In the meantime, he will keep his regular seat in the press box.

[email protected]

twitter.com/StuCowan1

Advertisement 7

Article content

Article content