Joel Bouchard (Photo by Canadiens.com)

by Chris G, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LAVAL, QC. — Welcome to first Rocket edition of Take 5 on ahl.report. Every second week, I will be providing my takes on five news items related to the Laval Rocket.

The Laval Rocket began their season on the road with a 3-2 win against the Providence Bruins and then followed that up with a 3-1 loss against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Follow the links to check out the full game reports. The Rocket head home to face the Binghamton Devils for two games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon at Place Bell in Laval.

Here are my top 5 takes of the week:

      1. New head coach – The biggest acquisition of the Laval Rocket in the offseason was the hiring of new head coach, Joel Bouchard. This is Bouchard’s first season coaching professional hockey players, but I think he has enough relevant experience to bring to his new job. He comes in with three years experience as a head coach/GM/owner of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armanda and GM roles with Hockey Canada for the last couple of years. Most importantly, he comes with 364 NHL games played and approximately 300 games played in the AHL. That’s experience that he can use to relate to the players on his bench. Bouchard’s first move was to add Rocket Richard’s eyes in the dressing room and to add the words “Grit”, “Focus”, “Execute” on the dressing room walls. Several Rocket players have commented on Bouchard’s intensity during practices. “He doesn’t mess around. You come to work, and you work hard, or you’re out of here,” said Michael McCarron after his first day in Laval this season. “It’s no country club. If you mess up, you’re going to hear from him. Whereas in the past, if you messed up it was ‘C’mon Mac…you can do a little bit better.’ Which is nothing against my old coaches, I loved all of them and they helped me in my game, but this is a whole different aspect. It’s a total 180. You’re coming to work hard. And if you’re not playing well, you’re probably not going to play.” That definitely sounds like a shot to the former coaching staff by McCarron, but I think that the Canadiens prospects are in good hands in Laval.
      2. McCarron back in AHL  – If you have been reading my work on All Habs Hockey Magazine, you would know that I have pretty much thrown the towel on Michael McCarron, and I’m convinced that the Canadiens have too. During the Habs training camp, McCarron came into shape and seemed quicker on his skates, but I didn’t see him play with the urgency of someone who didn’t want to return to the AHL. Over the weekend, I saw a more engaged McCarron. In the game against the Bruins, he picked up a pair of assists and even dropped the gloves. He was more physically involved in both games. McCarron was given the responsibility of being one of the associate captains this season. “I walked out of that meeting with him yesterday feeling like a million bucks, even though I don’t make a million bucks,” said McCarron after his first meeting with Bouchard. I think that McCarron clearing waivers will serve him as a source of motivation.
      3. Leadership  – Three days after the Canadiens announced Shea Weber as captain, with Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron as his alternates, the Laval Rocket announced their leadership team. Byron Froese was named captain for a second season, with Kenny Agostino, Michael Chaput, Alexandre Grenier, and Michael McCarron as alternate captains. Just like at the NHL-level, the selections were made by Canadiens management. I think this is a good leadership group as they are all experienced professionals that should play the majority of the season in Laval. In total, the five players have played a total of 31 years of professional hockey.
      4. Trades – I was surprised on Wednesday when it was announced that Will Bitten was traded to the Minnesota Wild in return for Gustav Olofsson. Bitten was one of the Canadiens players that impressed me at the Rookie Showdown in early September. He reminded me of Brendan Gallagher. He always seemed to be around the puck when he was on ice. This was the second trade of the week, as a couple of days prior to that, the Canadiens traded Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev to Flames in return for Brett Kulak. It looks like Marc Bergevin was looking to acquire some defencemen with some recent NHL experience I expect to see Olofsson and Kulak with the Canadiens at some point this season.
      5. AHL TV – AHL TV was free for everyone all weekend to watch their favourite AHL team in action. My first experience with the platform on Saturday night was average as the feed from Providence was cutting every few minutes, but I had no issues for Sunday’s game from Hartford. It appears that some of the arenas aren’t as advanced in technology and it affects the quality of the stream. The audio for the games came from 91.9 Sports, with Anthony Marcotte handling play-by-play duties. Anthony did a great job, but the station needs to coordinate its commercial breaks better as they missed a portion of the game every time they would break away from the arena. The good news is that if you’re watching on AHL TV, you’re not missing a second of the action. I think it’s a good investment if you’re interested in following the Rocket or any other AHL team.

Leave your comments below. I am looking forward to interacting with all of you.