By: David P. Stein (@davestein13)
When a 4th overall draft-pick falls out of favor with the organization that selected him just four years previously, naturally question marks will follow him as he tries to resurrect his career elsewhere. “I don’t think [I’ve reached my potential yet], but every year is getting better and better. I’m 26, still young, still have time, and I just gotta go day by day, and year by year.” With that in mind, Benoit Pouliot is well aware that many pundits perceive him as a player with major character defects, “If it’s the coach that says that, than you listen to him. But every summer and every year, there is always something to work on. For me, I just gotta be better every day whether it’s a game or a practice. And I think that since I left Montreal, things have been going pretty well.”
Similarly, former hometown hero Guillaume Latendresse has experienced much of the same in terms of harsh judgments from media during his pro career. And despite not being a top draft choice like the Franco-Ontarian Pouliot, the pressures that Latendresse faced were abundant in their own right. A native of St-Catherine, Quebec, all eyes were on Latendresse when he broke in with the Canadiens at age 19, “I see the game differently now. In Montreal, it’s so big, it’s so huge, that when you play a bad game, you think it’s the end of the world.”
As most fans will remember, the Canadiens dealt Latendresse away to Minnesota in exchange for the floundering Pouliot midway through the 2009-10 regular season. While Pouliot was failing to thrive with the Wild, Latendresse’s style of play certainly did not match up well with Jacques Martin’s newly implemented coaching philosophies at the time in 2009. Admittedly, Pouliot says that he and Latendresse were in contact with each other when news of the trade broke, “Once I got to Montreal and he got to Minnesota obviously we got in contact with each other to see how things are, and where to live and stuff. It was weird [getting traded for each other] because I knew Guillaume from before.” Pouliot went on to say that he and Latendresse were already friends in advance of the trade between the Habs and Wild, “I’ve known Guillaume for a while. I played with him a couple times when I was 18 or 19 in those prospect games and stuff like that and since then, I’ve always been pretty close with Guy. He’s a great guy.”
But as circumstances would have it, neither the Wild nor the Canadiens can claim to have won this trade. Though both players experienced early success with their new teams, the wave came to an abrupt halt the following year when Latendresse ran into injuries and Pouliot was consistently inconsistent. Latendresse summed it up like this, “I think when me and Benny got traded, we both had two good seasons. But I think it’s pretty equal right now.”
When reflecting on their time with the Canadiens, both players agree that these experiences have made them better. In fact, Latendresse is grateful that Montreal gave him an opportunity at such a young age, “I think with the training camp that I had when I was nineteen, I earned my spot. To send a player back after three or four months would be hard on that player. I think it (my experience) was good.” Further, Latendresse emphasized that he does not have a single regret about his tenure as a Hab, “I try to live with everything I do. When I do something, I live with the consequences and that’s how it works.”
While Pouliot is getting set to honor his most recent one-year contract this upcoming season, this time with the New York Rangers, Latendresse is still searching for employment at the National Hockey League level (he was recently cut by the Coyotes). Needless to say, neither player has managed to sustain a long-lasting relationship with one organization; something that Latendresse insists is an accomplishment nowadays. But at 26 years of age, both ex Habs are striving to attain what they couldn’t in Montreal, a long and happy marriage with an NHL franchise.
David P. Stein is a freelance writer and occational contributor to Montreal Hockey Talk. David is the Sports Producer for McGill Student TV, where he is a full time student. You can follow him on Twitter @davestein13 or visit his Facebook page.