To know Jacques Martin is to understand that there are no coincidences in his world.
So the fact that basically every player with a shot at the two, perhaps three jobs up for grabs on this year’s edition of the Habs is playing in the first exhibition game tonight is a clear message: show what you’ve got, and do it quickly.
On defence, new boys Raphael Diaz, Alexei Yemelin and Jeff Woywitka will each dress in tonight’s opening exhibition game against Dallas, along with holdover Yannick Weber.
Yemelin is effectively a lock to make the team, but the seventh and eighth defencemen have yet to be identified.
Up front, free agent veteran Brian Willsie, journeyman winger Mike Blunden (who came over from the Blue Jackets for James Wisniewski) and homegrown products Aaron Palushaj and Andreas Enqvist will have a chance to show why they should be the 13th forward (conventional wisdom has it that Enqvist, a big, right-handed defensive centre, has the inside track).
“It’s a good opportunity for all those players to showcase themselves,” said Martin, whose Cheshire cat grin is already in mid-season form.
True, the fact that the only competition is for bit parts in this production takes some of the drama out of camp. Then again, there is no such thing as a bit player in Montreal.
This will also be the first taste of Montreal in Habs colours for Erik Cole, who can’t wait (“this building breathes emotion). He will play on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri.
Youngsters like Jarred Tirnordi and Dany Masse will also dress for the game, which will be the players’ first look at the Bell Centre’s new Pacioretty-friendly glass and stanchions.