Friday, February 10, 2012
Hal Gill not likely to see end of Habs’ story
By Pierre LeBrun
TORONTO -- Hal Gill adored his time around Mats Sundin, so being on hand to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs raise No. 13 to the rafters at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night will be something special for Gill.
"That will be cool, I’m happy we’re there at the same time," Montreal Canadiens blueliner Gill told ESPN.com Friday.
And if Sundin’s first game back in Toronto with the Canucks in February 2009 is any indication, it’s going to be quite an emotional affair.
Gill played with Sundin in Toronto during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons before being dealt to Pittsburgh in February 2008, and said Sundin exemplified excellence in his captaincy.
"He was awesome," said Gill. "He was the kind of guy that took care of everything on the team. If something wasn’t right, he was right on it, making sure things were fixed. And there was leadership by example, he was one of the hardest-working guys. I tried to follow him in the gym and he certainly didn’t short himself. That’s another thing I thought was pretty impressive."
Gill himself has developed into a respected leader, especially since joining the Habs in July 2009. It’s that experience -- and winning a Cup in Pittsburgh in 2009 -- that will make him a sought-after commodity two weeks from now if and when the Canadiens finally decide to become sellers.
It’s an undeniable possibility that Gill can’t ignore.
"Yeah, I mean, it’s part of the business," said Gill. "No one wants to get traded. I’m into this team and I want to be part of success here. But I understand if it doesn’t work out in terms of the business end."
Gill, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, said the Canadiens have not approached him about an extension, a comment echoed by his agent, Mark Witkin, on Friday.
The only thing that’s going to keep Gill on the Habs' roster past Feb. 27 is an improbable run. The Habs have won three straight and can actually cut Toronto’s lead to seven points for the final playoff spot in the East with a victory Saturday night.
"That’s the first thing on my mind is getting a win and getting back in the hunt," said Gill. "That’s the first thing I’m focused on. Then I deal with everything else after that. But it would be nice to put a few more wins together, and hopefully ride that and give it a go."
Hey, it’s a long shot. The Habs have just a 10.5 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, according to Sports Club Stats. But just the fact they’re not totally dead and buried in mid-February after the Cirque de Soleil-esque season it’s been, well, it’s nothing short of stunning, really. To recap: An assistant coach was fired just before a game, the head coach was fired the morning of a game, a player was traded during a game and a good ol’ Quebec language controversy was sparked by the hiring of an interim coach who didn't speak French.
Mercy. Give these players credit for not waving the white flag a long time ago.
"It’s been pretty crazy," Gill said, chuckling. "You know what, though? When you’re in a smaller market and there’s a bit of noise, it catches your ear. But when you’re in [big-market] Montreal, there’s noise all the time. So you get pretty good at shutting out everything and focus on what you can control. There’s been firings and trades, it’s been a pretty crazy year, but we’ve tried to focus on what need to do as a team."
Odds are Gill won’t be around to see how this movie ends this year in Montreal.