Habs Desharnais sticks it to mayor of Montreal

Ken Campbell
David Desharnais

David Desharnais hasn’t really thought about whether or not he’ll vote for Denis Coderre in the next Montreal municipal election. In fact, he hasn’t thought much about His Worship at all lately.

That was not the case back in November, though, when the new mayor of Montreal, shortly after taking over one of the most corrupt City Hall administrations ever, found time to distribute a disparaging tweet about Desharnais. “Hello? A one-way ticket to Hamilton for David Desharnais please…” Coderre tweeted.

Now Coderre tweeted what a lot of Canadiens fans were thinking, since Desharnais was in the middle of a slump that saw him earn just one assist in his first 17 games. There was less of a brouhaha when Coderre, a politician who has never shied away from the spotlight, suggested Toronto mayor Rob Ford (where do they find these guys?) switch to Diet Coke or when Coderre got embroiled in a war of words with the mayor of Quebec City.

The Habs rallied around their teammate and Desharnais took his revenge the only way he knew how. He played better. Desharnais sat out the next game as a healthy scratch, then got on track when he scored the shootout game winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 15. True to form, Coderre then chimed in with the following political flip-flop via Twitter: “Bravo David :) ”.

Since being called out by the mayor, Desharnais has turned his game around in a major way. Going into Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Desharnais has seven goals and 22 points in his past 28 games and has worked his way up to second-line duty between Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.

“It was tough for sure,” Desharnais said after the Canadiens practice Friday afternoon. “You’re in the NHL, you’re playing in your hometown in front of your family and friends and you’re getting embarrassed by the mayor. It’s not easy.”

Then again, it has never been easy for Desharnais. At 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, he’s severely undersized by NHL standards, particularly for a centerman. He was never drafted and apprenticed in the ECHL before working his way through the American League to the NHL. That did not stop him from scoring 60 points two years ago, a point total that might have inflated expectation. But if you take away the miserable first 17 games of the season – plus two times a healthy scratch – his production in the other 28 games would put him on a pace for a full-season production of 64 points.

“I had to build some character to come (to the NHL),” Desharnais said. “And that helped me when I had to deal with it.”

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who chose his words carefully when he criticized Coderre for his tweet, is sufficiently pleased with Desharnais’ play since then. And it’s not just the offensive production he has noticed has changed.

“He’s competing and he’s playing with jam,” Therrien said. “He’s quick on pucks and right now when you put that with the confidence he has in his game, he’s having success. I think that’s the biggest difference with David the past two months compared to the first month.”

For his part, Desharnais said he has never spoken to Coderre about the incident, either in person or electronically, nor does he have any intention to do so. The way he figures, he had played 200 games in the NHL and 17 were really, really bad. Discuss amongst yourselves whether it was appropriate for the mayor to chime in, but Desharnais has put it behind him. He figures the mayor of Canada’s second-biggest city has a little more to worry about than the travails of the hockey team.

“What can I say?” Desharnais said. “I’m back on track and everybody can say whatever they want.”

SUBBAN’S CELLY IN SPOTLIGHT: Defenseman P.K. Subban never seems to be able to escape the spotlight, both good and bad. Such was the case when the hockey world debated his exuberant celebration after scoring in overtime to the Canadiens a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Subban charged up the ice without his stick, then grabbed the Canadiens logo on his sweater. The Senators were apparently less than impressed with Subban – Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson called the exhibition “unnecessary” – despite the fact there was no malice involved. None of it was directed at the Senators, rather it was a genuine display of exuberance.

But Subban should be used to it. He was called out by Mike Richards for his goal celebration in 2010 and his own team even barred him and goalie Carey Price from doing their “low-five” to celebrate wins.

“I’m not going to start singling out players,” said Subban, who then started singling out players. “I see lots of players in the league celebrate – Patrick Kane and other guys – and no one seems to say anything. I celebrate and if somebody wants to talk about it, that’s great. It goes in one ear and out the other.”