Eastern Edge: Bounce-Back Candidates for 2022-23, Including Dougie Hamilton and Brendan Gallagher

Brennan Des

2022-05-10

In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll look at a few players who fell short of expectations during the regular season. We'll also evaluate their potential to bounce back for the 2022-2023 campaign. Last week we discussed second-half MVPs and what that could mean for next season as well.

Brendan Gallagher

After scoring at a 30-goal pace for four-straight seasons, Gallagher had a disappointing showing in 2021-2022. He tallied just seven goals through 56 appearances, which translates to 10 goals over 82 games. He'd established himself as a reliable 50-point player in recent years but paced for an underwhelming 35 points this season. There are many plausible explanations for Gallagher's recent decline, but I'm inclined to believe some explanations more than others. For starters, there's the idea that Gallagher was most effective beside Tomas Tatar and Philip Danault. Those three players had great chemistry together and formed one of the league's best lines over the past few years. Unfortunately, since Tatar and Danault left the team last summer, Gallagher hasn't shown the same level of chemistry with any of his current teammates in Montreal. Regardless, I don't think it's accurate to say that Gallagher's drop-off is largely a product of his linemates' departure. He was an effective and productive player well before he joined forces with Danault and Tatar. Early in his career, Gallagher was the sparkplug that coaches deployed beside struggling players, in order to get them going. Now Gallagher was obviously much younger back then – which brings us to another possible explanation for his recent drop-off: age.

Having just turned 30, Gallagher still isn't at an age where you'd expect dramatic age-related decline to set in. However, the taxing style he plays may have taken a toll on his body after all these years. He's taken a lot of punishment in order to get to the front of the net and create high-danger scoring chances throughout his career. I think there's merit to the idea that Gallagher's physical health hindered him this season. However, I see this as a blip rather than an indicator of what the rest of his career will look like. During his end of season interviews, Gallagher revealed he had been dealing with numerous injuries over the past couple of seasons, but because of condensed schedules and Montreal's long run to the Cup Final last year, he never really got an opportunity to fully recover. Over these next few months, Gallagher will finally have a full offseason to rest and prepare his body for next year. His work ethic is among the best in the league, so I'm confident he'll do everything to put himself in a position to succeed next year. It also helps that Gallagher has a coach in Martin St. Louis who has gone through similar trials and tribulations. As an undersized forward, St. Louis managed to adapt and remain effective until the age of 40. That's gr