The Canadiens were quick to replace the two fired employees on their athletic staff.
The team announced the hiring of Jim Ramsay as director of sports and performance medicine, as well as the Canadiens’ chief athletic therapist. The team has also hired Maxime Gauthier as head physiotherapist.
The hires come two weeks after the firing of chief physical therapist Donald Balmforth and chief athletic therapist Graham Rynbend.
Ramsay arrives in Montreal after 29 years with the New York Rangers, where the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton, comes from.
Previously, he also worked for the Winnipeg Jets (in their first iteration) and was Head Athletic Therapist for Team Canada at the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games.
In a scrum with the media present in Nashville, the Canadiens’ general manager, Kent Hughes, said he expects his new hires to “bring their experience, in a collaborative environment with the sports science department, to that we do everything to limit injuries and, when they occur, that players return to play in a timely manner”.
Martin St-Louis has worked with Ramsay for the Rangers, as well as with Team Canada. “It was very positive. He does more than just heal you. His personality will be appreciated by the players,” said the Habs head coach.
The Rangers posted an enviable medical record last season, as they were the team whose players missed the fewest games through injury (53) in the NHL. According to data from the specialized site NHL Injury Viz, it was the fourth time in 15 years that New Yorkers had the best medical records in the NHL (also, 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2015-2016). During this time, Canadian players missed 600 games, or 11 times more.
Gauthier, 45, will be having his first experience with an NHL team.
“He has worked with several athletes as an independent sports medicine specialist and consultant, [including] many renowned NHL players,” the Canadian said in a statement.
Gauthier has also worked with the senior PGA Tour and with Ascoli Calciode, a Serie B soccer club in Italy, according to the release.
For the second straight season, the Canadian led the NHL in games missed due to injury.
In the end-of-season review, Hughes said injury issues would be “top” of his priorities this summer. “No matter how well we sketch out the best plans, if we can’t understand what’s going on on the medical side, we can never improve,” he said.
Over the course of the season, several players had reported falling in combat after aggravating an already existing injury. Sean Monahan showed up at the Saddledome in Calgary with a protective boot on Dec. 1; four days later he quit a game in Vancouver and did not play again all season.
Brendan Gallagher was injured on November 9 when he blocked a shot, a play that was so noticed that the brave winger was cheered by the crowd on his return to the bench. But he played until the end of November.
Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky also spoke about pre-season injury events. Caufield, however, said he could have continued playing had Montreal been in the heat of the playoff race.
Mike Matheson was another heavy case. Injured in the abdomen in camp, he returned to play on November 19 for nine games before suffering a groin injury. His return on December 17, however, only lasted one game, and it was only a month later that he returned to competition again, after aggravating his groin injury.
However, no player had questioned the medical team. Gallagher said he was responsible for handling his situation.
“Doctors work with the information they have. As a player, you are not always honest. You prepare for the next game, and if you think you only have a bruise, it’s easier, mentally, to play than if you know you have a broken bone,” explained the veteran.
In 2021-2022, the Habs had also been struck down by injuries.
Goaltender Jake Allen, among others, made an early return in January, after play was halted due to the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. From the first period, he had aggravated his injury and had to miss two more months of action.