After two catastrophic seasons in the infirmary, there will be change for the Canadian.
The Habs have indeed relieved Donald Balmforth, chief physiotherapist, and Graham Rynbend, chief athletic therapist, of their duties.
The news, first rumored by host Tony Marinaro, was confirmed by the Canadian at the end of the day on Tuesday.
Within the organizational chart, Balmforth and Rynbend appear under “Athletic Staff”. At the time of writing, it was unclear whether there will also be changes to the medical staff, headed by Dr. David Mulder, the Canadiens’ chief medical officer.
Balmforth had been a consultant for the Canadiens since 2008, but had acted as head physiotherapist for two seasons, according to the team’s website. Rynbend had worked for CH since 1997.
For the second straight season, the Habs led the NHL in games missed by players due to injury. The data varies depending on the source consulted, but according to NHL Injury Viz, CH players missed 600 games, a figure that does not include Carey Price. The team was therefore deprived of seven players per game, on average.
In the end-of-season report, Kent Hughes, the general manager, had indicated that injury-related issues would be one of his priorities this summer. “I don’t want to leave the impression that this is taken lightly. That said, no matter how much we sketch out the best plans, if we can’t understand what’s going on on the medical side, we can never improve. It will be at the top of the priorities,” he mentioned.
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 left a game against the Canucks and did not play again all season.
Brendan Gallagher was injured on November 9 when he blocked a shot by Tyler Myers, a play that was noticed to the point where 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 incidents. Caufield, however, said he could have continued playing if Montreal had 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 another injury, this time in the groin. His comeback on December 17, however, only lasted one match, and it was only a month later that he returned to competition again, after aggravating his groin injury.
Neither player blamed the medical team, however. Gallagher had taken responsibility for handling her situation. “Doctors work with the information they have. As a player, you are not always honest. You are preparing for the next game, and if you tell yourself that you only have a bruise, it is easier to play than if you know that you have a fracture. Mentally it’s easier,” the veteran right winger explained.
In 2021-2022, the Habs had also been struck down by injuries. Goalkeeper Jake Allen, among others, made a premature return to the game in January, after the stoppage of activities due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. From the first period, he had aggravated his injury and had to miss two more months of action.