Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cut from his own mold

Partly because I haven’t written anything in forever, partly because I am face-deep in training camp fever from working on one of my own, partly because I was challenged by George Prax to do so, I would like you all to get acquainted with Gabriel Dumont.

Despite the prelude to Bieber-hair in this particular roster shot, this kid is serious business, so take the time to read carefully.

The Montreal Canadiens’ 5th round selection of 2009 had a fair share of hype coming out of Midget AAA, a league he led in scoring as he joined Drummondville Voltigeurs for their 25th season. Scoring 72 points in 39 games with Rivière-du-Loup, he was widely regarded as the next Voltigeurs’ phenomenon on the heels of Columbus’ Derick Brassard. Another stat from that stellar AAA season…127 penalty minutes. That was the side that the lucky followers of the Q got to see out of him as a rookie, though he only played in eight games that first year.

During that short time, Dumont and fellow rookie (now captain of the Voltigeurs, invited by Tampa Bay—not by fluke—to their training camp) Marc-Olivier Vachon formed one of the more difficult lines to play against in their division, along with veteran Gaby Roch. Both new kids on the block had defense as one of their added specialties as players. Meanwhile, Roch himself had 203 penalty minutes that year, tops in the league. One would think that a linemate like him would be THE ideal protection from guys who at that point were surely twice the height of the rookies in question. But when plays got chippy, Roch wasn’t always the first one to make it to the scrums.

Instead, right there in the line of fire was Dumont. And he was happy—thrilled, even, to be there.

In 2007-08, it was a role he relished even more in his first “real” season, one that was cut short by injury. On a team categorized by a word his coach, Guy Boucher, would come to hate—rebuilding—Dumont dug in his heels as a gritty, hard-nosed player often compared to the likes of Max Talbot (though I myself try never to use that example by reason of sheer bias). On a team essentially composed of first-year players, with veterans jumping ship or being traded away midseason, he emerged as an early leader along with Vachon and another eventual Habs’ prospect: Philippe Lefebvre. The scoring machine from the previous year had taken on a different role that suited him nicely, yet hadn’t even made it to its peak yet.

The season that came after that miserable 14-win hellhole (to put it nicely. Let’s just say that at that point, watching games on Telus’ site was free, and for Voltigeurs’ fans, justifiably so.) was one that the people who know me best dread hearing about even today. Yes, it was that epic.

Dumont’s role significantly increased before 2008-09 even started. He was one of few familiar faces on the hodgepodge assembled over the summer by GM Dominic Ricard. Think what happened last year with Bob Gainey: handpicking names you knew were good once but had no idea if they could bring you to the same degree of success they’d enjoyed all on their own. More rookies, a couple of NHL-drafted guys, a whole new set of 20 year olds…zero certainty.

Luckily, Yannick Riendeau and Dany Massé did what was least expected of them and ripped through the whole league, combining for 236 points. Mike Hoffman and Christopher DiDomenico also had a helping hand in rising GAAs all over Quebec and the Maritimes, while Dumont became even tougher to play against. His point-getting self was back on track (28 G, 21 A in 51 GP), and he finished fourth on the team in shots (while heading the so-called checking line).

It was only in the ensuing Memorial Cup tournament that people started to take notice, however. Despite his lack of being able to actually pronounciate it without making me cringe, Peter Loubardias has Dumont’s name tattooed to his brain from calling those games. With 18 shots on goal, one of those having turned into the all-important overtime winner against Rimouski, “Mr. Clutch” isn’t even enough of a worthy description of how much Dumont’s hard work and relentless everything categorized how far Drummondville went in that tournament. Fine, you say, he scored twice in four games. So what? Well. Here’s where it’s time to pull out the medical file:

  • Shoulder hanging on “by two ligaments”,
  • Knee injury,
  • Mangled thumb,
  • Broken toe,
  • Two (that's 2!) charley horses.

Not to reduce the role of the other MVPs, mainly the aforementioned four plus Marco Cousineau, but Dumont’s Memorial Cup performance was enough to call fifth round in the NHL Draft a steal.

And then there was last season.

The former Rivière-du-Loup captain showed his goal-scoring colours. With the majority of the big names from the previous year out of the way, here was his time to shine. Finishing with the most goals in the league (51) and third place in the scoring race (93), he again played through injury in the Voltigeurs’ near-finals appearance, still managing to put up 11 goals and 10 assists in 14 games—with a broken hand.

Big numbers for a small guy. One who was not remiss in the defensive category either, for it was he who won the Guy Carbonneau Trophy aka the Q’s version of the Selke.

His coach Mario Duhamel had this to say about his 2009-10 season: “When I coached against him last season, his role was different. He was an intense player with an incredible work ethic who tried to get under your skin. What I had to do was to make sure that my players kept their cool and not get him going physically because he is so tough. This season, coaching him, I gave him a role on the top line with Sean Couturier hoping he could help make room for him and knowing he could get his share of goals but I didn't expect quite so much. The thing is, at first, you are happy that he is having such a hot streak but, at this point, it has been going on long enough that it's no longer a streak and we realize that we have a scorer who can do all the things he did last season and a lot more.”

After the season ended in Drummondville he had another pit-stop to make: Hamilton. Upon signing his entry-level contract and rejoining head coach Guy Boucher he immediately resumed his Memorial Cup tournament ways, picking up his first professional goal in only a few games with limited ice time and of course, the probably-not-quite-healed hand. His teammates also took an immediate liking to him and his less-than-friendly approach with adversaries, and it helped that there were enough injuries to allow him more of an experience than he would have had otherwise. Even with no Guy Boucher this year, he will definitely look to pick things up where he left them off last season.

And there’s room for surprises, too.

“Players in the Gabriel Dumont mold, there aren’t many, whether it be with the Canadiens or any other organization,” Dominic Ricard said when his protégé was drafted. “He’s a special player, really in a class of his own.”

“Of course, players his size usually have a longer road to the professional ranks, for example, they could come back to play junior at 20 years old, but with the right amount of perseverance, they end up making room for themselves.”


Stay tuned.

- Quotes : McKeen's Hockey (link) and L'Express (link)

1 comment:

  1. Woo, great article. I keep hearing EP and you talking about Gabby, now I really know why! That's great because Louis Leblanc is getting all the attention (and the pressure that goes with it) while Dumont calmly develops into a very nice prospect.


If you're a spambot, I'm just going to stop you right now. Your message will be deleted, so don't even bother, okay? Okay.