It was a horrifying domino effect that sent the Montreal Canadiens reeling for the entire 2015-16 season. It all started when Carey Price went down, and then things spiralled out of control.
Aside from the Canadiens prized possession, we also witnessed five defencemen succumb to the injury bug that flew throughout the team all season: Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin, Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert and P.K. Subban all missed time due to a variety of injuries.
Along with the forwards who made an appearance due to the Habs dropping like flies, seven defensemen from the St. John's IceCaps were called up to hold the blue line. Here's how they fared in their respective auditions.
Games played: 30
Points: 10 (2G, 8A)
Even Strength Corsi For: 53.5%
Average TOI per game: 15.1
IceCaps: Paired with Morgan Ellis for the majority of his games, they became the dynamic duo of the blue line. Barberio racked up 20 points (2 G, 18 A) in 26 games and was named to the AHL All-Star Game, but had to politely decline as he had work to do with the Habs.
Habs: Working his way into the lineup when the injuries began, Barberio proved he was the right man for the job. After counting on him for most of the season, the Habs had to do without for the final few games when he suffered a concussion against the Buffalo Sabres on March 16.
Future: Barberio becomes a RFA this summer and has already received a qualifying offer from the Canadiens to sign a new deal with the club. Should he sign, he figures to have a very good chance of making the team permanently come October.
Games played: 9
Even Strength Corsi For: 45.8%
Average TOI per game: 13.4
IceCaps: Bartley gave the team another top-pairing option but didn't seem to contribute much, tallying just 4 points (1 G, 3 A) in the 24 games he suited up for.
Habs: Bartley was part of the strange three-way trade that went down on January 15, when Jarred Tinordi was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Stefan Elliott. Elliott was then immediately traded to the Nashville Predators, and in return Bartley was packaged with John Scott and sent to the Canadiens. During his call-up, he missed 10 games in March due to a lower-body injury.
Future: This summer, Bartley will be a free agent, and rumor has it that the Canadiens are looking to retain his services. However, after not having much of a presence with either team, it might be time to look elsewhere unless the plan is to keep him around as a veteran on the IceCaps.
Games played: 3
Even Strength Corsi For: 50%
Average TOI per game: 9.2
IceCaps: Ellis had a fantastic year with the IceCaps, continuing to dominate even after his partner Barberio was recalled to the Canadiens permanently. In 73 games, he had 42 points (16 G, 26 A), rightfully being awarded the Top Defenceman trophy at the end of the season, as well as the AHL All-Star Game.
Habs: It was Ellis' fourth pro season when he finally made his NHL debut in March. During his short stint, he didn't manage to find the scoresheet, but he did not look out of place either.
Future: Ellis will become a UFA this summer if not tendered a qualifying offer by June 27, and the club should lock him down now. He left all other IceCaps defensemen in the dust, and the only blue liners on the Habs to hit numbers like his were P.K. Subban (51 points in 68 games), and Andrei Markov (44 points in 82 games).
Games played: 13
Points: 5 (1 G, 4 A)
Even Strength Corsi For: 51.3%
Average TOI per game: 14.0
IceCaps: This was Dietz's third pro season after being signed in 2013. Though struggling at times during the season, in 61 games he showed that he has a defense-first mindset and tallied up a decent 16 points (4 G, 12 A) and landed fourth in penalty minutes with 61.
Habs: Dietz made his NHL debut in March and notched his first NHL goal with so much patience it was mesmerizing. He held it, held it some more, then ignored the flurry of activity around him, and found the back of the net. It was well worth the wait.
Future: Requires waivers to get back with the IceCaps next season, and is on the list of players that will require a qualifying offer by June 27, or else he'll be a RFA come July 1.
Games played: 10
Points: 6 (6 A)
Even Strength Corsi For: 48.7%
Average TOI per game: 15:2
IceCaps: It was Hanley's second pro season and his 64 games proved a bit inconsistent, recording 13 points (5 G, 8 A).
Habs: It was yet another NHL debut for the IceCaps when Hanley received a late-season call-up in March. He displayed some offensive skills while up with the Canadiens, lending a helping hand with six assists. He definitely turned heads with the point streak that he went on, but it remains to be seen if there is more to his game.
Future: Hanley was a minor league free agent when he signed a one-year contract with the Canadiens last July. He'll become a RFA this summer if not tendered a qualifying offer.
Games played: 1
Even Strength Corsi For: 30.8%
Time on Ice: 6.6
IceCaps: Spending most of his time on second and third pairings during his 69 games, Lernout tallied 12 points (2 G, 10 A). He strives to make the opposition's lives miserable by using his imposing size, as proved with the 73 minutes he spent in the penalty box.
Habs: Lernout's audition lasted just two periods before a knee injury took him out for the remainder of the season.
Future: He will be starting his three-year entry-level deal in 2016-17, and if given more ice time, could move up on the depth chart.
Games played: 3
Even Strength Corsi For: 49.4%
Average TOI per game: 16.4
IceCaps: Undrafted, Johnston signed with the Canadiens for a two-year, two-way contract, and ended up spending the first half of his first pro season sidelined after undergoing back surgery for a herniated disk. Once he hit the ice in mid-January and found his footing, he brought his unique offensive style to the IceCaps, accumulating 12 points (12 A) in 37 games.
Habs: With just a handful of games remaining in the season, Johnston made his NHL debut and became the team-record 15th defenceman to skate for the Canadiens during the 2015-16 season.
Future: With just half a season under his belt, Johnston's steady progress will give the speedy defender the opportunity to continue adding to the IceCaps powerplay and work on his defensive game next season.
It was a disaster of a season when it came to injuries, but the Canadiens did get to audition a number of players through all of the chaos. Now, we wait to see what they will do with the evaluations they were able to make during that time.