The 2015-16 season was an incredibly frustrating one for the Montreal Canadiens after Carey Price went down to injury and the whole team seemed to collapse in near historic proportion. There were a few bright spots however, and one of them was the emergence of Daniel Carr as a feisty, straight-to-the-net kind of prospect that reminded fans of Brendan Gallagher. He was quickly embraced by the fans after just his first shift in the NHL.
In 23 games he had six goals and three assists; very respectable for a rookie campaign. His season came to a premature end due to a knee injury, and fans were left to wonder whether he was the real deal, or simply a depth player on a hot streak.
Carr came into this season fully healed and sporting a brand new two-year contract. Coming into training camp however it was obvious there were very few spots open to claim a regular role, and looking at the probable line combinations it seemed as though he would be hard-pressed to make the lineup at all. He looked to be in direct competition with Sven Andrighetto for the 13th forward roster spot, and on the day before the regular season started, it was in fact Carr who earned that final position.
It wasn’t a smooth start for him right from the bat. He was a healthy scratch for six of the first eight games as the Canadiens exploded out of the gates to a record start to their season rolling four steady and seemingly unbeatable lines, leaving no room for Carr to rotate into the lineup. He was eventually sent down to the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps for some game action.
In three games with the IceCaps, Carr scored two goals and added an assist playing on the top line, and quickly earned a recall back to the Canadiens for a much longer second stint from November to February. But he still struggled to get into the lineup. Over 41 games, he dressed in just 29, scoring two goals and adding five assists playing on the third or fourth line. On most nights he got less than 10 minutes of ice time.
He was sent down on February 1 as the team decided to give Jacob de la Rose a better look instead. Carr played five games with the IceCaps until one final recall in mid-February brought a final two games with the NHL team. He was ultimately sent back down to the IceCaps for a third and final time as the Canadiens’ bye week began on February 12.
Then things derailed for good. He only played two games before undergoing a “minor procedure” that kept him sidelined for a month. Without accurate information coming from the team, there was a rumour floating around that he was even done for the season because of the surgery. Thankfully he returned, but he only played six games before missing more games due to personal reasons.
The constant stop-and-go affected his point production as his stats trailed off, and he was never able to recapture the pace he showed at the start of the season, despite playing on the team’s top line.
After returning from leave he played five more games before his season ended on a terrible hit on March 31. Charles-David Beaudoin was subsequently suspended for three games for a headshot, but it cost Carr a chance at playing in his first professional playoffs, instead having his season ended by injury for a second consecutive year.
In all he played only 19 games for the IceCaps, putting up 11 points, with nine points in 33 NHL games. With more consistency at either level, his season would have probably been a lot stronger overall. It was surely a great disappointment after an impressive rookie campaign in the AHL in 2014-15 was followed by an encouraging NHL debut a year later.
Next season he is headed into the final year of his contract and he will need to impress a head coach who is unfamiliar with him if he is to earn a spot at training camp. Otherwise he will be exposed to waivers should the Canadiens try to send him down to the Laval Rocket of the AHL. Making the NHL roster won’t be any easier this time as the Canadiens could be quite active in free agency. There will likely be few spots up for grabs, and Carr has his work cut out for this summer.
Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.