If there is one thing Marc Bergevin did this past off-season, it was to give the Laval Rocket as many well-regarded AHL veterans as possible. Kenny Agostino, Michael Chaput, and Alex Belzile were a big part of that, and landing Alexandre Grenier on an AHL-only deal was a huge coup for the young team. But while Belzile thrived in a similar role and saw a career season unfold in front of him, Grenier was rather the opposite this year.
With 27 points in 68 games, Grenier had his least productive season in his North American professional career. There were nights on the ice where it was unclear whether or not Grenier was in the lineup; not exactly the type of performance you want to see from a player signed to make an impact. Known for bringing a physical edge when needed, that seemed to be missing from Grenier’s game as well, making him a passenger on most nights, and that’s not what Joël Bouchard wanted to see when his roster was thinned by injuries.
Given who started the year with the team, it’s reasonable to think that Grenier was expected to play more of a supporting role rather than be a leading scorer. However, 11 goals isn’t exactly a supporting role, considering his career average is around 17.
That isn’t to say that everything Grenier did this year was disappointing. In fact, he had plenty of moments where he showed just how valuable he can be to the Rocket when he’s on his game. As Laval battled to try to keep the playoffs in sight down the stretch, Grenier put together two of the best performances by any Rocket forward this year with a three-point game in Utica and a four-assist showing in Belleville. In those games, he was at his best on the power play, being patient with the puck and using his playmaking ability to open up lanes for his teammates to shoot and create chances.
Cale Fleury with his seventh of the year, part of tonight's power play parade in Belleville. pic.twitter.com/uhFQaM0CL5— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
These games were few and far between, as a functioning Rocket power play likely could have buoyed the team closer to a playoff berth based on their play in the second half. Grenier has all the tools to step up like Belzile did, but failed to deliver to the same extent.
Great individual effort by Alexandre Grenier for his tenth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/Z2IGp26NoG— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 17, 2019
Just looking at the goal above, Grenier uses speed to surprise the defender, get the puck, get back to his feet, and then rips a goal top-shelf from in close. Not everything needed to to be of such highlight-reel quality, but just utilizing those tools more would have been a huge boost for a struggling Rocket side.
Plenty of his goals came from in close around the net, using his body to box out defenders and clean up passes or rebounds, something that pairs well with many of the Rocket’s younger players. Jake Evans, Daniel Audette, and Nikita Jevpalovs all thrived by playing the edges and using their passing skill to set up goals. A more active Grenier around the net would have been a huge boost for all of them.
It has to be noted that Grenier took great pride in playing for his hometown club. Every goal had an enthusiastic response, at every big moment he was right there to celebrate, and it’s easy to believe it meant a little bit more to play in his hometown. That being sad, the Rocket needed more from his this year, especially when players starting being called up or getting injured.
It’s unclear what his future holds, but a return next year would not be the worst thing, He’s likely extremely motivated by a disappointing season, and maybe playing in a smaller role would help spark some of his offence once again.
It wasn’t the worst year of anyone on the Rocket by a longshot, but Grenier’s season left many wanting much more from the Laval native.