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Max Domi’s move to Montreal was a fresh start for all

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A new beginning for Domi was also a reset for the team and fans.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

It turns out that the one-for-one trade that was made on June 15, 2018 wasn’t such a bad one after all.

After finding his footing during his first season suiting up with the Montreal Canadiens, Alex Galchenyuk dared to get our hopes up as we watched his tricky toe-drag and his down-on-one-knee one-timer start to build his goal totals from 13, to 20, to a 30-goal, 56-point year in the 2014-15 season. But after not even hitting the 20-goal mark the following two seasons, and seeing his promise spiral downward, Galchenyuk found himself on the chopping block, being swapped for 23-year-old Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes.

By that time, some people weren’t overly devastated seeing Chucky hang up the blue-blanc-rouge jersey after watching the winger-centre shell game over and over again. But many also weren’t overly fond of who came back in return: a 5’10”, 195-pound left-winger, who was a bit of a hothead, and was scoring half of what Galchenyuk was producing. While Domi’s rookie season in 2015-16 was pretty impressive, racking up 52 points (18G, 34A), his production dropped the following two years. He continued to do well in the assists category, but managed just nine goals in each of the following seasons, with four of his nine goals during the 2017-18 season being empty-netters.

So, yes, the immediate assumption was that Arizona got the better end of that deal.

That assumption seemed spot on before the regular season even started. There were groans, eye rolls, and waving of arms throughout the fan base as Domi, during his first appearance as a Hab, got sent of, and later suspended, during an exhibition game. An exhibition game. After an altercation with Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad, then sucker-punching him when he refused to drop the gloves, Domi was banned for the remainder of the pre-season. This did not give us the warm and fuzzies.

Thankfully, Domi decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and instead focused on his offensive game ... mostly (he did end up clocking the most penalty minutes, 80, on the team). Besides, it’s way more fun to watch Domi use his words rather than his fists. His chirping skills are stellar, as we witnessed when he went for Zack Smith’s jugular.

Despite his bad judgment call during the pre-season, it didn’t take him long to earn our forgiveness. On October 17, 2018, just 39 seconds in against the St. Louis Blues, Domi scored his first goal as a Hab. As the season went on we watched this feisty forward, who was like a mishmash of Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw, show us the potential that had been hiding during his three years as a Coyote.

To say Domi ended up having a career year is a bit of an understatement. He went from not even hitting double digits in goals his previous two seasons to being second in goals (28) behind Gallagher, first in assists (44), and team points leader (72). And he did it all while playing centre for the first time in his NHL career.

While Domi settled comfortably into his centre spot in Montreal, over in Arizona Galchenyuk once again found himself hanging out on the wing and just short of hitting the 20-goal mark. After just one season with the Coyotes, Galchenyuk will find himself donning yet another uniform for the 2019-20 season. Just two days before free agency, Galchenyuk, along with minor-league defenceman Pierre-Oliver Joseph, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in return for Phil Kessel, minor-league defenceman Dane Birks, and a 2021 fourth-round draft pick. It may be that Galchenyuk finally finds a home in Pittsburgh to allow his game to flourish, but we don’t need to ask that question about Domi’s place in Montreal.

It may have taken us a while to get on board the Domi train, but he was immediately excited about his fresh start in Montreal. And what a start it was.