Team photo should remind Canadiens’ Anderson of support he has for comeback


MONTREAL — It’s a team photo Josh Anderson would be more than justified to burn just to purge himself of any remaining memory of the most forgettable season of his career.

But the 29-year-old, who has just eight goals and 18 points in 69 games, might just want to paste it to his wall instead. Because if this picture turns out to be a snapshot of the moment that precipitated his first step towards overcoming the greatest adversity he’s ever faced, it’ll be well worth looking back on for the rest of his days.

Here’s hoping it goes that way for Anderson, too, because how it’s gone so far has been miserable, and no one — least of all him — wants to see it continue that way for even one more second. 

But Anderson started the season mired in a 23-game goal drought and appears to be well on his way to finishing it in similar fashion. He has scored just twice in 33 games since the calendar flipped to 2024 and he has failed to record a single point over his last 11 games.

There will be nothing positive for him to look back on if he doesn’t produce something better over the remaining nine games, and Anderson knows it.

He knows he can’t just play out the string and hope everything will magically revert back to normal at the start of next season. He knows Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers is an opportunity to begin anew, and that he must take advantage of it, and he knows he has to take advantage of every other opportunity that presents itself before the season ends.

“I think (the games) are really important individually, and for our team,” said Anderson after the practice that followed the 20-minute photo session at the Bell Centre on Monday. “I think for me, personally, I just gotta be doing the right things and get back to my game, using that speed, physicality and trying to shoot as many pucks as I can.”

Why that’s been so elusive for him has been somewhat of a mystery. 

In one respect, it hasn’t been all that hard to figure out, with Anderson’s confidence slowly eroding with each good effort unrewarded through the first quarter of the season. That’s not something that could be completely remedied with one good five-game stretch that saw him produce five goals and six points between Dec. 16 and Dec. 28.

But still, it’s been perplexing to see how challenging it’s been for a player of Anderson’s experience to snap out of his funk. Especially with the speed he still possesses and the size he can wield to his advantage to break it.

And while it’s obvious the player has struggled to adapt to the way the Canadiens want to play under coach Martin St. Louis, he still managed to do it well enough last season to score 21 goals in 69 games.

What’s happened since, in spite of Anderson putting together arguably his best training camp since being traded to the Canadiens in 2020, has been nothing short of mind-boggling.

“I think the effort is there, I think the intentions are there,” said St. Louis.

But the results aren’t, and Anderson’s process has appeared more flawed over his last few games than it has at any other point this season.

But he can’t allow himself to continue to be defeated.

“It can be hard mentally on a player,” the coach said. “For him, it’s just to try to find some confidence down the stretch here, feel good about himself going into the summer.”

You’d hope Anderson can perhaps derive some from the belief St. Louis still has in him to do exactly that.

“We know Josh can score goals in this league and he has been proven to be a 20-goal scorer,” St. Louis said. “It’s just this year is most likely going to be a one-off because there’s a lot in that player… We know what he can bring, he hasn’t forgotten how to score and stuff, it’s just sometimes the game gets hard a little bit and it’s hard to come out of it. But we know there’s more in there, and he’ll get that back.”

The Canadiens are depending on him to do it, counting on him to be the best version of himself as they transition from team in development to a winning team over his remaining three years under contract.

And when Anderson receives the team photo, he’ll see a group of people who will do anything to support him in that quest, which is another reason for him to hang onto it.

Outside of that, Anderson shouldn’t forget this experience if he really hopes to grow from it.

That’s part of what can propel him forward.

“I think everything starts with the player, what he does this summer, and actually having a chance to reflect when the season’s over,” said St. Louis. “And also, us as a staff, too, with him. I think when the season’s over, you go through each and every player, and you look at where he needs to get better at and try to have a plan with him and show him examples and whatnot, and there’s still room for growth there. But to me, the answers are everywhere and it’s trying to find the answers for him and trying to work on it and go apply it. 

“But it all starts with the player, and we’ll support him and try to get him in a good place.”

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