When the Montreal Canadiens selected David Reinbacher with the fifth-overall pick of the 2023 NHL Draft, much of the team’s fan base was incensed.
For a club that has struggled to develop top-notch offensive talent, passing on a forward with superstar potential like Matvei Michkov felt painful. That disappointment is understandable, even though Reinbacher is a fine prospect who has a solid chance of developing into a top-pair defenceman.
Although it’s easy to see the root of the discontent among Canadiens fans, the magnitude took many by surprise. Over at The Athletic Arpon Basu wrote that the reaction was “shocking” and that the outrage was “at a level I don’t think I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something.”
Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette penned a column entitled “Many Canadiens fans should be ashamed of themselves.” It’s not hard to imagine the sort of commentary that was floating around Habs Twitter.
In most cases, that would be the whole story. “Team with passionate fan base makes questionable move.” Outcry probably goes a bit too far. Local writers weigh in. The story eventually evaporates until Michkov scores four goals against the Canadiens on a winter’s night in 2027.
This time, there’s more to it.
That’s because according to Basu’s report, the way fans responded to the Reinbacher pick might just affect what the team does with him in the upcoming season. According to Basu, some in the Canadiens front office are concerned about bringing Reinbacher to Montreal or Laval this year “in light of the torches and pitchforks running through the fan base right now.” Leaving him to develop in Switzerland wouldn’t be a bad move necessarily, but doing it for that reason is nonsensical.
It’s possible that’s a heat-of-the-moment reaction, but the idea that fans’ ire would drive the deployment of one of the most important assets in the Canadiens organization is bizarre. The stakes are simply too high for that to be a considered factor.
Not only is the premise unusual, it’s unclear what Montreal is specifically afraid of. Reinbacher is unlikely to be booed whenever he touches the puck or constantly jeered. As a defenceman, much of his work is likely to go generally unnoticed and will be difficult to react to strongly.
The fan base’s disappointment is also with the front office taking him over Michkov, not with Reinbacher himself. The further we get from the draft, the more folks will be invested in the player they have, as yearning for the one who got away will seem less and less relevant.
Almost every front office in the NHL would love to have fans as passionate as the ones found in Montreal. That can lead to greater media scrutiny at times, but that is a nuisance more than a driving factor affecting the winning and losing of games in a profound way.
The louder the fans the harder they are to ignore, but that doesn’t mean their thoughts should be considered any more than fans in a city that loves their team less.
If the Canadiens were truly swayed by their supporters they never would’ve taken Reinbacher over the flashy Michkov in the first place. Letting their reaction to the selection dictate anything that comes next would be foolish.