Monday, April 16, 2012
Memory Monday: Juha Lind
MONDAYS - Memory Monday, a piece looking back at a former Hab.
TUESDAYS - Top 10 Tuesday, a top 10 list in some way related to the Canadiens.
WENDESDAYS - Around the League, a feature on something hockey-related but not involving the Habs, generally with some Canadiens tie-ins.
THURSDAYS - Player Spotlight, a profile / close-up of a current member of the Canadiens family.
FRIDAYS - Funny Friday / A Day as Habs GM, two options of columns for Fridays, either being something funny related to the Canadiens, or putting myself in the shoes of the Habs GM and looking forward.
As last summer, this is a loose schedule, and it will be interrupted on days where there may be something more pertinent to discuss, but just because it's off-season, doesn't mean this site is shuttin' 'er down!
So we begin today by looking back at a player who spent two of Montreal's "dark years" in the organization, Finnish winger Juha Lind. Lind hails from Helsinki and was an 8th round pick of the Minnesota North Stars back in 1992.
Lind was seen as a utility two-way guy, but put up strong offensive numbers in Finland's SM-Liiga. After remaining in Europe for a few seasons (and his club, Jokerit Helsinki, won two European championships in that time), including being named the SM-Liiga's Rookie of the Year in 1993-94, he made the jump straight to the NHL in the 1997-98 season scoring 5 points in 39 games as a rookie. By this point, however, he was already a household hockey name in his native country. He had scored 7 points in 7 World Junior Championships games back in 1993-94, and even joined the Men's team for the World Championship in 1996-97, and the Olympic Team in Nagano in 1998, indicating that expectations were high. He also made his acting debut (and only credit to date), following in the footsteps of his newscaster father by appearing as himself in an episode of Finnish television show Team Ahma which aired in '98.
He returned to Europe for the 1998-99 season, reaching the 20-goal mark for the first and only time in his career, but came back to Dallas the following season. That year, he would miss games with back problems early on, and these would resurface on occasion throughout his career, perhaps being a partial cause for him never reaching what some thought he could be. Despite the health issues, in January of that year, the Canadiens sent big and robust forward Scott Thornton to the Stars in return for the 5'11", 183 lbs winger. The late 90s and early 2000s were a period of high player turnover for Montreal, and this move was perhaps typical of the problems that would plague the team for years to come; a loss of size and toughness for smaller riskier types. Thornton would go on to have the better career, playing a role not unlike Travis Moen in the present day, even notching a 20-goal and 40-point season once.
The Habs were optimistic at the time, with coach Alain Vigneault and scouts Mario Tremblay and Pierre Mondou all giving positive accounts of having seen his potential in Dallas. Then captain Saku Koivu, who played with him on some of the Finnish squads, also liked what he saw in him, explaining that it was hard for him to breakout at the NHL level when only playing five minutes a night for the Stars.
Lind finished that season with the Canadiens, scoring 3 points in 13 games and again getting a call from the Finnish National Team for the World Championships, where he produced an impressive 3 goals and 7 points in 9 games. But he couldn't build on that the following year, with just 7 points in 47 games for Montreal in what would be his final season in North America.
In the years that followed, he bounced around European leagues in Sweden, Austria, and Finland, skating for Jokerit Helsinki on three more occasions in 2004-05 (playing with, amongst others, Glen Metropolit, Brian Campbell, Tim Thomas, and Valterri Filppula during the NHL lockout), 2008-09, and 2009-10 - his final season as a professional player.
When people think back about the "worst players to ever have played for the Canadiens," many refer to players during these dark years, and because he only spent 60 games in the blue, blanc, et rouge, Lind's name often comes up in conversation. But a look at his hockey career as a whole reveals a resume that no one should scoff at.