You can add Nathan Beaulieu’s name to the long list of former Canadiens players to get booed by Montreal fans on their return to the city with a different team.
Beaulieu played his first game at the Bell Centre Saturday night since being traded to the Buffalo Sabres during the off-season and played a key role in Max Pacioretty’s overtime goal that gave the Canadiens a 2-1 win — but it wasn’t Beaulieu’s fault. Beaulieu was trying to make a pass when his stick snapped, coughing up the puck near centre ice. After getting a new stick from the Sabres bench, Beaulieu was caught behind the play as Pacioretty went in alone on goalie Chad Johnson to score on a beautiful backhand move.
“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time for my stick to snap,” Beaulieu said after the game. “It’s really unfortunate. The guys were really good tonight. We put up a gutsy effort, and I thought we deserved to win. But what can you say? It’s just really unfortunate.”
Fans at the Bell Centre booed Beaulieu the first time he touched the puck and continued to do so for much of the game.
Tweeted Arpon Basu of The Athletic: “Getting booed by Habs fans might be the greatest honour Nathan Beaulieu has ever received at the Bell Centre.”
“They booed Subby (P.K. Subban when he came back as a Nashville Predator). so I’m pretty sure they’re going to boo everyone,” Beaulieu said. “It’s fun … It’s part of the culture here and it’s fun to have them involved in the game.”
Things didn’t work out as hoped for Beaulieu in Montreal after the Canadiens selected him in the first round (17th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft. General manager Marc Bergevin, who wasn’t a fan of Beaulieu and didn’t draft him, traded the 24-year-old defenceman to Buffalo in exchange for a third-round pick at this year’s draft.
Bergevin used that pick to select defenceman Scott Walford, who has no goals and 10 assists in 21 games this season with the WHL’s Victoria Royals.
But why were fans booing Beaulieu, who never asked to be traded and said he loved playing in Montreal?
Beaulieu deserves some of the blame for not succeeding with the Canadiens, but he’s not the only first-round draft pick who hasn’t worked out for the team in recent years.
It can’t always be the player’s fault and you have to wonder about the Canadiens’ drafting and/or ability to develop first-round picks like Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Louis Leblanc and Mike McCarron, who finds himself back with the AHL’s Laval Rocket. Alex Galchenyuk was drafted by Bergevin with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 to become the No. 1 centre the Canadiens have long been searching for and has since developed into a winger, often playing on the fourth line.