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The One that Got Away

February 16, 2020, 1:00 PM ET [831 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Owen Nolan had a great NHL career, selected first overall by Québec in 1990, he jumped right into the big league playing 59 games in his rookie season and gathering only 13 points and 109 penalty minutes but the best was still to come. From his second season, “le Cowboy”, as the Nordiques’ fans called him, improved massively and racked up 73 points and 183 penalty minutes totals he bested in his third year. He played 5 seasons in Québec before being traded to the San Jose Sharks after wearing the Avalanche jersey for 9 little games. He ended up playing for the Sharks for 8 years and that’s where he met his wife and started his family. It’s no surprise then that after stints in Toronto, Minnesota, Phoenix and Calgary he chose to call San Jose his permanent home.

Years after leaving Québec for Colorado, the Cowboy is now back as the head coach of the San Jose Sharks Jr. for the pee-wee tournament in a team that features his son Dylan and former Sharks’ goaltender Evgeny Nabokov’s son. So far, Nolan seems impressed with the tournament, he grew up in a small town and didn’t have an opportunity to play in the tournament as a kid. This morning, his team will take on the Québec Nordiques in its first official game of the tournament after going 2-1 in their exhibition games. When asked if he thought they had a chance to win, he replied chuckling that no one enters a tournament not hoping to win.

When Dylan Nolan skates on the ice today, the Québec people will have a blast from the past since he wears number 11 and is a forward just like his dad was. For now, Nolan has no intention of working in the NHL, he loves coaching kids and making them better. He says it’s no trouble separating the coach from the dad, he treats each player the same and works with every single one of them to improve every part of their game. It’s not weird to coach his former goaltender’s son either, in fact Nabokov is also part of the coaching staff of the Sharks Jr. and it’s safe to say that those kids are in good hands. Count Nolan as a fan of the Centre Videotron and the way the seats are built right on top of the ice, he says that the sounds stays in better and that it’s great for the atmosphere. He adds that he would love to see the NHL come back to Québec but that he doesn’t know if it ever will...

You might be wondering how This article links in with the Canadiens right about now so here it is... If you have read Serge Savard’s autobiography, you know that prior to being fired by the Habs, Savard was actively trying to trade Patrick Roy because he had become a distraction in the locker-room (where have we heard that before). Savard wouldn’t have time to pull the trigger before being fired on October 16, 1995 but had he had the chance, it’s Owen Nolan that he would have wanted in return. When I read this last fall, i’ll admit that I was rather surprised and so was Nolan when I told him about it this morning. He really looked taken aback for a second and when I asked him how he would have felt crossing the border to the other side of the battle of Québec he replied that playing for such a historic franchise would have been quite an honour and that having lived in Québec for that long, the transition would no doubt have been easy for him. He also added that it’s funny how things turn out considering that he ended up in California instead and that the move to San Jose lead to so many stepping stones in his life... it made him wonder what would have happened had he ended up in Montréal...

That doesn't just apply to him though...how do you think the Canadiens would have faired if they landed Nolan instead of Thibault, Kovalenko and Rucinsky? We’ll never know I guess but the fact remains that when Ronald Corey decided to clean house and fire Savard and Demers to replace them by Houle and Tremblay he pushed the franchise in a dark age from which it hasn’t emerged since. When Lacroix found out that Savard had been fired, he turned around and sent Nolan to San Jose in return for Sandis Ozolinsh before acquiring Roy anyways less than two months later, schooling Réjean Houle in the process. I don’t know about you but I would have loved to see a power forward like Nolan wear the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge...

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