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A player like Arber Xhekaj is a rarity in today’s NHL, says Bob Hartley
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
Arber Xhekaj.

When you read this simple (or rather complex) name, your opinion of him quickly came to mind, whether positive or negative.

In general, what this name generates among Montreal Canadiens fans is a sense of excitement and pride in having him on the team.

Xhekaj quickly became a crowd favorite last season.

And this season, despite a rocky start and a return to Laval with the Rocket in the AHL, Xhekaj has remained in the minds of Habs fans, and no one has forgotten what he meant to the team.

Fans love Xhekaj, and they’ve grown attached to him very quickly, because he’s such a unique player.

And it’s going to take a lot for fans to let go of him, especially in Montreal, a city where people love this type of player who’s not afraid of anything, and who defends his team-mates at every turn.

In short, it’s simple, Xhekaj is so loved, because he’s a very rare type of player in today’s NHL, as Bob Hartley explained last night at the Antichambre.

Xhekaj’s style of play is becoming less and less common in today’s NHL, but it’s still important if he’s an effective player in departments other than toughness.

And that’s the case with the Tricolore’s number 72, who is much more than just a goon à la Ryan Reaves.

Xhekaj knows how to play hockey beyond his physical game and the fact that he’s not afraid to throw down the gloves.

At the start of the season, the Habs defenseman had lost some of his strengths other than his fists and his toughness, which cost him a stint in Laval, where he was reminded that he was capable of playing much better than that.

Xhekaj regained his confidence with the Rocket, but back in the NHL, he always seemed afraid of making a mistake.

He’d probably been told he was taking too many penalties, and making too many mistakes in his zone, which distorted him somewhat.

It really scared the habs fans, but in the last few games, thanks in part to two fine goals, Xhekaj seems to be back.

He’s once again proving himself to be a reliable defenseman, both offensively and defensively, with a rugged style that commands respect when he’s on the ice.

As a result, his playing time has picked up in recent games, which is really positive.

In short, as Bob Hartley explained, Xhekaj is a rare player in today’s NHL.

It remains to be seen whether the Habs will keep this rarity on their team, or whether they’ll take advantage of it on the trade market to get a solid return.

Obviously, like many Habs fans, I’m in the camp of those who prefer to keep Xhekaj.

You can’t put a price on a player who can protect his teammates with his presence and strike fear into the opposing camp, especially when it comes time to perform in the playoffs.

In a gust of wind

– Not to be missed today. CF Montreal opens its season at 7:30pm.

– That’s a lot of players.

– A little flashback.

– Read on.

– To be continued.

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