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Josh Brook is ready to contribute despite a tumultuous comeback

For an athlete, there are very few things more challenging than a lengthy rehab following a serious injury. Not only are you getting away from your passion but you’re also far from the job that allows you to pay the bills. It’s also easy to wonder if you’re coming back at 100% or even to ask when you are coming back.

As if this whole process wasn’t challenging enough, Josh Brook added COVID-19 in the mix. After playing his first game in close to nine months following a knee injury, Brook was one of the Rocket members who was placed in COVID-19 protocol last week.

It’s particularly frustrating for a player who has been battling hard to come back on the ice with the team. It’s even more so when you see how appreciated his presence was when he played his first game back with the Rocket.

“It was nice to see him and the boys were happy to have him on the bench” Laval Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle said about Brook on the week during which he came back in the lineup. “You could see in practice, he was rejoicing. It’s not easy when you go through a long period of rehab and getting ready to play. He can be an asset for us.”

Thankfully for the defenseman, he was one of the first players who was able to leave the protocol to get to Toronto, where he played in a 6-4 Rocket win against the Marlies on Wednesday night. Ironically, he sustained his injury against those same Marlies on May 15th at the Bell Centre.

“It has been a wild couple of days” admitted Josh Brook. “I felt okay out there. I didn’t think I had my best game but it’s coming along. There’s a lot of timing that I got to pick up on.”

If you look at the box score for that game in Toronto, you’ll see that Brook ended up with three shots on goal, which is good for the offensive defenseman that he is. That being said, his haters will note the -1 differential, that you need to take with a grain of salt.

If you focus a bit more on the 5 on 5 play, his statistics are more encouraging. The Rocket got 21 scoring chances in that situation against Toronto, which is a nice game. Brook stood above his teammates by being on the ice for 10 of these 21 chances, which was the best mark of the team.

With a scoring chances differential of +4 at 5 on 5, Brook was the best among Rocket defensemen tied with Louie Belpedio and Xavier Ouellet. His Corsi percentage of 60% was only beaten by his partner on the blueline that night; Tobie Paquette-Bisson.

Brook himself admitted that he is still not back at the height of his powers but in this game, which came with particular circumstances, the defenseman assuredly proved that he can contribute to the team’s success. At least, that’s what his coach seems to believe if you listen to him talking after the game on Wednesday night.

“It’s not easy for these guys when it has been a while since they haven’t played” explained Jean-François Houle when asked about Joël Teasdale and Josh Brook. “Knee injuries, they take more time. Brook, I thought he was solid, especially for a guy who has not practiced lately. He jumped on the opportunity to get back in the lineup.”

There is no doubt that the Rocket defensive squad is full of depth. Sami Niku’s arrival and Josh Brook’s comeback only added to that strength of the lineup. It creates a nice problem for the head coach of the team, who has to find ice time for everybody on his team.

That being said, it also places the Rocket in an enviable position among the playoff push. Even though you always want to avoid injuries, like we saw with Josh Brook, sometimes they are just unavoidable. Laval is now well equipped to face them.

If ever luck is on the Rocket’s side, the team is also protected from one call up or two even if they are permanent following the trade deadline, which could alter the composition of the Canadiens’ defensive squad for the end of the season.

We already saw it with Corey Schueneman, who was one of, if not, the best defenseman on the team before his callup in the NHL. His absence could have left a big hole in the lineup but the other defensemen of the team, including Josh Brook, stepped up to compensate while he has been with the Canadiens.