Casey DeSmith was getting to know his new surroundings in early August.
The amiable roll-with-the-punches goaltender had been dealt from Pittsburgh to Montreal and suiting up for a storied NHL franchise that he had long admired — and idolizing former Canadiens stoppers Jose Theodore and Patrick Roy — would make for a seamless adjustment.
A team golf tournament and instant camaraderie were like a red-carpet welcome to a hockey mecca.
Six weeks later, the reality of being a back-up kicked in. DeSmith was dealt to Vancouver.
It’s takes a certain demeanour to endure a roller-coaster existence of wondering when you’ll see the net again — especially with Canucks starter Thatcher Demko in Vezina Trophy form — and where you may be next summer on a current expiring contract.
“It can’t be any more hectic than it was this past offseason,” reasoned DeSmith. “I’m just hoping wherever I end up, it’s a smooth transition. The trade (to the Canadiens) was a little bit of a weird experience for me. They were very forthcoming when because they had three goalies, plus (minor-leaguer) Cayden Primeau who’s a good goalie.
“I knew somebody was probably on the way out and kind of had a feeling it might be me. I grew up a big Habs fan and it was a thrill to go to Montreal and skating with the team four our five times, Everybody was great.
“But they didn’t know the situation. I didn’t feel like I was totally there ever.”
For the Canucks, acquiring DeSmith, 32, in a September swap for Tanner Pearson and a 2025 third-round draft pick, was prudent. It provided a proven NHL back-up after the free-agency departure of Collin Delia and gave prospect Arturs Silovs, 22, another year of AHL seasoning in Abbotsford.
“It’s a great feeling to be somewhere where they really wanted me to work with (Thatcher) Demko and (goalie coach) Ian Clark,” said DeSmih, a Rochester, N.H., native, who sports a 2-0-1 record, 3.07 goals-against average and .917 saves percentage.
“And it’s nice to have stability with guys I’ve known from other teams. There’s a lot of comfortability for me.”
Here’s our weekly Q&A with the undrafted and undaunted DeSmith:
Q. Your first impressions of working with dialled-in Demko?
A. I’ve been enjoying my time. It’s good to change up goalie partners. He’s very intense. Especially on game days. Great guy. Puts in the work and deserves all the success he’s had in this league — that’s for sure.
Q. Top tandems have good chemistry. How’s the progress?
A. It’s been really good. Pretty seamless. I haven’t had a lot of goalie partners in my career because I was in the same place (Pittsburgh) and Demmer has been great. Super welcoming.
Q. Ian Clark is a demanding ‘Goalie Whisperer’. Impressions?
A. There’s no doubt he’s one of the best minds out there. He works hard for us and expects us to work hard. His general intensity is really good. But it’s not so tense where he sucks the fun out of being a goalie. He keeps it light most of the time, but expects hard work and results. Definitively, high expectations, but I love his general approach.
Q. Refining your game is building on a good foundation. Right?
A. Very accurate. It’s an ongoing discussion of where we want to go and develop my game and things that need to be worked on — rectified, cleaned up and made more efficient. There’s always work to be done, it’s not a finished product. But come game time, he (Clark) is good at putting all that behind us and just letting me go play.
Q. How do you handle mental challenge of waiting, delivering?
A. Just do my job when called upon. It might be once a week or every two weeks, or twice a week. You just don’t know. God forbid something happens and then I’m the guy. I have to be steady and make the saves I’m supposed to make and a couple I’m not supposed to make. Give the team a chance whenever I get in there. And not have the team feel it’s a letdown when I do go in.
Q. Sidney Crosby picked you for post-COVID practice group. A thrill?
A. Sid was always an incredible captain and teammate to me. I truly can’t say enough great things about him as a person and just the example he sets for everyone. I loved going against him in practice. I miss him because he would bring it every day.
Q. You faced 59 shots to sweep a 2016 AHL series. Recollections?
A. My parents were there and my sisters and uncle, so I had a lot of support. To sweep the Providence Bruins in my first couple of weeks in the AHL was really cool. I remember Jake Guentzel scoring the series winner in double OT and winning three-straight games in OT.