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NHL first-rounder Stefan Matteau benched by Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, gets Hall of Fame chirp from QMJHL rival

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Stefan Matteau after scoring his first NHL goal in February (The Associated Press)

Stefan Matteau might elicit some empathy from people who are mindful of his youth, but his puck-chasing peers are not so charitable.

The talk of junior hockey Monday is that the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada have announced the 19-year-old New Jersey Devils first-round pick will not play for the team again. The last straw was apparently an undisciplined penalty that Matteau took in Game 2 of the QMJHL semifinal series last Saturday, which led to the game's deciding goal.

Neither Matteau nor his former-NHLer father, Armada assistant coach Stéphane Matteau, are making comment, meaning the team's spin is the only one out there about the debacle. The Armada are in a desperate situation with a 2-0 series deficit against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL semifinal series. Yet they are washing their hands of Matteau, who is good enough to have played 17 NHL games as a teenager this season. Following reports Sunday that Matteau had left the team after being benched for the third period of a playoff game, the Armada released the power winger. The decision means Matteau is ineligible to rejoin the Devils' minor-league farm team, which many teenagers do after major junior season is over.

In the previous round, Matteau incited a scuffle during the traditional post-series handshakes when he pantomimed a golf swing at players from the vanquished Val-d'Or Foreurs. With Matteau's season, if not his career, in shambles, Foreurs star Cédrick Henley got the last laugh in memorable movie-referencing fashion.

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Cedrick Henley wishes Matteau 'a good golf season' (Twitter)

The Devils are also on board with the decision.

One should not join in piling on a young player, but this is a sport that demands players have healthy egos that they sometimes check for the good of the team. The Armada apparently had run out of patience.

Armada coach Jean-François Houle has a unique history with prospects who have been labelled a handful. Houle, at his previous turn with the now-defunct Lewiston MAINEiacs in 2010-11, took on New York Islanders prospect Kirill Kabanov, whose stock had fallen through the floor after he was kicked off Russia's under-18 team prior to the 2010 NHL draft.

Kabanov settled down in Lewiston and shared the team lead in playoff scoring while helping it reach the QMJHL semifinal before the franchise folded and its players were dispersed throughout junior hockey. Last season, he helped the Shawinigan Cataractes win the MasterCard Memorial Cup and is now playing in the Islanders farm system. Point being, Houle has useful experience in such matters.

It is on Matteau and those around him to figure out what brought them to this point and how it might be avoided before it harms his NHL potential. It probably will have some stickiness in the hockey world, but he deserves a chance at redemption. The Armada's emphasis that this is their decision sounds credible. Yet it also sounds like trying to minimize the media caricature of a petulant young player.

Resisting the temptation to compare the entitled hockey life Matteau has enjoyed with the lot of other players is difficult. No one has it easy, but he had a leg up from having a father who played 848 NHL games. Unlike other young players, he was more able to write his own ticket on where he would develop. Matteau initially committed to playing college hockey at the University of North Dakota, but joined the Armada after they acquired his QMJHL rights from a small-market team, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Compare that with other athletes who are determined just to play again after scary, nearly life-threatening physical problems. Bear in mind that he is 19, and we were all confused at that age.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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