It’s been a while. As a matter of fact, it’s been too long. Fans missed him. Coaches missed him. But none missed him as much as Carey Price and while others have stepped up their game in his long absence, they simply can’t replace him. He’s big and strong. He defends. He hits. He shoots the puck… hard, very hard. He quarterbacks the powerplay. He is key on the penalty kill. He plays against the opponents’ top lines. He eats up minutes in a game, quality minutes. And he’s the undisputed leader. For the first time since the start of last season where he broke his foot in game one… he’s healthy and ready to go!
It will be an emotional day for Shea Weber when he sports his number jersey number six and that, for a couple of reasons. Yes, he will find the letter ‘C’ on his upper left chest, something that he is truly honored to do. But mostly, it will be his first NHL game since December 16th of last year, when he was shut down for the season. A few surgeries and a long rehab later, his hard work to come back playing seems to be finally over. And everyone is happy about it… expect his opponents and a few P.K. Subban fans in the Canadiens’ fanbase.
Jeff Petry has done well, very well during his absence, but he’s no Shea Weber. While the team has performed admirably well so far this season, well beyond what “experts” predicted for the first quarter of the season, the Habs’ struggles on defense have cost them some important points. “Dad”‘s return will push everyone down one notch in the depth chart and that’s a good thing. While he won’t be in game shape and will likely show signs of rust for the first week or two, until he catches up to the rest of the league, Weber will bring some stability at the backend in front of Carey Price and Antti Niemi. Further, he will bring a much needed joult to a powerplay in dire need of something… anything.
Making room on the roster
With Weber back, Petry will slide to the second pairing and, at the same time, it will provide Claude Julien‘s group with another much needed right-handed defenseman, something lacking since the facial injury to youngster Noah Juulsen. At the time of writing this, there has been no decisions made about who will be sacrificed, either by trade, waivers or simply sent down to Laval. If Marc Bergevin can’t find a taker for one of his veteran defensemen prior to Weber’s anticipated return, Victor Mete could very well be sent down for the simple reason that he doesn’t have to clear waivers. This would obviously be a temporary solution until the Canadiens’ GM finds a trading partner.
While nothing has been decided quite yet, the defense pairing could look something like this:
Kulak – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Schlemko – Benn
(Alzner – Ouellet)
Okay, this group won’t instate fear of God into any opponent and it won’t compare to Nashville, Calgary or Minnesota’s group, but the addition of Weber will make opponents fear the front of the net and the boards a bit more, and it will make opposing goaltenders and penalty killers aware that there’s a canon of a shot coming at them. It’s a step in the right direction, although if the Canadiens are serious about making a push for a playoffs’ run, they will need to find a way to use some of their available cap space to land a good puck-moving left-handed defenseman. Go Habs Go!