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No Depth on Defense? Think Again!

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Defense wins championships. That’s what everyone around hockey, not only the NHL, is saying. In his book, the great Scotty Bowman always claimed that preventing a goal is more important than scoring one as if you allow a goal, you have to score two more to win. The NHL doesn’t look at the scores when awarding points in the standings. Only wins, losses and more recently, looser points (points obtained by losing in regulation or in skills’ competition) have an effect on the teams’ standings. So whether you win 8-7 or 2-1, it counts the same.

In Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens have the best goaltender in the world, and he was rewarded with a contract this summer that will make him paid as such, starting in 2018-2019. They still have arguably the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL in Shea Weber, against whom opponents struggled to score when he was on the ice all season long last year. That hasn’t changed.

Losing Andrei Markov however should have its effect and that, in spite of the fact that he’s not getting any better with age. He was still a key contributor to the Canadiens’ defensive core last season and there is no doubt that he will be missed. But the Habs’ defense was not Markov. It was a group effort, including the two corner stones mentioned earlier.

Here’s what Marc Bergevin had to say about the loss of Markov:

“Loosing Markov creates a big hole. Andrei was a very good player for us, but we added Mark Streit, which I think fills some of that role. We added David Schlemko. I think by committee we should be able to fill that gap. Let’s keep in mind we didn’t lose a 25-year-old defenseman. All respect to Andrei, he’s going to turn 39 in December. At some point we have to move forward.”

A Deeper Group

In a recent article on Sportsnet, beat writer Eric Engels tried to paint a picture claiming that the loss of Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin has affected the team’s depth at that position. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, the defense heading into training camp is the deepest in NHL quality than it’s been in Bergevin’s tenure as the team’s GM. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself, including regular season’s games played in the NHL:

 

  • Shea Weber (841 GP)
  • Mark Streit (784 GP)
  • Karl Alzner (591 GP)
  • Jeff Petry (445 GP)
  • David Schlemko (360 GP)
  • Jordie Benn (315 GP)
  • Eric Gelinas (189 GP) – PTO
  • Zach Redmond (130 GP)
  • Brandon Davidson (101 GP)
  • Joe Morrow (65 GP)
  • Matt Taormina (59 GP)

You add to that group a guy like 26 year-old Jakub Jerabek (367 pro games) and young Brett Lernout who had a taste of the NHL at the end of last season. You also have Thomas Parisi and two newly pro in Noah Juulsen and Simon Bourque, who will likely all start the season in Laval, followed by non other than Victor Mete, the only junior-age player invited to the main camp.

 

If that’s not having depth, very few NHL teams have depth. Perhaps only the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who have 11 defensemen on one-way contracts, have more NHL depth than the Canadiens heading into camp.

Are they lacking a Top-4 defenseman, one who can log quality minutes with Weber? Absolutely and the organization isn’t denying it either. But quality depth, they have. At centre however, that’s a whole different story…

The Martin Reway And Ryan Poehling Cases

RookieCamp

Here we are folks, hockey season is just around the corner as we have turned the page on the calendar to read September. It’s been a long summer of wait since the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin and signed unrestricted free agent and shot blocking expert Karl Alzner, a summer of anticipation to say the least. Also exciting is the anticipation of having the farm team in their backyard, with the Laval Rockets scheduled to make their debuts at the Place Bell in Laval.

The Canadiens have release the list of 23 players scheduled to attend their Rookie Camp and Rookie Tournament from September 7-13 and we know what this means: Hockey is back in Montreal! And for one prospect, this camp will mean so much more than for anyone else…

MARTIN REWAY

A full year, a very long year, after having to sit an entire season due to a life and career threatening virus to his heart, the 22 year-old prospect will be sporting #84 at camp during the tournament and it’s been a long time coming. No one is more excited than Martin Reway himself, as we can attest by his tweet from this past May.

Prior to his illness, the young Slovak was considered one of the Canadiens’ top prospects so this camp will go a long way in determining how much he was affected by his setback and the long layoff. The skills will undeniably still be there, and likely his biggest weapon, which is his speed. But going up against the team’s best young player will give him, and the organization, a better gauge to figure out where he stands today.

It might be too early to put him back on the list of the team’s top prospects, but it shouldn’t take too long to see if he suffered any lag in relation to where he was prior to his virus. One thing we know for sure is that all eyes will be on him.

RYAN POEHLING

PoehlingStCloud
Ryan Poehling

One name fans won’t see on the Rookie Camp list is the team’s first round pick from the last Draft. After opening the eyes of the hockey world during the last World Junior Summer Challenge when Ryan Poehling finished the tournament with seven points in five games. The reason for it has everything to do with the fact that he is a NCAA player and rules are clear when it comes to US Colleges’ players:

NCAA prospects or current players may attend NHL summer development camps, or prospect camps, but must pay their own way (transportation, lodging, food, etc.) and current players may not miss class to do so.

There is an opportunity, similar to the 48-hour rule (see above), to have an NHL team pay a portion of a player’s stay at development camp on a one-time-per-team basis. The 48-hour period begins when you arrive at the team’s facility and ends exactly 48 hours later. While in attendance the team can supply you with expenses that include travel, hotel, food, equipment, and all costs associated with practice and off-ice training. A player would have to cover all costs after that 48-hour period, including return transportation home. (Source)

However, something tells me that Poehling is a name that Habs’ fans will hear about for many years to come. At the very least, fans can take comfort in the fact that he is getting accustomed to wearing the logo, as a member of the St. Cloud State Huskies.

Here is the Rookie Camp / Tournament Schedule:

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