Habs Defense And The Whole Nine Yards

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The old Detroit Red Wings under Mike Babcock were always a solid team and their biggest quality, in spite of having guys like Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg leading the way, they were always known for their solid defense, making an average goaltender like Chris Osgood look like a top one. Of course, you had a Nicklas Lidstrom leading the way but if you ever noticed at the trade deadline, they always added another defenseman or two. And this is the era when Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin played his NHL career and learned his craft in the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization. 

While it has proven true that defense will win you championships more often than not, the strength is in quality, not in quantity. And that’s where the Canadiens just aren’t quite there. In Shea Weber, they have one of the best all round defenseman in the entire NHL. Not only is he a threat at the point on the powerplay, but he will intimidate you physically as one of the toughest players to go against, as attested by anyone in the league. To round it up, he is one of the best shutdown defensemen out there and by playing over 26 minutes per game (6th most in the NHL), opponents have to work for their goals.

The problem in Montreal is that Bergevin was never able to find Weber a suitable partner and while 19 year-old Victor Mete did well at the start of the season, the game might be catching up to him a bit, and his ice time has reflected that. Further, it’s not guys like Jordie Benn, Karl Alzner, Brendan Davidson or Joe Morrow who can step in there and eat the minutes needed to be paired with Weber.

 

Log jam

The strength of a good hockey team does rely on depth at the blueline but in the Canadiens’ case, while they certainly have the quantity, it’s the quality that’s lacking. Here’s what the Habs’ defense looks like, injured players included:

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Jeff Petry is Jeff Petry, with his ups and downs and the odd brain cramp. Alzner and Benn had a slow start but both have been playing better for a few games now. Davidson and Morrow have filled the gaps when needed but they are depth players. It does look like the internal solution rests on two unknowns…

Due to Weber’s injury, the Canadiens have called up former KHL star Jakub Jerabek, who was having a good season with the Laval Rockets of the AHL, while adapting to the North American smaller ice surfaces and style of play. In his first NHL game against Nashville, Jerabek did quite well for himself as coach Claude Julien gave him over 18 minutes of ice time. Is he a solution? Possibly, but time with tell.

Then you have David Schlemko who has yet to suit up for his first game as a Habs due to injury. He has been skating and he even made the recent road trip with the team, but hasn’t been cleared to return. But even when he does, he has lost the first quarter of the season and will be jumping in without a training camp so while the negative Nancy’s in the fanbase will be quick to be on his (or Bergevin’s) case, he will need some time to get in top game shape.

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Victor Mete will likely be loaned to Team Canada Junior

As for Victor Mete, you can expect the Canadiens to make him available to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships over the Christmas Holidays. This will be great for his development as he will be playing key minutes in a very high-tempo and high quality tournament, with other kids his age. While he doesn’t seem phased by it (yet), this tournament should do wonders for his confidence as well.

But as it stands today, including Weber and Schlemko (injured), the Canadiens have nine defensemen on their roster. When they come back, expect for at least one player movement at the blueline. Jerabek is waiver free, which means that the team can send him down without the risk of losing him through waivers. Everyone else (but Mete) has to clear. Sure, losing one of them wouldn’t be a huge blow but it would affect the team’s depth at that position in the even of injuries. Unless Bergevin manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat, something we are told by reputable NHL insiders, he has been working hard at. Go Habs Go!

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Price Story: Embarrassing for Montreal

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We’re used to it as every season it seems, someone, somewhere, in the traditional media, is claiming something about someone in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization that is totally off the charts. Whether it be the so-called story of then coach Michel Therrien stating out loud that Max Pacioretty was a bad captain, the rants of Brendan Kelly in the Montreal Gazette grinding his axe, or stories of night life in the City, it seems like some of those “reporters” are seeking sensation, viewership or readership at all costs. Anyone remember “the darkest day in history” about the Kostitsyn brothers?

It’s nothing new, we even touched on the topic a while ago on this blog. Well this time Montreal, you have reached a new low and Angela Price, the Canadiens’ goaltender’s wife, took Instagram by storm with a statement that really, she should have never had to make to start with!

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Source: radiox.com

After a claim by controversial Rejean Tremblay, who stated that Misses Price wanted out of Montreal or she was threatening to leave her husband Carey Price, Angela had read and heard enough! She took advantage of her popularity to slam Tremblay in the teeth, taking any credibility the old goat might have had with it, by publishing a picture of her and her husband, happy and in love, as she completely denied the so-called claim.

This is just plain shameful and to be perfectly honest, a total embarrassment to all Habs’ fans around the country, around the world. Stories like this one, which I named “Potinage Artistique” in French (potin meaning gossip), should never have legs yet, they are made on so-called reputable media outlets in and around town.

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Michel Villeneuve got fired from a radio station for threatening the Canadiens several months ago. When will Tremblay run out of platforms to belittle and attack everything surrounding the team against which he holds a grudge ever since the Habs since they denied him the rights to use the team colours for his series “Lance et Compte” way back when? Enough is enough and fans, readers and viewers have to start standing up against this non-sense!

I have personally thrown the Rejean Tremblay and Brendan Kelly’s of this world out the window into the street a long time ago. The Montreal Gazette’s sports pages are only good to protect the bottom of  bird cages ever since reputable journalist Dave Stubbs left them to work for the NHL and I will soon follow suit with anyone giving Tremblay a platform to spread his self-serving hater against the team that I love. I happen to think that more should do the same but to each their own.

The ripple effect

People are wearing blinders if they think for a second that such situations don’t have a ripple effect around the NHL. As if having the highest tax bracket in North America, living in a place where a foreign language is predominant, never ending road construction and winters, or the fishbowl effect of constant scrutiny by herds of media and fans wasn’t enough, players decide between that and a quiet lifestyle making as much if not more money. Think about it for a second. Take the rose glasses off and ask yourself: where would YOU want to play at the same contract if given a choice?

Oh some players will do it anyway, but you better believe that this will come at a premium as at equal salary, players are more likely to pull a Radulov and play under the hot sun of Texas, away from this circus and the clowns spreading crap like the Price story.

But hey, let’s fire Marc Bergevin as ultimately, it’s all his fault right, axe grinders? Go Habs Go!