Are the Canadiens fairly set on defence?
Seems like it. Sort of.
The boys on the blueline – Andrei Markov, Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, PK Subban, Roman Hamrlik, Ryan O’Byrne, and Jaroslav Spacek, are a fine group indeed, as long as everyone remains healthy for most of the season.
We assume that Markov and Subban will provide the offensive thrust, and we expect Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, and Josh Gorges to do their jobs in workmanlike fashion.
But we might want to ponder, when we’re sitting in our easy chairs smoking pipes and waiting for the dog to bring the paper, if Roman Hamrlik may have lost yet another step after slowing down considerably last year. How many times will the veteran, who plays with smarts, not speed, get burned by some speedy forward who smells the net not far away?
But we know of course that Jacques Martin will use him properly.
Ryan O’Byrne has yet to become the player he hasn’t become yet. This is not a puckhandler, not a rusher, doesn’t seem to be overly anxious to crush bones into powder, and is an ordinary skater. But he’s still quite young (26), has great size, (6’5, 234lbs) and although it’s been three years with 125 games under his belt, we still wait patiently. Maybe impatiently. We see a bright upside, but it doesn’t want to break out, like a chick stuck in an partial egg.
We could look at Stanley Cup champs from the past few years to see what their defence was made up of, and Montreal stacks up, but only if Subban has a Calder Cup kind of year and Markov is a Norris Trophy candidate.
Chicago, in winning the Cup last year, had two great D’s in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, along with Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Cam Barker.
Pittsburgh, winning two years ago, enjoyed Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and our own Hal Gill.
In 2007-08, Detroit had Niklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, and Brett Lebda.
And in 2006-2007, Anaheim defencemen included Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Francois Beauchemin, and Sean O’Donnell.
All four teams, all Cup winners, had defencemen who were offensive threats – Keith and Seabrook, Gonchar, Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Niedermayer, followed by a cast who did jobs that put lovely smiles on their coaches’ faces.
Montreal, possibly, has the same sort of army. Markov and Subban provide the punch in enemy territory along with Spacek. And Gill, Gorges, Hamrlik and O’Byrne play a tough, no-nonsense game, although as mentioned, O’Byrne could step it up a little. Maybe fight more. Put the big hurt on. Make the enemy say ouch.
On paper the blueliners look fine enough. But it’s injuries that put players on the sidelines for months on end that spell disaster. It’s also taking into consideration that PK Subban will be a regular and blossom into a star as well.
It seems the defence is in good shape. Just don’t put Hamrlik out against too many speedsters, and maybe show Ryan O’Byrne old clips of Larry Robinson taking care of business.