Rabid Habs

A Look at the Habs’ Defensive Dilemma

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Just weeks away from the Habs’ training camp, I think we have the right to wonder about the team’s defensive prowess. When compared to last season’s blueline, I think that Marc Bergevin brought more defensive stability for this season. Personally, I was and still am an admirer of Josh Gorges. Of course, I admit that Gorges was not the Canadiens’ best defenseman. However, I’m convinced that he can easily fill the role of a 3rd / 4th defenseman on any good team in the league. Heck, maybe he can be a top pairing defenseman with the Buffalo Sabres. In my opinion, Josh Gorges left a big void to fill – both on the defensive and leadership ends. But for salary reasons and in order to promote Beaulieu, Tinordi and company; the decision to trade #26 made sense.

Let’s look at the current roster in preparation for the 2014-15 season:

  • PK Subban
  • Andrei Markov
  • Alexei Emelin
  • Tom Gilbert
  • Mike Weaver
  • Nathan Beaulieu
  • Jarred Tinordi

It goes without saying that Subban and Markov are the Habs’ top 2 defensemen. As for Emelin, I am confident that he’ll play the role of 3rd defenseman while playing on his strong side. He’s robust, reliable defensively; he fits there very well if paired up with someone a little quicker and agile to fill these “weaknesses” on those two aspects.

The newly acquired Tom Gilbert only adds extra depth. That may be harsh, but for a player who only had one positive season in the plus/minus rating over a nine-year career (although he never really had a chance to play on a strong team), I see him as the Habs’ 4th defenseman. In addition, Gilbert only played a total of 5 playoff games. An experienced player, a 31-year old veteran, with interesting physical attributes (6’3″ & 206 lbs) – he still has lots to prove.

Under the current Montreal Canadiens’ depth chart, Weaver will take on the role of 5th defenseman this season. Unless… This is where Beaulieu and Tinordi come into play. I believe that both prospects have a real chance to shine at the end of the coming season. In my opinion, Beaulieu is ready to play as the 5th / 6th defenseman (and a spot on the power play), while Tinordi has yet to prove himself. So I really see a rotation between Weaver and Tinordi from time to time, just to rest the veteran and play the youth.

The case of Frank “The Tank” Bouillon

Bouillon is a real heart and soul kind of player. He gives his body and soul on every shift, has undeniable strength despite his small size – Bouillon is a good guy who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. However, is there still room for him with the Habs? If you would tell me tomorrow morning that Bergevin awarded him a two-way contract for one year in the vicinity of $900K, I wouldn’t be disappointed. But I’m afraid that will not be the case – at least not before training camp. The Habs’ coaching staff have the difficult task to prepare a detailed report on the defense situation since two prospects are on the verge of being NHL-ready (Beaulieu and Tinordi) and a newcomer that has a lot to prove (Gilbert). Bouillon aside, we already have seven defensemen. Eight would be even better, so we now have Davis Drewiske and Greg Pateryn.

In short, if there is a possibility for Bouillon to sign for another season in Montreal, I think it would be related to mediocre performances from Drewiske, Pateryn and perhaps even Tinordi in training camp. I believe that to compete against the best teams in the NHL, you need to build a team from back to front. With Carey Price in nets, Bergevin can sleep soundly. On defense, I think the addition of a proven 3rd / 4th defenseman is needed – maybe via trade including one of our prospects (Beaulieu or Tinordi) in particular.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

Go Habs Go