Rabid Habs

Nine Defencemen, Six Spots

Habs' Jeff Petry Photo - GI/Ezra Shaw

With nine current “NHL ready” defencemen, this poses a good problem for GM Marc Bergevin. What will he do with these assets? Below, I have separated the left side from the right side, addressing strengths and weaknesses of these players. What it all comes down to is what player moves, either to the minors or via trade because the Habs can’t carry nine defencemen.

Left Side

 Andrei Markov- After Andrei Markov’s horrific post season, many fans, along with the press, had assumed that Andrei was hiding an injury. For Markov’s age (36) he plays a skilled and simple game. His vision and precise shot makes him one of the savviest defensive veterans in the NHL. Although, seeing his dreadful playoff performance against Ottawa and Tampa, I think that it is quite clear that his age is catching up to him. On average, Markov’s TOI this season was 24:55. I can’t see him being able to withstand 20-25 minutes per game. However, I expect him to continue being placed on the first wave of the PP since he had contributed a number of points on the man advantage. Out of his 10 goals this season, four occurred on the power play. Of his 40 assists, 21 of them occurred on the power play. As for the upcoming season, I believe Markov is better suited for a 2nd pairing role with sheltered minutes.

Nathan Beaulieu- Last season Nathan Beaulieu had made it very clear that his intention was to stay in Montreal. The 2011 first round pick (17th overall)  put up a reasonable amount of points tallying one goal and eight assists. Beaulieu’s speed, agility and quick thinking make him a very skilled puck mover. After being cheap shotted by Ottawa’s star defenceman and Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson, the press, along with head coach Michel Therrien, had identified Nathan’s medical condition as an “upper body injury.” Even though he didn’t play every game of the second round because of the injury, I believe that Beaulieu is ready for first line minutes alongside PK Subban. 

Alexei Emelin- Alexei Emelin is easily the most criticized of Montreal’s defensive core. Before he tore his left knee ligament after a reverse hit with Milan Lucic, the roughhousing Russian defenceman out of the KHL came into Montreal and played arguably his best hockey during his first couple of seasons. He made his style of play quite clear by rarely passing up an opportunity to hit. Throughout his four seasons with Montreal, Alexei Emelin has a total of 12 goals, 38 assists for 50 points. Although many fans think Bergevin should “just trade Emelin”, we need to keep in mind that many NHL teams are having plenty of trouble clearing cap space. Emelin’s cap hit of $4.1 million isn’t the only issue. Along with that, Bergevin gave Emelin a no trade clause. Emelin’s atrocious contract is an obstacle 23-year-old Jarred Tinordi as well. Although it would be ideal, trading Emelin is an unrealistic option. Unless Montreal is willing to retain part of his salary, we will be seeing a lot of Emelin for the upcoming season.

Jarred Tinordi- There is no other Montreal Canadiens prospect that has had a rougher ride to the NHL than the 22nd overall pick Jarred Tinordi. Tinordi’s longest lasting stint in the NHL lasted 22 games throughout the 2014-2015 season. Tinordi’s stats were not and have not been the most impressive. Throughout his 43 games played, the 6’6″ Burnsville, Minnesota native achieved only six assists and 61 PIMS. The ridiculous notion that Tinordi isn’t on the current roster due to his lack of production is absurd. Tinordi’s position is not to produce points at a consistent pace. His role is simple: play a physical game, make a good first pass and clear the front of the net. The question is, when will he play? There is no question that Tinordi is NHL ready, but with Emelin’s dreadful contract, it is not likely that Tinordi will get ice time unless an injury occurs.

Mark Barberio- On the opening day of free agent frenzy, Marc Bergevin announced the signing of the 25-year-old Mark Barberio. Over the course of three seasons, Mark Barberio has a grand total of six goals and 11 assists for 17 points. Barberio’s NHL salary would be $600 000, with his salary in the AHL $325 000.  Although his stats aren’t overly impressive, Barberio’s job isn’t to produce. His most notable skill is controlling the puck in his own end. He is primarily an insurance policy on the left side and represents another astute signing by Bergevin.

 

Right Side

PK Subban- There’s not much to say about PK. He’s done everything he’s been expected to do. He’s without a doubt Montreal’s best defenceman. He’s fast, an excellent skater and has a superb shot. Subban’s career high 15 goals and 45 assists for 60 points this past season was impressive. However, I am not convinced Subban is being used to his full potential under Michel Therrien’s blatantly obvious “defensive system” that lacks every aspect of offensive creativity. Subban, much like other Montreal roster players, needs room to be creative and inventive on the ice. Chipping the puck off the glass in the end zone or dumping the puck once past centre ice will not help Montreal’s scoring woes.  Subban is arguably the most skilled defenceman in the league, and I think Subban (if used properly) could potentially reach a higher peak than 60 points.

Jeff Petry- Acquiring the 27-year-old stud defenceman Jeff Petry at the trade deadline was Bergevin’s smartest move. During his 19-game stint with the Habs, the Ann Arbor, Michigan native tallied three goals, four assists for seven points and a -3 rating. In the post season, Jeff Petry managed two goals, one assist for three points. He was often the most reliable defenceman after the deadline and he uses his size to his advantage,  seldom passing up an opportunity to use the body. For his height (6’3″) his ability to skate and often rush the puck surprised many fans. With an abrupt ending to the 2014-2015 season, Jeff Petry  solidifies the right side and adds a lot of depth to the defensive core.

Tom Gilbert- Tom Gilbert had an up and down season with the Canadiens. After his career high point totals 3 goals, 25 assists with the Panthers. Marc Bergevin had signed the aging (32) right handed puck mover to a two-year contract ($2.8M AAV).  Gilbert struggled immensely at the beginning of the season. After Bergevin’s acquisition of Jeff Petry (Gilbert’s former teammate in Edmonton), Gilbert’s play drastically improved. Personally, I’m not a fan of Gilbert. I believe he lacks basic coordination and rarely used his size (6’2″) to his advantage. As far as his future goes, his contract expires at the end of this season. With a cap hit of $2.8 million and only one year left, Gilbert is in the perfect trade position. Teams like Detroit and Pittsburgh are on the lookout for NHL ready defencemen. Tom Gilbert is cheap and surely creates a lot of interest around the league.

Greg Pateryn- Greg Pateyrn was originally drafted in the 5th round in 2008 (128th pick) by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mikhail Grabovski was drafted in the 5th round in 2004 (150th pick) by Montreal. In 2008 the Maple Leafs acquired the Belorussian centre in return for Greg Pateryn, who was still a developing prospect at the time.  After three seasons in the AHL, Greg Pateryn has enhanced his value and garnered more interest by the Canadiens. Many fans assumed he would be ahabs-tinordi-pateryn-01n AHLer for his entire career. However, Pateryn showed nothing but perseverance. He kept his game simple every night. He’s not the flashiest hockey player but was often a scoring threat in the AHL. He finished second out of defencemen for goals with Hamilton with 15. During camp and the pre-season, Pateryn had an extremely rough start to the season. After a short pre-season stint with the Canadiens, he was cut from the Canadiens’ roster and sent to Hamilton.  With recurring injuries mostly for Beaulieu and Gilbert in the regular season and the post-season, Pateryn was called up from the AHL many times as a temporary replacement. After some shaky games with the CH, Pateryn seemed to have finally found his game. After a total of 20 regular season games over the course of two seasons, Pateryn hadn’t put up any points. Although, with the injury to Nathan Beaulieu in the post season, Pateryn was called up and he fit right in. Throughout his seven post-season games, Greg Pateryn registered three helpers, one of which was Brendan Gallagher’s game winning goal in game six versus Ottawa. Greg Pateryn’s game is primarily defensive. As Michel Therrien said last season: “He brings an element that we’re looking for. He’s a physical guy, he’s strong, he competes hard and he’s making a good first pass.  So he’s got a lot of things that we like about his game.” Midway through “Free agent frenzy” Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens signed Pateryn to a two-year, one way deal with the club.  The way I see it, Greg Pateryn fits into Therrien’s system much more than Tom Gilbert. Pateryn has an extremely heavy shot that can easily help the CH on the power play too if necessary. He is a solid two-way defenceman and I believe he will start the season on the 3rd pairing.

As far as the lineup goes for next season. I believe it will look like this:

Beaulieu-Subban

Markov-Petry

Emelin-Pateryn

Extras: Tinordi, Barberio

What do you think the lineup should look like this upcoming season? Who would you like to see moved?

Follow me on Twitter: @patrick__tallon

3 Comments

  1. layvack

    August 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    For age catching up to Markov, I don’t think that it’s a good excuse, because even in his prime, Markov was a poor playoff performer. I think he only had one good year. But playing him with Petry is a very good idea. I think you’re right about Beaulieu.

    I think that one of Tinordi, Pateryn or Barberio, will be waivered, probably a leftie and 8 Ds will start in Montreal, and an extra forward. De La Rose doesn’t have to go through waivers, so he could start in St-John’s. Pateryn would be my choice to waive, even if he’s a rightie. He did good, but his skating is not his forte, and probably the one that has the worst pivots on the D.

    Since Emelin and Gilbert finished the season good together, I think that they’ll start the season together, unless there’s a trade, which I don’t see coming. Montreal was very healhty last couple of seasons, this won’t hold. For Subban, he would have won his second Norris, if only he would of started the season in October instead of a month and a half later, he struggled out of normal in the beginning of the season.

  2. jd

    August 13, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Two points:
    1. Don’t expect Subban to be used any differently this year than last. Therrien’s mistaken insistence that the Habs are a grinding club will hold sway which will hold Subban back. Montreal’s crying need for offense could be partially be solved by allowing some of the dmen to join the attack but that will not happen under Therrien’s stifling system which is outdated, inefficient and in opposition to the way the NHL is evolving.
    2. Bergevin must explore all options to trade Emelin even if it means retaining salary. The advantages are that this will open a position for Tinordi who should be able to do everything that Emelin can do and more. Even if they do retain some salary some of that hit is also negated by removing some of Emelin’s salary from the cap. Montreal has already 3 million in salary cap remaining so this move does not hurt them. Emelin’s play hurts them more and trading him opens room for a potentially better player. At a later date, as they see Tinordi and Pateryn rising on the depth chart, they can also trade Gilbert which will bring in another return and / or help the salary cap further.

  3. Patrick Tallon

    August 13, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Seeing that Pateryn just signed a one-way deal for two years with the club, it’s unlikely that he gets placed on waivers. We all know the Bergevin likes his defencemen, the Barberio signing could just be cheap depth.

    Emelin is there to stay, but I am almost certain that he will start the season alongside Pateryn instead of Gilbert. Like I said Gilbert;s contract is almost up. Its a small cap hit anyway, there are many teams that would like to have him.

    Personally, I support Pateryn quite a bit. I think he fits into the style MTL plays. Therrien likes him, he plays a quick simple game and hits frequently, something Gilbert rarely did.