Fixing the Leaky Roof
Last season, as the Montreal Canadiens were adding up the injuries and spending valuable current and future assets, general manager Pierre Gauthier advised he had been saving for an offensive weapon but had to spend the cap room on repairing a leaky roof.
This off-season so far, he has been reinforcing that roof, while saving for a possible bargain from one of those over the cap teams that need to shed some salary.
Gone from last season's 12 defenseman suited up for the Habs are Wisniewski, Sopel, Picard, and Hamrlik.
The returning ones are Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges who were both injured for most of the year with blown knees. After major constructive surgery on both players, the Habs are looking for big comeback years from both.
P.K. Subban is coming off of a strong season and is looking to continue his very promising career. The more he was asked to do, the better he became. However, there are some aspects to his game that require work, the main one being discipline. The Habs can ill afford to have him in the penalty box as often this year as last.
Hal Gill was signed to a one-year extension to the delight of many fans (myself included). He has proven to be a great mentor and is a force to be reckoned with. He is a large, speed-challenged defender who keeps his game simple and plays within his capabilities.
Last season was an excellent starting point for Yannick Weber, a smallish defenseman with a wicked and accurate shot. I am hoping the powers that be feel he should be on the defense and not the fourth line. In my opinion, he has improved his game over the past few years an the defensive side. He should start the year with the big club in Montreal.
There were some surprising signings this summer, including Alexei Yemelin coming over from Europe and signing with the Habs. If he can live up to his reputation as an edgey and physical player, he will be a great addition. He also has to adapt to playing on a smaller ice surface; hopefully there will not be too much of a learning curve. What he will also have to improve upon will be staying out of the penalty box.
The one defenseman I am most concerned about on the Habs is none other than the aging veteran Jaroslav Spacek. Last season he looked lost, but he also managed to lead the team in plus/minus with a +9 in 59 games. The writing may be on the wall for Mr. Spacek. Perhaps, with better managed ice time and some urgency in his final year on contract, he will overcome last year's struggles and shine for the Habs this season.
Unlike last season, this year there is depth in Hamilton on the defensive side of the puck. Gauthier signed several experienced defensemen who can now be called up when those inevitable injuries occur, all while leaving himself enough cap room to add to the roster as necessary. It certainly should be an interesting season in Habsland indeed.