Habs Panel : Week 2

Welcome back to the TCL Habs Panel.

Joining us this week are Kamal Panesar, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of Habs Addict (@KamalPanesar on Twitter), and Kevin Van Steendelaar, managing editor of Habs Eyes On the Prize (@KvanSteendelaar on Twitter).

This week we look at the story surrounding the condition of defenseman Andrei Markov, the attitude and antics of PK Subban, and who would be a great addition to the Canadiens in a "No Restrictions" fantasy style trade.

Thanks for joining us once again, and we're looking forward to your thoughts and input as well.


What are your solutions to make up for Andrei Markov's absence, if he is indeed out for the remainder of the season?
With only a few games under his belt - and just as Markov was looking to be getting back to his game, a knee-on-knee injury against the Hurricanes may have sidelined one of the best in the league. So what options does the Canadiens organization have to deal with this issue?

Kevin vanSteendelaar of Habs Eyes on the Prize responds:
It's simple really, the rest of the players on the blueline have to be ready to step up. There is a solid core of veterans who have played in absence of a key player and know what has to be done. It is also a chance for players like Subban, Picard and Weber to show what they can do.
There is a solid core of rearguards there, so I don't think a deal is needed by Pierre Gauthier provided these guys play their A-game every night. The real question is what to do at season's end with Markov contract wise? Markov, Gill and Hamrlik all become UFA and Gorges, Weber and Picard become RFA.

Kamal Panesar of Habs Addict responds:
The Canadiens strong play over the first 19 games of season has given them the luxury of time. Sure the loss of Andrei Markov, potentially for the entire season, is a huge blow to the team. But the Canadiens have unfortunately had to make due without Markov for a lot of games over the last two years. As such, they have learned how to play and win without their best defenseman. The Canadiens 25 points in the standings means that they can take their time before trying to fill his roster spot. That being said, if he is gone for the season and his $5.75 million comes off of the book, the Canadiens will be in good position to add a top-notch defenseman to their roster. I think that if the Habs are going to add a body they should try and get one with size. The name that comes to mind is Kevin Bieksa in Vancouver. With three assists in 18 games and 128 points (28 goals, 100 assists) over 299 career games, Bieksa won't replace the offense that the Canadiens lost with Markov. What he will do, however, is provide the Habs with a minute-munching defensive stalwart who could be paired with P.K. Subban. This move would allow Subban to focus even more on the offensive side of his game, and it would allow the coach to take a few more minutes away from Hamrlik and Spacek. While Spacek and Hamrlik are effective players, they are both 36 years old and have a lot of miles on their bodies. If the Canadiens truly want to contend for the cup, they will need both of these players to be fresh for a long playoff run. Bieksa would help in that area and his 6'1, 205 lbs frame would add a needed dose of size and toughness on the back end. The only question mark is what and how much would the Canucks want in return?

Iain Carnegie of Bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge responds:
This in not a new position for the Canadiens to find themselves in. During a large portion of the beginning of last season, and then repeating itself in the second round of the playoffs last season, the Habs have not only found themselves in this place, but have also found ways to step up during the adversity. This is not quite the time for them to decide on Markov's contract, but instead - it's the time to find out what the defensive unit is made of. Stepping up from the veterans in imperative, and a few switch-ups to the pairings has had a positive effect. Add to that,the defensive possibilities that we have in Hamilton, and I don't see this being the significant issue that everyone has been making it.

George Prax responds:
There really is no choice but to make a trade here. The defense has been near spectacular with or without him, including Gorges, Gill, Hamrlik, and even Spaceman, but on this list you find 3 d-men that are 35 or older. Overwork them and you could very well be down another defenseman soon. Not to mention all the contracts coming off the books next year. The Canadiens need some stability, and they need to pick someone up who's a little younger and who has somewhat of a track record. I won't spoil my answer of who I would like in the role until we get to question three, but frankly this seems obvious to me in order to stabilize the back-up and really pick up some insurance. In the short term, what they have will work. But when the going gets tough in January, February, March and beyond, Habs fans are really going to realize that they're missing Markov, especially if even just one of the current top six gets injured.

What are your thoughts on PK Subban's start with the team so far this season? Did Mike Richards have a point? Should he tone it down a little, or is this alleged "target" on his back being exaggerated?
Don Cherry has had his say. Mike Richards as well. Players like Sydny Crosby have also voiced their opinions. Subban plays hard and aggressive, and has been known to "chirp" at players - regardless of who they are. Has he earned that right?

Kevin vanSteendelaar: Personally, Mike Richards comments are what my mom would say. "the pot calling the kettle black", no pun or disrespect intended at Subban. Richards, no angel himself, shot his mouth off then gets a double high sticking minor in his next game? C'mon. Subban's style on the ice is fine with me and getting split reaction from most of the players and media in the league. He just needs to know where to draw the line and avoid a consequent minor penalty. That's his biggest weakness.

Kamal Panesar: P.K. Subban is the best singular talent the Canadiens have had within their system since John Leclair or Patrick Roy. Yes, he is young, but he has shown over 19 games an ability to learn from his mistakes and improve at an incredibly fast rate. Whereas he wasn't ready to assume the mantle of being the Canadiens No.1 defenseman at the beginning of the season, 19 games later he has advanced to a point where he can comfortably try to fill that role. Mike Richards' rant about Subban having to learn respect sounds like sour grapes to me. Subban is cocky, brash, and confident and I think Richards' comments speak more to the fact that Subban was not intimidated by the Flyers than anything else. Subban is Subban and should not change anything about the way he plays the game. Teammate Hal Gill said that while Subban chirps on the ice he has never heard him say anything disrespectful out there. Subban is quickly becoming a player that the opposition hates to play against. And good. If he can play as well as he does and get under the opposition' skin at the same time, then it is all the better for the Canadiens as it helps distract attention away from the rest of the team. That can be a useful skill to have in your arsenal at the right time. Sure, there might be a target on his back right now but Subban seems eminently capable of taking care of himself.

Iain Carnegie: To be quite frank, I'm getting tired of hearing the negative PK Subban comments. I've stated several times in my own blog this season, that there is definitely a need to "reign" him in, but that was more about his need to learn the speed of the league that he now plays in. And I can say witrh certainty, that I've seen a ton of growth this season in his puck handling ability, and defensive prowes. In regards to Mike Richards comments this past week, as well as notes made by the likes of Don Cherry; their thought processes are rediculous. Subban played against the very best in the league in last years post season, and showed that he can not only compete against them, but shut them down. He's already earned the right to compete with them at the highest level. if it's upsetting to them that he's outplaying them, perhaps they should look at their game, instead of crying over the fact that he competes strongly against them with a high sucess rate. The next dimwit that says he's got something coming to him, or that he's going to get injured, needs to evaluate how they play or see the game of hockey.

George Prax: Mike Richards is the biggest hypocrite in the NHL. He used to do the exact same things when he was coming up as a rookie in the NHL, and he continues to do them now. But apparently now since he's played five or six more seasons than PK, he's justified and Subban is "too cocky"? Please. Richards was just looking for an excuse for not performing well during the game, as he always seems to do when the Flyers lose. He's a bad loser and he has no reason to call Subban out like that, it's not his place. Subban pisses people off not because he lacks respect, but because he's so fast, so explosive, so good at what he does that he blows past other players and it makes them angry. It's like this with any new, high skilled player that breaks into the league and sees instant success. People are just going to have to get used to Subban, and frankly, I couldn't be happier with how he's started the season.

Trade for any single player in the league. No restrictions, just someone you would like to see with the Habs. Where does he fit in and who would be booted out of the line-up if your wishes came true?
There are shortcomings that every blog in the Habs Universe has discussed this season. Lack of offense from the Second Line. Worry about the current defensive unit. Special teams struggles to score goals. With a single trade, how would you solve the issues at hand?

Kevin vanSteendelaar: Pavel Datsyuk, although Tomas Plekanec is slowing becoming a lot like him. The obvious choice to go would be Scott Gomez. Personally a lot of fans under appreciate what Gomer does on the ice, but when you look at salaries between the two, who would you rather have?

Kamal Panesar: Looking at the Habs lineup there are a few glaring holes which will need to be addressed if the Canadiens indeed want to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Canadiens have a wealth of depth in the bottom-6 including a bevy of players in the AHL ready to step up at play at the NHL level. The biggest problem for the Canadiens is that they are paper thin in the top-6. While the Tomas Plekanec line is firing on all cylinders, the second line, centered by Scott Gomez, has not been getting it done. Coach Martin has puzzlingly been inserting the likes of Tom Pyatt, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche and now Maxim Lapierre into the hole and hoping for success. While all of those players are heart and soul type of guys, none of them has the skill set needed to play in the top-6. As such, if I could make a trade with no restrictions—pre-lockout style—I would go out and get Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan is a big, young, skilled winger and he is just what the doctor ordered. With 149 points (79G, 70A) in 190 games, Ryan would be an excellent addition to the Canadiens lineup. At 6'2, 218 lbs, Ryan would be the bigger top-6 forward on the Canadiens roster and his power forward style of play would allow the Canadiens to better balance first two lines. Andrei Kostitsyn could go back to playing with Plekanec and Cammalleri, and Martin would finally be able to put a big, skilled forward with Gomez and Gionta. Since Gionta has rediscovered his scoring touch while playing with Plekanec, I wouldn't hesitate to put him and Gomez back together with a big, proven goal-scorer like Ryan. The addition of Ryan would give the Canadiens two offensively stacked lines with a good balance of skill and size. It would also make the Canadiens a legitimate challenger for the Cup.

Iain Carnegie: I know that everyone who reads my response will consider it ludicrous, but at this point in time, I wouldn't make a trade. There are many thoughts about the need of having to get rid of the Gomez contract, but despite his numbers - I'm still not convinced that he has no place on this team. Especially come playoff time. And there is plenty of talent in the Bulldogs line-up that we can rely on to fill gaps in case of injuries. Until there's a formal report on Markov, I think it's best to leave things alone. If it looks like we lose Andrei for the balance of the season, then clearly his skill set could be used to acquire a decent top 6 forward. But even at that, I'd take a resigning of him (at 80% ability) for less money, than any trade I can think of at this time. Hamilton has a lot of upcoming talent, and perhaps it's time that we look at fostering them into NHL players, as opposed to looking outside the organization at other solutions.

George Prax: As I implied in Question 1, I would trade for a defenseman at this point. I think the Habs need one anyway, as there are lots of offensive prospects coming up and frankly despite some slow starts the forwards are meshing well with each other and I wouldn't really want to mess with that at the moment. So with the cap money that the Canadiens are going to eventually save with Markov, I would look to bring in a defenseman that's a little younger than what's become the average in Montreal. There are plenty of defensemen out there that I could see fitting in well with the Habs, but none more than Tomas Kaberle. He's in his early 30s, in what should be the prime of his career and on the outs in Toronto. His trade value is dropping by the day, and he's Czech, which would be a good fit with a lot of the players already on the Habs. Moreover he immediately remedies what the Canadiens lack without Markov on the powerplay and he can hold his own in his own net. It would be the perfect fit for the Canadiens. Now if only he would waive his NTC and convince Burke to trade him in-division and not for the exorbitant amounts he was rumored to be asking over the summer.


So once again ... the Habs Panel has spoken! What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Leave us your comments and then prepare to hash it out later this week when we have the Habs Panel Live Blog, just prior to the match against the L.A Kings on Wednesday (November 24th).

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

In the meantime, if you have any question suggestions or comments for the panel, share them in our forums!

NOTE: We will also be liveblogging tonight's game versus the Flyers! Click here for details and to set your reminders.


George Prax's picture

Lots of fun to do this again. Big thanks to Kamal and Kevin (and of course Iain) for working with us on this and looking forward to Wednesday's liveblog portion! Would appreciate your own answers in the comments Smile