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Thursday, February 10, 2011

What the Canadiens Should Do At The Deadline - Part I - Defense

by Willey

Like pretty much all of you out there reading this, I feel that I am the ultimate arm chair GM. I spend countless hours browsing website after website reading blogs, columns and my personal favorite rumour mongers.

When you are a fan of the game, you immerse yourself in everything hockey but must certainly be wary and take everything you read with a grain a salt. A wise man—my father—once told me “don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see”.

These words have been ingrained in my mind since I was a teenager but like any pubescent individual, I never thought anything of it.

As I got older and had a beautiful family of my own, these words begin to take a deeper meaning in my life. No, I am not about to get all philosophical nor recite poetry but rather provide guidance in an otherwise troubling month of February.

You see, my friends, we are exactly three weeks away from the NHL trade deadline day.

It is a time which is clouded by rumour mill garbage where “according to a source” every player and his grandmother will be dealt imminently. This year the omnipresent names such as Robyn Regher, Kevin Bieksa or Stephen Weiss have just about booked their ticket to the 514.

This of course after years of us landing Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Brendan Shanahan and every other player in the NHL who were 6’0 or taller.

In all seriousness though, for as long as you have been fans of the Bleu Blanc Rouge, do you recall any rumour coming true?

I didn't think so.

And why? Don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see!

With the proverbial B.S. laid to rest I get to the meat and potatoes of why I am bringing this to the table. A challenge was thrown my way by HabsAddict.com, to come up with my own game plan.

An assessment, if you will, of the goaltending, defense and forward units in the month leading to the February 28th deadline.

Simply put, "this is what Willey says needs to be done."

So, without further ado, I bring you Part I of II; defense.

A Lack of Size

If you've red most or anything of what I preach, then you know that there have been a consistent theme; a lack of size. As we stand today, we enter a potential playoff season with Yannick Weber, P.K. Subban, Jaroslav Spacek, James Wizniewski, Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik as our top six defensemen. A quick glance would tell you that apart from “Le Gros Gill” and Hamrlik, this d-unit is severely under sized.

With teams like Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia getting bigger the issue of size is further compounded and absolutely must be addressed. If not, I fear a quick first-round exit might be the fate that awaits the Canadiens.

A Lack of Depth

I don’t care what team you are talking about whether it is the Detroit Red Wings or Philadelphia Flyers, that team is only as good as the depth in all positions.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are a war.

A war that pretty much guarantees casualties in the form of injuries to role players and superstars alike. What separates good teams from great teams is the ability to overcome those injuries courtesy of roster depth.

Unfortunately, because of the injuries to Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges our depth has already been put to the test. Yes, the team has succeeded thus far but difficulty will present itself in the not so distant future unless the problem of depth is addressed.

This issue is even further compounded with the Habs' AHL roster in Hamilton, which is pretty much void of any top notch call-ups should additional injuries occur.

What to Do?

For the record, I need to say that I like the seven defensemen on the team right now. Yes, some may have issues in certain parts of their game but as a collective this is a pretty efficient group.

However, efficiency during the regular season versus the playoffs is an entirely different scenario. This group is too small and needs a big, minute-munching defenseman.

The Habs basically need a big bruising defenseman capable of top-four minutes.

Now let’s be honest here for a second; pretty much any player could be had for the right price.

Gauthier can simply pick up the phone and give Chicago a call and say “ Listen I want Brent Seabrook, what will it take?"Stan Bowman can quickly respond that he wants Tinordi, Gill and Danny Kristo and likely a deal gets made and Seabrook helps lead Montreal deep into a playoff year.

Is this really the best means to an end? To mortgage the future for a deeper playoff run?

If this was our trade deadline approach then there would be many candidates out there; Robyn Regher as mentioned earlier, Ed Jovanovski, Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Sami Salo and so many more.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not about to give up on top prospects and high picks for a rental. For me, the easiest and most obvious choice as an addition to our blue line is Chris Phillips.

Phillips is a player who has struggled mightily without his longtime partner Anton Volchenkov by his side. Despite this red flag, I like everything that Phillips brings to the table. He is 6’3, a very good shot blocker who can throw his weight around and who ultimately is accustomed to playing against the opposition’s best.

He is a player who consistently puts up 20 to 30 points and has almost always been a plus player. At 31, he still has some good legs and years ahead of him.

What I like best however is the fact that the adjustment from Ottawa to Montreal would be the easiest among all players who are available.

Phillips has spent the better part of a decade in the Ottawa region and spends his off season not far from Montreal in Mont-Tremblant. What this translates into is a player who is accustomed to living in Quebec and who would be an hour and a half away from his family.

His family would not have to be uprooted mid-season and mid-school year, which takes a burden off a player and allows him to concentrate on just playing hockey. Simply put, Phillips is a good fit both as a necessity on the ice and as adjustment off it.

What would it take: Bob McKenzie of TSN recently expressed that he thought the going price for the guy would be a second round pick. Personally, I think this is a little low especially given that this would be a trade within the same division.

As such, I think that Montreal would surely need to sweeten the pot to ensure he becomes a Hab.

How does a second round pick and a mid-level prospect like a Ben Maxwell or even an Andreas Engqvist sound? Is this still too little? What would it take?

Whatever it is, I think the Habs have to make that deal.


So there you have it my friends.

One simple move that I personally feel can turn the Montreal Canadiens from a good playoff team to a team whose d-core can compete with anyone in the Eastern conference.

I assume that many of you will disagree with these selections or even what it would cost to acquire them. I challenge you today to tell me what you think the Habs should do that is a better move.

I want to hear realistic deals which can ultimately help the Habs going forward for the remainder of 2011, but will also help going forward in future seasons.

Stay Tuned for Part II on Saturday, February 12th when I will tell you what I think needs to be done with our forwards.

Read Part II of this series here.

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé Olé Olé.

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