Wednesday, November 23, 2011

He Said / She Said: Montreal Canadiens Faced With Blueline Logjam

Andrei Markov - Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal CanadiensAs various reports have noted, Montreal Canadiens' star defenseman Andrei Markov is now practicing with full-contact. On top of that, Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill’s injuries do not seem to be of the long term variety, so they should soon be back in the lineup.

So, for the first time since, seemingly, the big-bang, Montreal will potentially be able to ice a full contingent of blueliners. While this is an interesting prospect for the team, it also creates a log jam at the defensive position.

In this edition of He Said/She Said, writers Bryan Willey and Rosalyn Roy discuss the implications of the issue.

So, assuming everyone is (relatively) healthy, what should the Habs do with their D once Markov returns?

Bryan Willey: Not a simple question to answer because there is a huge difference between what will be done and what should be done.

Given the philosophy of Jacques Martin, we are going to see a veteran laden line-up that will consist of Markov, Gorges, Gill, Spacek, Subban and my guess Campoli as the sixth guy. The team will then keep Diaz and Weber as the spare parts and ultimately send Emelin to Hamilton.

If the decision were up to me, however, I would be looking for a trade. If there is a taker for his contract then Spacek is my number one choice to find a new area code.

If teams are unwilling to take his $3.833 million contract off their hands then it seems Yannick Weber will be the odd man out.

With that said, should the right deal present itself, I would also be willing to part ways with P.K Subban.

Rosalyn Roy: I agree that what will be done will most likely differ from what should be done, and that Jacques Martin's penchant to value veterans at the expense of what's best for the team will likely come into play when it comes time to make the hard decisions about the blueline.

My choices differ a bit in that I think Markov, Gorges, Gill, Spacek, Subban and Campoli will be the six starters, with Weber playing out of his natural position as a fourth line forward and Emelin kept in the press box as backup. Diaz will get dropped to Hamilton. There is no way Gauthier will take the chance of letting Emelin walk after a seven year wait. It's easier to send Diaz down.

The Habs should really be looking to deal and since Spacek is likely not going anywhere if a veteran is offloaded chances are pretty good it's Campoli.

That said with the insane amount of injuries that this team suffers rather routinely I think Gauthier will be unlikely to pull the trigger just because he has a log jam, and will try to hedge his bets by keeping his blueliners as possible insurance.

Bryan Willey: Personally, I cringe at the thought of Yannick Weber as a fourth line right winger. The best teams in this league roll four lines. Sure, the top three play the bulk of the minutes but you need a dependable fourth unit if you want to go anywhere in the playoffs. Weber as a winger is an experiment that should never again be duplicated.

The problem with the defensive core is that if Weber or Diaz sit then there are two players playing out of position. Sure Gorges and Spacek seem capable, but both play better when they are on the left side.

I agree that Diaz to Hamilton makes the most sense because of the two-way contract but I like the way he plays, more so than Weber. As for Emelin, he absolutely must be in the lineup. He is the only D-man on the team that provides a physical element to the squad. Emelin absolutely must play.

Rosalyn Roy: I don't care for Weber as a fourth line winger either, but if the Habs’ blueline is healthy for more than five minutes it's what I expect will happen. I suspect Martin will worry more about his veterans logging heavy ice time and less about if they're playing out of position or not.

As for Emelin, as you have pointed out he is precisely what we need, but Martin didn't put him into the lineup regularly until he had no choice but to do so. That's why I think he'll get shoved back into the pressbox first, though if it were me I'd put Spacek on the shelf.

Under Martin the young bloods, regardless of performance, always give way to the veterans regardless of ability, performance or what's best for the team.

Bryan Willey: Are you suggesting that Martin may be the issue?

Weber as a fourth liner, Emelin as a press box staple; to me this absolutely means we must seek a trade. The team would have nine D-men on the roster and an apparent lack of depth on the fourth forward line.

I think it is extremely difficult for any of us to accurately project the value a guy like Weber has in the NHL but I just don't see him on this team long term.

There just has to be a team in need of an offensive blueliner with a stock pile of fourth liners and willing to trade.

Perhaps the answer to this conundrum is a bigger deal involving more than just a utility defenseman?

Rosalyn Roy: I am suggesting that Martin is a creature of habit and it makes him somewhat predictable. If all the Montreal blueliners are suddenly magically healthy the only way no one gets dealt is if Diaz is sent down and the Habs decide to carry eight blueliners as insurance.

As far as deals go, I'd expect Weber to be in the mix if we do deal a young puck moving defender, but beyond that I have no predictions.

What about the rest you, what do you think? What should the Habs do if and when their blueline is healthy?

Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!

Rosalyn used to frequent the old Forum during her early childhood when her father was a corporate season ticket holder, where she fell in love with Larry Robinson, so her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.

He Said / She Said is regular column on HabsAddict slated to appear on a bi-weekly basis.

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


trade Weber and Campoli for a Fourth line depth guy that can crash and penalty kill as well as a second round pick. Campoli should draw at least that. Keep Emelin as he has been one of our most solid d-men over the past three games and seems to be improving with every stride he takes. Diaz can either sit upstairs and wait for spacek to get injured again which will invariably happen the next time a larger player gently rubs him out along the boards.

Good stuff guys!

Right now I honestly see Diaz as the odd man out. He has a two-way contract but, more importantly, it is clear that Weber is ahead of him developmentally.

As for Emelin, I expect him to be used more as Markov returns. Whether they keep him in the lineup over, say, Canpoli, will truly out the veterans before prospects theory to the test.

To me, this logjam smells like a trade to me. IF the D can stay healthy, and that is a HUGE if, I see Weber or Diaz possibly being packaged with a roster player and/or picks.

Spacek is another possibilty to b e moved, but likely only to a contending team and then only closer to the deadline.

The bottom line is that Montreal has D depth, for a change that affords them options.

We'll see how PG plays his cards!

@ KP See I don;t see Diaz as the odd man out because when a roster spot closes usually it is Emelin who has been sent to the press box.

The logical choice would be to make a decision between Diaz and Weber and part with the other either via trade or to Hamilton since we have both of these guys and Spacek all 5'11. Realistically though when is the last time a logical decision was made. Cough cough Darche on the PP, cough cough Emelin in the press box, cough cough Gomez as a 4th line LWer.

@ anon

Diaz started the season well but his game has literally stagnated. I think it is time to send him to Hamilton, let him play big minute and truly develop his NA game, grow some offensive confidence and then come back when needed strong than ever.

@Bryan: You're right in that up till now yes, Diaz has been the one who get the spot over Emelin.

But, to be honest, it has been a few weeks since that was the case (due to all the injuries).

And in that span, Emelin has shown some great things while Diaz has kind of plateaued a bit. It's not that Diaz isn't a good player, I just think he and Weber are too similar.

Also, PG didn't bring Emelin over so he could sit in the press box forever before finally leaving for the KHL.

No, they want (and need) Emelin to excel in Montreal. I could be wrong, but I really feel that Diaz will get pushed aside in favour of Markov, and that Marky and Emelin will see ice together.

Not to mention that Diaz is a great insurance policy in Hamilton.

Especially if PG ends up dealing Weber at some point this season.


Agreed, Diaz is much easier to send down to the minors and his play has leveled off a touch. Besides, the Bulldogs are struggling and he would get big minutes in key situations there.

Plus, Emelin and Markov is a tempting duo. Keep in mind that Markov enjoyed great success with a similarly physical defencemen who now works in Toronto.

I agree Habs will need to make a trade, IF markov returns 100% healthy - preferrably Spacek (salary/age). Diaz will be sent down due to Elemin's contract but with Markov returning, Diaz's offensive presence will not be as missed. Emelin can provide us the toughness we need. But given PG's cautious approach he may just hang on to all of them considering half of our D-men are coming off long term injuries (Markov, Campoli, Gorges)

Did Brian Willey said to trade Subban?? I must be dreammin. We would never get full value in return and you never trade a 22 year old D-man with potential to be the best at his position one day. His game will improve when Markov returns.

Markov, Subban, Gorges, Gill, Campoli, Emelin/Weber or Spacek (if we can't dump him)

Now what to do about Gomez?


I agree fully that Emelin is right now playing better than Diaz but does the coaching staff think the same? Sure Emelin and Diaz are paired with one another but:

Diaz averages 1 minute more per game at even strength. More time Short handed and more than 2 minutes more on the PP.

So if one guy is used more often 5 on 5, SH and on the PP chances are that he is the one that the coach is going to stick with.

In terms of contracts I believe Emelin and Diaz have the same contract and both are waiver exempt for this year only.

It's hard to stomach but I really think Emelin will be the odd man out.

@ Anon

Subban is my second favorite player in the NHL and is a guy I would surely hang onto however we do have some guys on the horizon as well that will be everything that Subbie is without the flash of course.

There is also a growing distaste towards SUbban amongst the players I think. Did you see the reaction of Eller and ultimately Darche last night yelling at Subban on the bench? Comments from Gill and Gionta with the "that's just Subban". I really think the players are getting fed up of his swag.

Unfortunate for sure but i see it.

I'd much prefer to keep him and dream of a d-core 3 years from now which includes Emelin, Subban, Tinordi, Beaulieu, Gorges but I have also been the guy who has dreamed of a big mean center.

Dealing Subban would allow us to acquire a big young stud center who'll be here for many years to come. Fill a need we have had since......

No Way should Habs trade PK! Maybe Campoli can be traded. To be honest I doubt that Markov can finish season without getting injured. He may not even finish the idiotic contract PG gave him. The label on Markov is "FRAGILE HANDLE WITH CARE" @habs21williams

Keep the options open. A trade of SUbban can yield a tremendous return. Right now we do not have the depth on D to recover but give a full year of development to Emelin and the arrival of a few more guys and he may be somewhat disposable. That's all I am saying.

I love the kid and have 2 Subban jerseys. I just don;t agree with untouchable players and would consider trading anyone if the deal was right?

Say for instance PK as a center piece for a Weber deal or o acquire a premier center like a Staal or even a guy like Malkin. Just saying, keep the options open.

@habs21williams: Thanks for posting! Next time sign in so it tracks your name instead of the ignominious "anonymous"


I think the trade P.K. thing is all conjecture. There is little to no chance he gets moved, imo. Him, Price and Patches are, imo the only untouchables on the team.

Everyone else is fair game.

IF Markov gets reinjured again this season and it is another knee problem, then I tend to agree with you that his contract will be a bust.

But if he can remain healthy and his knee holds up for the rest of the season, I think it will turn out fine.

That's a big IF though!

Campoli might become already be superfluous by the time he's back. I really think him, Spacek and either Weber or Diaz are the most likely to be traded.

@KP I would really hate to see Pk traded. I saw him play his last game for Bellville Bulls and every time he touched the puck he pulled you out of your seat with dynamic play.
There are only a few D in the league who can do that.

I'm not sure if you saw the interview yesterday with Paul Coffey on OTR but it was interesting to hear what he had to say.
Check out "Hall of Fame blueliner Paul Coffey talks about his end-to-end rushes, his skate size and more."

Forget about PK being traded, it will not happen. The Habs will trade a player like Campoli when he returns from his injury as he was only an insurance policy. His affordable salary of $1.75 M will be easy to trade.

Think for a minute that Emelin will be sent to Hamilton?

Better think again, his opt-out clause will have him in the KHL faster than the flight to Hamilton.

Can this team afford to lose Emelin? Don't believe so!

@Fred: I agree that Campoli will be expendable if/when the entire D-corps is ready. I also agree that P.K. isn't going anywhere...that's just foolish talk!

@anon: Bingo! There is no Hamilton in Emelin's future! IF he goes anywhere, it will be to the press box or back to Russia...his "out" clause allows him to flee back to the KHL rather than the AHL, and that is the route he'll take if need be.

That said, I truly believe that he has already shown his worth. Moreover, once Markov is back I see the two of them being paired together and that doing wonders for Emelin's play!

I am hoping for the same but let's be honest when is the last time Martin actually tried something or did something that we all wanted. Emelin should be in that top 6 but maybe JM decided Desharnais is a better D-man going forward.....who knows.

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