It’s time to see what Jaro Spacek, Paul Mara and Hal Gill can bring to the table.
Not to mention Yannick Weber.
You remember Spacek, Mara and Gill, three of the seven players brought in during the off-season during Bob Gainey’s extreme makeover of his hockey team? Lots of size, lots of experience, lots of money. Three veterans who are supposed to help Habs fans forget about Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon.
And Andre Markov.
Not to mention Ryan O’Byrne. For now, at least.
Markov is out for four months after undergoing surgery on a lacerated tendon: a nasty souvenir from Montreal’s 4-3, season-opening win against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night. Just like that, the Canadiens will have to do without their best player until sometime around the Olympic break. The man being touted by some as the next Captain of this team, is now lost to this club until February.
Forty-eight hours later, O’Byrne goes down with a lower body injury in Buffalo, following a 2-1 victory over the Sabres, with the Habs now 2-and-0 thanks to a couple of overtime wins. He’s out for about six weeks.
Presto. Just two games into the regular season, and the Canadiens are already woefully thin along the blueline. The injury to Markov left the Habs with six defencemen, which was manageable for the game in Buffalo. However, the injury to O’Byrne left the Canadiens with just FIVE defencemen, which just doesn’t add up. Which is why the Canadiens have recalled Weber from the Hamilton Bulldogs.
While the ‘Dogs were busy losing 3-2 in their American Hockey League opener to the Toronto Marlies last night, Weber was busy packing his bags for a flight to Caglary, where he’s expected to join the Habs in time for today’s practice at the Saddledome ahead of tomorrow night’s game against the Flames.
I like Yannick Weber. I like his potential upside, potential he is now going to get a chance to realize, as a result of this sudden and dramatic turn of injury events. Weber was one of Montreal’s final training camp cuts; sent packing on September 29th after acquitting himself rather nicely during the pre season. His performance gave Habs fans further indication that this 21-year-0ld from Switzerland is ready for prime time, and ready to step out from under the long shadow cast by another player from Switzerland, Weber’s good friend and off-season training partner, ex-Hab Mark Streit.
The Canadiens, certainly, are hoping he is.
In fact, you’ll recall that Weber was impressive at Habs’ training camp one year ago. However, there was little doubt he was ticketed to Hamilton, where he scored 16 goals and added 28 assists in 68 games last season. It’s ironic that, one week ago, Weber was sent down to Hamilton, a victim of the numbers game. And today, he will skate again with the Montreal Canadiens, a beneficiary of the numbers game; and the dwindling number of defencemen available to head coach Jacques Martin as a result of the swelling injury ranks.
Even with the presence of Weber in their lineup, the Canadiens have absolutely no breathing room along the blueline. As impressive as Matt Carle was in pre-season play, this young man is not ready for prime time and needs time to further develop in Hamilton. PK Subban? Let’s see what he does as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs before we consider his future as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Alex Henry? He had a cup of coffee with the Canadiens last season and showed precious little, other than the ability to get beat up every time he dropped his gloves. He has a future with the Bulldogs, not the Canadiens.
One defenceman who is available, is Mathieu Dandenault, who was set adrift by the Canadiens at the end of last season. The Habs could do much worse than Dandenault, a reasonably effective puck-moving blueliner who still has some wheels and can be an abraisive body along the boards. Short of pulling off a trade, picking up a guy like Dandenault could be the handiest way for Bob Gainey to, short term, help plug some immediate and significant holes along the blueline.
In the meantime, it’s Yannick Weber to the rescue, beginning tomorrow night, against the Flames.