The Habs’ version of American Idol, D-man style, could be coming to an end.
After rotating prospects Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu in and out of the lineup recently, it now appears that Yannick Weber (remember him?) could be given a shot at re-claiming a regular spot along the Montreal blueline. For now, at least.
After today’s practice at Brossard, head coach Michel Therrien said there was a possibility that Weber could return to the lineup Wednesday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, saying it would be a game-time decision.
Weber has appeared in a grand total of two games this season and would appear to be on the cusp of returning to action as a result of Beaulieu’s innefective performance (he certainly wasn’t alone) in Monday night’s 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The knee-jerk reaction by many Habs fans appeared to be: “give Jarred Tinordi another shot!” The only problem with that is: Jarred Tinordi is Jarred Tinordi. He is NOT Chris Pronger. Not yet, at least.
In other words: Pateryn, Tinordi and Beaulieu are not yet ready for prime time. Is Yannick Weber? Well, we could find out as early as tomorrow night.
But please: no more experiments with defencemen doubling as fourth liners. The Mark Streit ship sailed years ago. Yannick Weber is NOT a fourth-line player. (Heck. TRAVIS MOEN isn’t even a fourth-line player. But that’s a conversation for another day.) It remains to seen if Weber’s even a serviceable NHL defenceman. But if you’re going to give him a shot along the blueline, then let him wrap his head around that assignment, and that assignment alone.
It would have been nice to give Weber an earlier opportunity to play his way back into the lineup at SOME point this season, certainly since the injury to Rafael Diaz, but the coaching staff elected not to seek out my advice. Instead we ended up seeing a game of musical chairs involving Pateryn, Tinordi and Beaulieu.
In the meantime, many Habs fans are clealry ready to wash their hands of Ryan White. Yes, White has been guilty of a boneheaded play or two, or three this season — most recently against the Flyers Monday night with his hit on Kent Huskins. But I still feel that a player like White — one of the precious few on this team willing to put his body on the line — could be effective come playoff time. But it would appear that I’m in the minority.
So, with the Canadiens playing .500 hockey over their last 14 games, Peter Budaj will get a chance to right this ship against the Penguins, while Carey Price gets additional time to stew in his juices until his next scheduled start, Thursday, when Tampa comes to town.
For the first time in a long time, Canadiens’ defenceman Yannick Weber celebrated a birthday at home, in Switzerland, with family and friends.
He enjoyed that. But, at the same time, had in not been for the NHL lockout, Weber would have been celebrating his 24th birthday today with his Canadiens’ teammates in the first game of the pre-season. Instead, Weber has returned home to Switzerland to play with a team based in Geneva. He suited up for the Geneva-based team for the first time last night.
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“It was really strange,” said Weber, who joined me today in CJAD’s The Locker Room, from Geneva. “I just got here, a new city, a new team, a new everything. It was a little weird for me wearing a new jersey yesterday. It would have been better for me had I been in a Habs’ jersey.”
Weber said it’s a difficult decision for North American players to make when it comes to playing in Europe.
“I’m sure it’s not easy for a lot of guys. For guys with kids in school, it’s not easy. But for players who decide to come, I think Switzerland is a good option.”
Weber acknowledged the frustration that the players and fans are feeling as a result of the lockout.
“After last season in Montreal we were excited for a new year. Now we have to wait. But we want a fair deal and we’re prepared to wait a little bit so we can get this done.”
Canadiens netminder Carey Price wore his heart on his sleeve today some 24 hours after veteran defenceman Hal Gill was traded to the Nashville Predators.
It was a very subdued morning skate at Brossard following last night’s 4-3 shootout win in Buffalo. The mood didn’t change much when the players made their way into the locker room.
Up until yesterday, you would have had Hal Gill’s name plate next to Yannick Weber’s locker. Gill’s locker, complete with name plate, was cleared out after the big defenceman was sent packing to Nashville.
Weber tried to make light of the fact that he’d now have more elbow room, but it was clear his heart wasn’t in it. “There’s a joke there somewhere, but it’s just not coming,” said Weber as he looked over to team mate Chris Campoli.
Goalie Carey Price said the Canadiens are going to miss Gill a lot, but he acknowledged that trades are part of the game.
“There’s no getting around it,” said Price. “We’re going to make moves that the GM feels are going to improve this team. We’re just pawns in this game and we have to learn to deal with it.”
Head coach Randy Cunneyworth was asked if he felt the decision by management to trade Gill is a signal that the team brass has given up on the playoffs.
“I don’t believe so,” said Cunneyworth. “I believe every general manager works at this time of year to improve his team. That’s the sole goal. There is no giving up, not in our GM and not in our team.”
Carey Price gets gets the call tomorrow night when the Devils come to town in a 6 p.m. start.
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Less than 24 hours after the Habs announced the signing of defenceman Yannick Weber to a two-year contract, I caught up to the 22-year old from at his home in Bern, Switzerland, during the Andrew Carter Morning Show on CJAD 800.
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Yesterday was a rather eventful day for the Montreal Canadiens in advance of tomorrow’s start of free-agent frenzy.
Yannick Weber signed a two year contract with the club worth a reported 1.7 million over the two seasons. Weber will likely be given an opportunity to step into a fulltime roll along the blueline after leaving more of an impression as a part-time fourth liner late last season. Hopefully, the fourth-line experiment is over for Weber, who needs the time to develop as a defenceman, and work on his defensive responsibilities. We know he’s got a terrific shot and a good set of wheels, but he’s got to be stronger on the puck.
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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.
After a stretch of five games in five nights, the Montreal Canadiens will go into game six of their seven-game pre-season slate Thursday night at the Bell Centre against the Boston Bruins, with a much slimmer roster.
That’s because, prior to the 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night, the Canadiens announced that 17 players had been sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, including prize prospect PK Subban, who played a grand total of one shift in his first and only game of the pre-season, against the Florida Panthers, when he suffered a sprained right ankle. Although Subban finished the game, he realized, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. As a result, Subban never really had much of an opportunity to impress the Habs’ brass, and will begin his professional career as a member of the Bulldogs.
Subban will be back. This season, is my prediction.
In the meantime, head coach Jacques Martin is left with 31 players in camp, with two more cuts coming following the game against the Penguins in the form of defenceman Shawn Belle and tough-guy forward Eric Neilson. That would suggest the Martin still has some significant chopping to do before he gets down to his 23-man roster. However, the growing list of players currently in sick bay could change all that.
The latest to go down was Max Pacioretty, who lined up with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta (Montreal’s best forward through five pre-season games) for two periods. Pacioretty was unable to answer the bell for the third period as a result of an upper-body injury, which is thought to be minor in nature. As a result, Martin moved Mike Cammalleri in to play with Gionta and Gomez. And the move paid instant dividends.
Habs’ fans lusting to see a line of Gionta-Gomez-Cammalleri are likely to be disappointed, however, when the puck drops on the regular season October 1st in Toronto. Coach Martin’s philosophy when it comes to putting together his line combinations is this: go with two guys who have the right chemistry and rotate the third player on that line. Which would suggest to me, based on the history that these two guys had together in New Jersey, that we’ll see Gionta and Gomez on a line with a rotating winger.
That winger could be Pacioretty, as was the case for the first two periods Monday against the Penguins. However, quite frankly, I haven’t been terribly impressed with the play of Pacioretty so far. He raised a ton of eyebrows at training camp last season, fresh off his college days at the University of Michigan. One year later, he just doesn’t seem to be that power forward in the making that the Canadiens hope they have on their hands.
But it’s early yet.
It may also be too early to get down on Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec, but, for the record, I’m down on both players. They look lost out there. And that’s a bad thing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri will be just fine as members of the Montreal Canadiens, regardless of who they line up with. I am much more concerned with the likes of Kostitsyn and Plekanec. Both players have had their heads in the clouds for much of this pre-season. And if the Canadiens’ are going to have any kind of second line, those two have to get it in gear.
Some other players who have caught my eye, for better or for worse, through five pre-season games: Guillaume Latendresse, Maxime Lapierre and Mat D’agostini, for their good work together when given the chance to play as a three-some.
Travis Moen? Not too impressed with what I’ve seen of him, so far.
Jaroslav Spacek? Just what the doctor ordered for this Canadiens’ team that has been dieing for a power play quarterback along the blueline. Then again, Yannick Weber could also fill that bill. Weber has looked very comfortable out there and seems to have upped his defensive game.
Carey Price? He didn’t look like much of an all-star on the three goals he gave up in the 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. But, like I said, it’s early yet. Which is exactly what Scott Gomez was busy telling anyone who would listen after the line of Gomez-Gionta-Cammalleri combined for five points against the Penguins, including two goals by Gionta and a single by Gomez.
It’s early yet.
The Montreal Canadiens could have used Vincent Lecavalier last night.
But, alas, while Lecavalier and his Tampa team mates were warming up for their west-coast game against the Sharks (which the Sharks won, 7-1) the Canadiens fell 3-1 to the Bruins in Boston.
The trade winds that have been swirling in Montreal in recent days swept through Boston last night, with Habs fans convinced, or at least hoping, that the Lightning will consider parting with Vinnie and his 11-year, 85-million-dollar contract. And that Habs’ GM Bob Gainey will move heaven and earth to bring him to Montreal.
While neither the Canadiens nor the Lightning have said anything tangible to fuel the speculation, this is a rumour that has developed a life of its own, and will not go away in the immediate future until:
A. Tampa trades Lecavalier
B. The March trading deadline passes, and Vinnie is still in a Bolts uniform
The rumours hit a fever pitch early last night with word that Lecavalier was being kept out of the lineup against the Sharks because he was on his way to Montreal. But, sure enough, when the puck dropped at the HP Pavilion, there was Vincent Lacavalier on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And there’s his name on the scoresheet: 17:07 of ice time on the strength of 21 shifts, and a -1 performance on the night.
It’s all there in black and white, not ‘bleu, blanc, rouge.”
In the meantime, the Canadiens could have used a little Lecavalier-like offensive magic against Tim Thomas, who surrendered but one goal to Andrei Kostitsyn en-route to a 34-save performance in the Boston goal. Historically, the Canadiens have had Thomas’ number. But not last night. The veteran was the difference, holding down the fort in a first-period flurry which saw the Habs pepper him with 17 shots enroute to a 17-9 shot advantage after 20 minutes.
A funny thing happened to the Canadiens on their way to the second period. They stopped skating. True, the goal by Andrei, his 14th of the season on a lovely, patient set-up from brother Sergei, came early in the second period — and opened the scoring. But the Habs slowly began skating in quicksand, and could not keep up to the Bruins, who, like the Canadiens, were also missing key injured players in Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel. Two goals in the second period by big Zdeno Chara on the power play, his second coming on a 5-on-3, put the Bruins over the top, with David Kreji adding an insurance marker in the final minutes.
Not that Jaroslav Halak can be faulted for any of this. From where I was sitting, he looked much better in this loss than he has in many of his wins. But after powering their way to four straight victories on the strength of 23 goals, Montreal’s offensive well ran dry last night.
Of immediate concern is that both Carey Price and Saku Koivu were kept off skates today as the Canadiens practiced at their facility at Brossard. Both are nursing lower-body injuries. The Captain had returned to practicing his teammates and looked to be a reasonable bet to return to action as soon as this week. Koivu’s absence from practice throws that timetable out the window.
Up next: the Nashville Predators Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Defenceman Yannick Weber won’t get a chance to dress for that one. Today he was returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Weber was called up from Hamilton on Jan. 1st and saw 15 minutes of ice time in the 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 7.
He’ll be back.
It didn’t take long for Max Pacioretty to make an impact at the NHL level.
Pacioretty, one of four members of the Hamilton Bulldogs called up by the Canadiens this week as a result a growing list of injured players, scored in his very first NHL game, on his very first shot, against the New Jersey Devils last night at the Prudential Center.
Unfortunately for Pacioretty and the rest of the Canadiens, it was the only damage the Habs could do on this night against Scott Clemmensen and the rest of the Devils, who prevailed 4-1 to snap Montreal’s three-game winning streak.
Pacioretty wasn’t the only freshly-minted Montreal Canadien to see action last night. He was joined by fellow Bulldog Kyle Chipchura on a line with veteran Steve Begin. And goalie Marc Denis ended up seeing his first taste of action as a Hab in the third period, after Jaroslav Halak, the starting netminder, was pulled after 40 minutes. Halak fought the puck all the night, surrending two goals on the first eight shots he faced, before being yanked at the end of the second period, with the Canadiens trailing 3-1.
With Carey Price once again fighting a lower body injury, Halak took his .500 record into last night’s game for another starting assignment. And you know what? He looked like a .500 goaltender. None of the three goals he gave up, Brian Gionta from the edge of the face off circle, Zac Parise through the five-hole from a bad angle, and John Madden, high on the glove side, were world-beaters. Then again, Halak didn’t have a whole lot of help from his defence, as witnessed by the goal by Madden in the second period, which came on a 2-on-1 after Patrice Brisbois was caught way out of position after pinching in.
With players like Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Chris Higgins out of the lineup, you just know that the law of averages is going to catch up with you. And it did last night in Jersey. Sure, there’s the giddiness that surrounded the goal by Pacioretty in his first NHL game. But last night the Habs looked more like the Hamilton Bulldogs than the Montreal Canadiens, although that’s not to take anything away from the play of Pacioretty, Chipchura and young Maxim Lapierre, who isn’t too far removed from the Bulldogs, himself.
Of immediate concern for the Canadiens, next to the crowded situation in sick bay, is the ongoing listless and unproductive play of Tomas Plekanec; the inability of the Plekanec-Kovalev-Andrei Kostitsyn line to gain any kind of traction this season, and another “Oh-fer” performance by the power play: 0-for-4, on this night. It would also be nice to see Matt D’Agostini find the zone again after making such a splash when initially called up from Hamilton. It would also be nice to see Robert Lang make some noise out there, again.
We’ll cut the injury-riddled Canadiens as much slack as they need, however, as they prepare for their next game tomorrow afternoon when the Florida Panthers are in town. Whether or not Carey Price is ready to return to action, remains to be seen. Whether or not Guy Carbonneau gives Marc Denis the starting nod, in case Price isn’t ready to go, also remains to be seen.
I say if Price can’t play, you hand the puck to Denis. He deserves a shot. Halak deserves to sit.
Look for Yannick Weber to make his regular-season debut against the Panthers, likely as a power-play specialist and occasional fourth-line forward, a-la Mark Streit. The Canadiens didn’t call Weber up from Hamilton to sit on the bench in Montreal. The young man will get his opportunity, and my bet is that it will come tomorrow.