The area Bob Gainey and his pro scouting staff need to address as the season moves forward will be on the blueline where the top three defensemen are solid with Markov, Komisarek and Hamrlik manning those spots. Beyond the top three defensemen, the Habs will need to add another stud defenseman to push them over the top.
The Canadiens need to improve the #4 spot on the blueline if they intent to make a serious run at Lord Stanley’s cup next June.
Patrice Brisebois can still contribute on the powerplay and play limited minutes but Guy Carbonneau needs a full time player he can totally rely on, another Roman Hamrlik type defenseman. Brisebois isn’t that type of player and is definitely on the lower down slope of his hockey career.
There are in house options available to Guy Carbonneau and Gainey may want him to pursue these options before he makes a trade to upgrade the defense.
Some have suggested (including myself) that Guy Carbonneau should talk to Ryan O’Byrne and give him 10-15 games to further develop his game to see what he can contribute playing along side his mentor, Roman Hamrlik. O’Byrne has been shaky in his own end as of late and had trouble on a few occasion exiting the defensive zone against an aggressive, fast Panthers forecheck. When he doesn’t move his feet and use his good skating abilities, he gets in trouble by relying on his long reach.
Another option is to move the always consistent Josh Gorges to the #4 position as he didn’t look out of place when he replaced Mike Komisarek on the top pairing at the end of last season. With that being said, I love the duo of Bouillon/Gorges as the Canadiens third tandem and they really play well together, especially during last year’s playoff.
If these options aren’t pursued or considered, then Gainey needs to find a solid two way defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes a game.
Gainey is a smart enough GM to put enough “feelers” out to his fellow NHL GMs about his desire for a solid #4 defenseman. The upcoming general managers meeting would be the perfect time to let his comrades know his wish list.
There are some possible defensemen that would be a good fit if they were made available on the open market. Defensemen like Francois Beauchemin, Dan Hamhuis, Ed Jovanovski, Jordan Leopold, Jay Bouwmeester (who would cost an arm and a leg to obtain!!) and even Mathieu Schneider could be good candidates if they were made available sometime during the season. As always, it will depend on which team is still in the playoff hunt or whether a team wants to shake things up to try to improve their poor play and/or improve other areas.
The Canadiens have enough prospect depth and offensive punch on their current roster to swing a deal in the future. Other considerations that have to be made before a trade is completed will be the salaries these players are making and their contractual status (UFA, RFA, long term deal….).
What ever happens, Bob Gainey isn’t stupid enough to pursue a Marian Gaborik when he truly needs to upgrade his defensive corp. You don’t win championships without a solid defense that can shutdown the other team’s top scoring lines.
We all know that winning a championship is the main focus for most professional teams but the Canadiens organization has taken that goal to another level throughout their storied history.
If they want to put an exclamation mark on their great history during the centennial celebrations, then they really need to upgrade their defense in order to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.