Training camp is not time to jump to early conclusions, but it is time when you start seeing some things too. Particularly when you’re getting towards the end, when many of the fringe players have been cut, you should start seeing some good things, but also some bad tendencies. And with two of the last three pre-season games, lost by the Montreal Canadiens by a combined score of 13-4, defense seems to be an early concern for Dominique Ducharme’s squad.
Having Joel Edmundson sidelined certainly hurts but he was somewhat effectively replaced by Kaiden Guhle, who has been one of the Canadiens’ most steady defensemen in spite of his young age. Alexander Romanov has been rather quiet and as any youth, has made a couple of costly mistakes.
Shea Weber irreplaceable
The loss of the Canadiens’ captain for the season has created a huge hole in the team’s defense, and it goes well beyond leadership. Marc Bergevin has attempted to replace some of Weber’s defensive responsibility and toughness by David Savard but he’s been struggling to get going so far. Further, Weber was counted on for the toughest minutes in a hockey game while Savard was predominantly playing on the second, even third pairing both in Columbus and in Tampa Bay. It would be unrealistic to think that he could fill Weber’s minutes against top opponents.
Bergevin also tried to go the cheap way by signing UFA Chris Wideman but he’s been very underwhelming so far. While he has shown some flashes on the powerplay, he has also coughed up the puck and turned it over regularly and defensively, he is a liability out there. In fact, Brett Kulak would not do worse than Wideman come to think of it.
Need for a Top-4
There is no doubt that the Canadiens are in need of someone to step up, or for them to trade for a third or fourth line centre. But it is becoming more and more evident that the team’s biggest need is for a Top-4 right-handed defenseman who can log some quality minutes against the opposition’s top line. Someone to truly support Jeff Petry on the right side.
With the news that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be several weeks without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, one has to wonder if they would consider parting with Kristopher Letang? He’s 34 years old (8 months older than Jeff Petry) and is coming off a 45 points season (in 55 games), while logging just under 25 minutes of ice time a game. Of course, money coming in would have to go the other way as Letang comes with a substantial cap hit of $7.35 million. But the team is deep on forwards and could use that as leverage. It might be worth the call.