We’ve heard it all. “Weber has slowed down and has become a third pairing defenseman“. Or “David Savard will easily replace Weber.” While one has to admit that Weber obviously played with serious injuries that affected his game, those over-the-top statements don’t paint the complete picture.
For one, Dominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson were still giving Weber the toughest assignments in the game of hockey. He was playing top minutes in the most difficult situations: checking the opponents’ top lines, penalty kill and even got his turn on the power play.
Comparisons with Savard
If someone genuinely thinks that Savard will take Weber’s role on the team (even without the power play), either they didn’t watch Columbus play or they risk being the first ones being disappointed and swear at Marc Bergevin for signing him. Yet, at $3.5 million per season, Bergevin knows too well that he didn’t sign Savard to replace Weber. It’s all on those fans’ (or media members) unrealistic expectations.
Savard was utilized sometimes on the second pairing, sometimes on the third pairing. He is the type of player, like Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson, that can be utilized in a pinch on the top pairing but that’s not his seat. If Savard is given the role to shut down other teams’ top lines on a regular basis, the Canadiens goaltenders will be greatly exposed.
Here are the defense partners at even strength of both Weber and Savard for the past three seasons. I’ve even included last year’s playoffs with the Lightning:
43% Vladislav Gavrikov
12% Gabriel Carlsson
4% Zach Werenski
2020-21 Playoffs (with Tampa)
69% 3rd pairing with Mikhail Sergachev
17% 2nd pair with Ryan McDonagh
61% Vladislav Gavrikov
22% Ryan Murray
7% Zach Werenski
38% Narkus Nutivaara
29% Zach Werenski
22% Scott Harrington
Note that Savard rarely played with Zach Werenski or Seth Jones, Columbus’ top pair. He was sheltered instead.
59% Ben Chiarot
22% Joel Edmundson
6% Alexander Romanov
65% Ben Chiarot
10% Erik Gustafson
59% Ben Chiarot
22% Victor Mete
6% Jeff Petry
66% Victor Mete
16% Brett Kulak
7% Jordie Benn
Weber has always played on Montreal’s top pairing. They even gave him guys to cover for, like the experiments of Victor Mete, Brett Kulak, Jordie Benn. In the playoffs, he is the one that the Canadiens’ coaching staff trusted to play with the team’s biggest concern, Erik Gustafson.
Now ask yourself: Do you honestly think that the coaching staff would do the same with Savard instead? If you answer yes to that question, either you’re not being honest with yourself or prepare to be greatly disappointed.
Savard will be good in his role. He can play on the top-4 periodically and will play a regular shift on the penalty kill. He will also be counted on at the end of games to protect leads, behind Petry (who is not a defensive juggernaut by the way). Align your expectations realistically and you will like Savard. Placed in too big of a role and his contract will seem long… very long.