By JD Lagrange – We look at the Canadiens’ start of the season, playing .500 hockey through the first eight games, without Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson on defense, and we praise the goaltenders and the four rookie defensemen. And rightfully so. Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Johnathan Kovacevic are all NHL rookies this year and they deserve the accolades that they are receiving. Both Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault have been outstanding so far. But there’s one man that seems to be a second thought and he too, deserves some attention. His name? David Savard.
In the absence of Edmundson, the coaching staff game the assistant-captain job to the 32 year-old St-Hyacinthe, Quebec native. After all, he has played over 680 games in the NHL and he has a Stanley Cup ring to show for. And Savard is taking his role seriously on this young defense. In fact, he and Chris Wideman have been good role models for the Canadiens’ young defensemen.
But why is he so often overlooked by the media and fan base alike? Well, he’s not a fast skater. He’s not one who will carry the puck end to end. He’s not the best at anything on the ice. But he does the little things right. And that doesn’t draw the attention of those who like the flashiness and spectacular side of the game. But rest assured, the coaching staff and his teammates know and appreciate what he does out there.
At the time of writing this, Savard leads the Canadiens in ice time, and the team’s defensemen in points with four in eight games. His 37 blocked shots place him first in the NHL in that category.
You cannot talk about Kaiden Guhle’s amazing start to his NHL career and leave Savard out of the equation. Yes, it is amazing to see Guhle playing almost 21 minutes a game in his rookie season, on the top defense pairing. David Savard is his partner and averages just under 22 and a half minutes of ice time per game. Yes, Guhle’s first goal in the NHL against the Buffalo Sabres was on an amazing shot. But it’s Savard who set him up beautifully, drawing the defender on him, with a perfect pass for that one-timer.
Not his chair
With that said, there is no doubt that first pairing is not his seat. He’s also too smart to believe that it is. But the Canadiens losing Shea Weber and Jeff Petry in back to back season without replacing either of them is not Savard’s fault. Yet, he is the one who must face the opposition’s top lines, while bringing along and teaching the ropes to a – talented – rookie by his side.
Ideally, Savard would be on the second pairing but neither Kovacevic nor Wideman are better replacements than him for that role right now. And that’s not even the coaches’ fault. The responsibility sits fully on Kent Hughes who, like his predecessor, has not addressed the issue. Although at least Bergevin had Petry there.
Justin Barron and Logan Mailloux both have the potential to become better defensemen and better candidate to first pairing duties than Savard is. But neither of them is there yet in their development. Aside from unloading a few veteran wingers who aren’t carrying their weight, the number one priority for Hughes is – or should be – to trade for someone who would allow Savard to continue what he’s doing, but on the second pairing.