About last night …

Weber or Subban?

That’s the question that will preoccupy sports talk radio in Montreal today. It may even come up on Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show on the Team 990, during which Dave Stubbs and I pinch-hit for His Mitchness this afternoon.

The show begins at 3 p.m., so I’ve got till then to formulate some advice for Jacques Martin.

Should be alter an effective lineup after one of the Canadiens’ rare wins in New Jersey?

If P.K. Subban plays, who sits?

The other hot issue on the day’s agenda is Andrei Markov.

There is credible indication, as we say here at the C(anadiens) I(ntelligence) A(gency, that a high-level meeting today will determine the injured defenceman’s status going forward. Attendees likely will include Don Meehan, Markov’s high-powered agent, general manager Pierre Gauthier and team physician Dr. David Mulder.

The upshot will be a decision on whether to put Markov on long-term injury reserve. This would free up an additional $4 million in salary cap space for the Canadiens. It would give Gauthier money to play with should the GM try to bolster his lineup now or at the trade deadline.

They’ll also talk about Markov’s future – which is in jeopardy.

The Canadiens’ best and, it must be said, most frequently injured player will be 32 next month. Markov is facing a second surgery on the right knee that was repaired during the summer.

The timing couldn’t be worse for Markov, whose current contract ends this season.

Does Gauthier re-sign him? And for how much?

One need look no farther than Ottawa for an example of a superbly-conditioned Russian athlete who has bounced back from knee problems.

But Markov plays a more physically demanding game than countryman Alex Kovalev. Can he ever again be the Markov we know and love?

The Canadiens D corps played superbly last night. It was only one game, but Yannick Weber looked an awful lot like an NHL-ready defenceman.

Weber deserves to play against San Jose tomorrow afternoon. So who’s the odd man out if Subban returns after a one-game penance?

Alexandre Picard played almost 16 minutes last night and delivered what we’re accustomed to seeing from him: smart puckhandling, adroit pinches, few mistakes – the kind of Dman play that pleases his coach.

Josh Gorges is playing with some sort of undisclosed injury. But the Canadiens ironman won’t want to miss a game against his original team.

I would sit Subban again.

Yes, he is the future of the possibly Markov-less Canadiens. But P.K. has to modify his high-risk/high-reward style to some degree.

This is the NHL. At this level of hockey, mistakes by defenceman are costly – even against teams like the Edmonton Oilers (Luke Schenn was minus-3 last night).

Would another game in the pressbox sap Subban’s confidence?

You’ve got to be kidding. An amputation wouldn’t affect this kid’s self-belief.

And please, spare me the hand-wringing about the Canadiens screwing up young talent.

For all his travails, Carey Price has turned out pretty good, wouldn’t you say?

Jacques Martin has brought Lars Eller along slowly. And in his 33rd NHL game, Eller was First Star spectacular last night.

Weber looks like two seasons in Hamilton have helped his game. And Max Pacioretty is tearing up the AHL.

So what bright budding star has this team mishandled?

Christopher Higgins?

P.K. Subban is going to be the Canadiens’ best defenceman in the post-Markov era … whenever that begins.

But he’s not the second coming of Bobby Orr just yet.

And turning P.K. into the defenceman he can be is a process in which I have a lot of faith in Jacques Martin and the organization.

•  •  •

Enough about the D.

How ’bout dem forwards?

I liked all four lines last night, and Martin was able to distribute ice time against a woeful New Jersey team that was down 2-0 after 98 seconds.

It wasn’t long ago we were singing the praises of the PhD line, but you have to love Eller with Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche: a creative playmaker, a digger and a talented scorer.

So just who are the Top Six on this team?

I likes Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri last night, after both were meh against Edmonton.

But they need a winger with better hands than are affixed to Travis Moen’s hard-working arms.

Max-Pac under the Christmas tree?

•  •  •

My friend Arpon Basu is always a great read, and he’s got an interesting analysis of what the Canadiens might do if Markov is on LTIR.

131 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Ugh…I did it AGAIN!  I meant 2011-12 season, not 2010-11.  My fingers are apparently not correcting my brain today.  And I misread your post…I see your point now about the 45+ shots.  My brain is in a fog today.

    I agree that Markov is done until 2012.  I doubt he will be done for good…two injuries to the same knee is certainly a potential disaster.  But I know far too many soccer and ultimate frisbee players who are still trucking away after multiple surgeries to repair blown out knees to not maintain some hope for Markov.

    I agree that the Habs PP could be reset to take advantage of the tools we have, but then I look at the team and wonder what formation/strategy would work better.  The problem with the Habs is that they have no player that seems willing to go to the front of the net.  Unless you’ve got a bomb for a shot, that makes the goalie’s job so very easy.

    I don’t know what big forwards with some modicum of offensive ability might be available via trade, but without one of those, I’m not sure what strategies they can use.  NHL goalies are too good to beat with long shots when they can see the puck the whole time.

  2. HardHabits says:

    Feigning stupidity is disingenious, even for you.

  3. ctony says:

    what are you talking about?

  4. Rudy says:

    Any word on Gill? According to Stubbs’ tweet, he is at the optional practice, so I guess that is a good sign.

    “Start the season with a clean equipment bag and a freah bucket of febreze!”-CharlieHodgeFan

  5. DearyLeary says:

    For instance, Colorado might have a tough time squeaking into the playoffs this year with Stewart hurt for a significant amount of time. They’ve got Hejduk’s contract expiring, it’s something I’d be discussing in the not too distant future if they start to slide in the standings.  Hejduk’s also a natural right winger… 

  6. OneTimer says:

    Why not give one of the old horses on the team a day off?

  7. Chuck says:

    Your favourite team won its first 4 games, and has since gone 4-16… and you’re criticizing the Habs?

    Centre Hice: one fan’s attachment to the Montreal Canadiens

  8. joeybarrie says:

    SOMETIMES sitting in the pressbox is not a punishment. Sometimes you have no other alternatives… We have depth, no one had any problem with Darch sitting in the pressbox, but he has done great for us this season and is one of our better deals considering his cap number. I would love to try PK on forward, but that has very negative possibilities. I say we go with the same team we did when we won 5-1. Or we sit Gorges. I know he wants to play against SJ and we really need him against a team like that, but he looks like he needs a break. To me I ask the player, Josh think you should sit??? NO, ok, sorry ROOKIE, your on you a**. Not a big deal to be honest. If anything has been proven by this team is that no ONE player is the only key to our success…

    There may be other teams, but only ONE Club De Hockey…

  9. DearyLeary says:

    As for the potential cap space that Markov’s absence would give us, I’m a proponent of sticking to our guns on defence.  We proved last year we were able to compete without Markov (most of the Pittsburgh series), so why panic now?  Keep in mind, defensively, Picard is a huge upgrade to MAB.

    One thing we’ve been talking about whether Marky has been hurt or not has been the acquisition of another top 6 (preferably a top 3) forward.  We simply cannot keep putting Moen on a second line, he’s a 3rd or 4th line grinder par excellence, but his decisions and speed don’t fit into our attack’s style.  

    Leading up to the deadline if we can maintain a top 3 spot (entirely possible) I’d be gunning for a big rental forward.  As the season goes on I would love to see Pacioretty come up and play a game every now and then to keep some of our wingers hungry (Lapierre, Moen, and even Benny).  

  10. TommyB says:

    All Leaf fans should be sure to catch the game tomorrow night.  They can get a good look at the nice team Burke is assembling. ;)

  11. Clay4bc says:

    What had Picard done to show that he deserves to sit? Highest +/- on the team, playing solid D.

    __________________________

    The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions. ~Susan Sontag

  12. HardHabits says:

    Tony’s in denial. When the Leafs were winning at the start of the season he was extatic. Since they’re going to hand another lottery pick to Boston he’s been very, very grumpy. The fact that the Habs are one of the best teams in the league pisses him off even more.

  13. HardHabits says:

    RetroMikey’s posts are laughable. He couldn’t predict what time it’ll be in 10 minutes from now.

  14. TommyB says:

    At least you caught my drift. 

  15. TheMostCupsPeriod says:

    I never claimed I was a TRUE Habs fan, or the like, I just get tired of the same old act of the negative “fans” who can’t wait for a loss to say they were right about this or that guy sucking.

    I’m not really sure what you add here “Lamo”, or whatever, I remember smiling the day you were banned….

    Retro Mickey Mouse is accusing someone who has shown a far superior knowledge , intellect, and commitment to the Habs and HIO of being uneducated about development, what a joke….

    As for you Newf, sorry but I stepped in some of your poo yesterday and it p’d me off…. ;)

  16. TommyB says:

    One way to look at it, is that with this re-injury situation, Markov would not have much leverage outside of the organization if he should test the market.  Who would be willing to overspend on such a question mark, (okay, I mean other than Brian Burke).  So in this respect, Marcov’s situation could work out for the Habs.  I agree with you that signing him short term would be the way to go.  Surely Markov and his agent also realize the “between the rock and hard place” Markov has fallen into.  Regardless, I feel the Habs will put forth an offer that is fair to all parties.  If Markov’s agent convinces him he can get a better deal elsewhere, then the Habs just might have to let him walk.  Markov will need a full season of injury-free play before he can be properly, and confidantly, evaluated after his return.

  17. BeeGee says:

    So hard to project how he would play coming back… If the docs think he’ll be 80% I guess I agree with you. But knees are a tricky thing. This is when I’m glad I’m not a GM.


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