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?
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.