Depth no longer a dirty word in Hab-land

By Chris Boucher
During each of the last two off-seasons the Canadiens have found themselves without enough experienced NHL players to fill their roster. Fortunately, André Savard has been able to solve this problem. The recent acquisitions of Juneau, Dackell, and Quintal have increased the number of players with tangible NHL-experience to twenty-five; not including goaltenders.

This bolds well not only in regards to the team’s depth , but also in terms of intra-roster competition. The increase in the number of experienced players should force those players who find themselves on the bubble to work that much harder. Roster spots will have to be earned, rather than just acquired by default.

Of these twenty-five players with NHL experience. Fifteen of them are forwards, and ten are defensemen. Joé Juneau is the most experienced forward (616 games), while Stephane Quintal is the most experienced defenseman (822 games).

There is however a lack of balance as far as the forwards are concerned. They now find themselves with five natural centers (Perreault, Koivu, Bulis, Kilger, Darby). Although, three of them also have experience playing left wing. Seven of the remaining ten forwards are natural left wingers (Savage, Rucinsky, Zednik, Poulin, Juneau, Brunet, Odjick), fortunately five of these players have also played right wing. That said, there remains only three players who are natural right wingers (Dackell, Petrov, Asham); two of which are right handed.

Confusion aside, the team should adjust well to their new roles. Recent injury-plagued seasons have forced many of the players to learn new roles, while playing new positions. What may not be as easy for the players to deal with is lack of playing time. Not to mention the possibility of being scratched from the roster. Having fifteen experienced players on the roster means that (barring injuries) three of these players will not dress for games. The likeliest candidates to become the Canadiens’ newest “black-aces” are Asham, Darby, Odjick, or Poulin.

The situation on defense is even more crowded. Of the ten defensemen, Markov (63 games), and Robidas (66 games) have the least amount of experience. Five of the defensemen are right-handed, while the other five are obviously left handed.

With Quintal, Brisebois, Robidas, and Rivet unlikely to sit-out, only three of the five left-handed defensemen will see substantial game-action. Souray, and Traverse should start. Leaving Markov, Bouillon and Dykhuis to fight it out for the last spot. Markov’s offensive ability combined with his late-season improvement defensively will likely give him the advantage. That said, Dykhuis led the Habs’ defense in plus/minus last year. And at 29 years-old, he may just be coming into his own as an NHL defenseman.

The surplus of players could allow Savard the opportunity to tweak the roster with a trade or two. The likelihood of a deal depends primarily on the market. If the return on a player or players is not adequate, or the move will diminish rather than improve the team’s depth, then Savard will likely not move. The Habs’ recent injury problems have forced Savard to increase the team’s depth. To compromise that just prior to training camp would be a substantial step backward.

Player—— Games Played
Juneau—— 616
Poulin—— 606
Rucinsky—— 599
Dackell—— 401
Asham—— 86

Dykhuis—— 490
Robidas—— 66
Markov—— 63

Click on the Canadiens’ logo at the top left of the page to see a listing of the Habs’ top prospects. Including biographical information, and up-to-date stats.

Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments (In English or French). Just click on my name at the top of this page. I am a former goaltender with writing, scouting, and coaching experience