The Habs will try to get back into the win column tonight when they visit the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Word from various online sources is that Alex Picard will be in the lineup replacing Jaroslav Spacek, and skating beside Andrei Markov. The move has raised eyebrows amongst many in the media as well as fans who note the significance of benching a veteran guy like Spacek. Still, anyone who has watched the Canadiens this season should be well aware that Spacek, who the Habs have leaned on heavily in the past has arguably been the Canadiens worst player to start the year. The question is: at this point in his career does Spacek view this as a challenge to be better, or plain old insult? It would be in everyone’s best interest that he should return from his brief layoff in top form. Look at it as a minor nagging injury that will be healed by a short rest. Only the injured body part is his brain. It has to be. Because its been cramping like a O-lineman running wind sprints since the start of the season.
The interesting thing to watch will be Picard. How does he respond to the opportunity of a lifetime in playing next to the Canadiens best defensman? The 25 year old from Gatineau Quebec has been surprisingly steady to start the year, posting a team-best +7 to start the campaign. If he can play steady and support Markov he’ll have his best opportunity to stick with the Canadiens this year. While Canadiens fans have been waiting with baited breathe for Ryan O’Byrne to step up, Picard has been a pleasant surprise, given that the 6’3″ defenseman uses a good mix of grit and skill at the blue line. The knock on Picard has always been that he makes poor decisions with the puck. I’m going to go ahead and make this easy for him: pass it to Markov when he’s open. Do what Michael Komisarek did, and ride Markov’s coat-tails. Be solid defensively. Be safe. Let the man do the work.
What this means for the rest of the defense corps is that Hamrlik will be paired with PK Subban, while our old pal Hal will be lining up next to his best bud Josh. If Hamrlik continues to play his non-flashy-yet-effective game next to PK, I truly believe the coaches may be on to something. Having too many defensemen in this league is never a bad thing. While Spacek’s contract makes him relatively un-trade-able, you never know which salary floor team might like to add a veteran defender if they make it near the playoffs ala the Pheonix Coyotes last season.
Go Habs Go!!!