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Game 12: Habs/Blue Jackets

  • 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!!!

  1. #1 Mats Naslund says:
    November 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Update: 1PM.

    Jaroslav Spacek will be in the lineup tonight. It was widely speculated this morning that he would sit in favour of Alex Picard. We’ll see how Spacek responds tonight.

    I will add one quick note about the Habs D situation: At some point Jacques Martin will have to take a young player and guide him to full-time NHL playing time. Right now the coach is FAR too veteran focused. You don’t build championship caliber teams by continually benching your prospects in favour of 36 year olds in drastic slumps. Veteran presence is important – but at this point the Canadiens should be focused on the changing of the guard on the back end – with Gorges, Subban, Picard and O’Byrne needing to get the opportunity to show what they can do PRIOR to the free agency period when Markov, Gill and Hamrlik’s contracts run out respectively. Clearly Gorges and Subban are slam dunks that Martin can’t screw up – but there is an opportunity here to really cement the blue line for years to come if we can develop one or both of O’Byrne and Picard into serviceable NHL defenders.

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