Championships Come from Depth

Photo: Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press

Photo: Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press

The teams that make the dance and go far in the playoffs usually have solid 3rd to 5th line depth. Sometimes a player who played less than 10 games for his team during the regular season, gets the opportunity to become a hero in the playoffs due to an unfortunate injury. Last year in the 2012 playoffs, Chris Krieder of the New York Rangers, and Stephen Gionta of the New Jersey Devils made huge names for themselves. These two players played a combined 5 NHL regular season games in 2012, but played 42 combined games in the playoffs and were critical parts of their teams’ success; both teams made the Eastern Conference Final.

“The regular season is where you earn your paycheck, the postseason is where you create your legacy”  – Aaron Rodgers

Yes I did just use an NFL Quarterback’s quote, and I realize that hockey and American football are two completely different sports, but I would tend to agree with Mr. Rodgers. Countless NHL players sign huge contracts the summer after a surprising playoff performance. Some of those players though just get lucky or get hot at the right time, and never play nearly as well as they did as their breakout season. We all remember the playoff run Jaroslav Halak had in the 2010 playoffs. He was traded shortly after on June 17th to the St. Louis Blues who quickly signed Jaro to a 4-year, $15 million contract. Now not to say Halak is a bad goalie by any means, but since his magical playoff run, Jaro has only dressed in 2 playoff games for the Blues, winning 1 of them. I’m not here to nickle & dime Halak, his contract, or the trade that shipped him out of Montreal, all I am saying is that he had a terrific playoff run and no one has forgotten.

Que the Marc Bergevin era. The Habs are now 6-3-0 on the season and have already used 21 players and both goalies. The team was tested on the back end while the PK Subban contract was getting settled. Michel Therrien has the luxury of dressing and scratching players whenever he so chooses and that is all thanks to Marc Bergevin.  Last year the 4th line was Darche-Gomez-Nokelainen, meanwhile this year’s 4th line of the Habs is Moen-Eller-Armstrong. The depth of the Canadiens is so deep that Kaberle and Weber is the 4th D-pairing on the team this year compared to last year when Kaberle & Weber spent time as regular 2nd and 3rd pairing defencemen.

The Hamilton Bulldogs have had a rough season battling injuries, a rookie-filled roster while the rest of the AHL was full of locked-out NHLers. To place the blame on Bergevin alone would be wrong. There was about 100 things that could go wrong to place the Bulldogs where they are in the standings, and at least 90 of those things happened. The Canadiens have the words “no excuses” posted in their locker room, and I believe the Bulldogs have the same vibe in their locker room. Injuries plagued the Bulldogs from day 1 of the season. Cedrick Desjardins was held out nursing a groin injury. Pateryn fractured his elbow. Leblanc had a high-ankle sprain. Geoffrion took a skate to the head, resulting in a skull fracture. Ellis took a few weeks to get healthy. Palushaj injured his shoulder and has since been claimed on waivers by Colorado. Finally, Gallagher is now with the Habs. Needless to say, when your roster is filled with rookies and a bunch of veterans go down, you’re in tough. The ice time given to Zack Stortini and Kyle Hagel by head coach Sylvain Lefebvre has definitely not helped Hamilton with their lack of scoring either.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

Depth is something plenty of NHL teams are currently struggling with in this compact 48-game season. Plenty of teams have already been bitten by the injury bug. Defence seems to be the biggest victim. The Canadiens have lots of depth on the blueline and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kaberle or Weber traded in the near future. It was noted the other night that the Habs had 2 scouts at the Carolina-Toronto game, and with Rick Dudley coming to the Canadiens management in the summer from the Leafs, could we very well be seeing Kaberle going back to Toronto? Bergevin has ties to the Chicago Blackhawks organization and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers, so those two clubs could be potential trade partners as well. We also cannot overlook the Red Wings, Flyers and Oilers who are all flooded with injuries. Since opening night, Lars Eller has been scratched, demoted and basically put in Michel Therrien’s doghouse, and who knows, maybe Bergevin could ship him out of town?

As for return for Eller, Kaberle and Weber, I don’t think any will bring too much back, but who knows. As of right now and the rest of the season, healthy bodies will be  a luxury throughout this tight season, so a general manager could feel pressure to make a deal and commit to over paying to get immediate help. Defencemen are of high value right about now if you are Detroit. We have yet to see Marc Bergevin make an NHL trade, but who knows, he could be a great trader.

This season will be crazy all year long, and the Canadiens could go through a long list of injuries later in the season rather than early like some other teams have been enduring lately. Either way, the depth of the Habs will be tested.


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