The Three Stooges: Habs Defence Bears Glaring Holes

One of the easier ways to tell that a season in sports is getting into full swing is when spectators far and wide have seen, said and heard many of the same things for weeks on end.  Trends begin to emerge and repeatedly witnessing them, for better or worse, tend to blur the days and nights together with seemingly little ability to tell them apart.


Habs fans generally know exactly what they will see and hear day in and night out on television, radio, podcasts, social media and in articles across the board; Jesperi Kotkaniemi needs to be on the top line with Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi is basically a deity and his line with Jonathan Drouin and Andrew Shaw is magical, the undying battle over Carey Price and his inconsistencies whilst brandishing a mammoth contract, Jeff Petry with inconsistencies of his own, Weber watch and –of course– the downright ugly aspect in the murky depths of the blue line that keeps this team grounded.


The most pressing question has been regarding what exactly Marc Bergevin expects to happen when so much of his defensive unit is the same one that he iced last season that led to such a dismal product with standings results bearing the reflections of said metaphorical depiction of a tire fire.  Victor Mete is –in essence– the prototype of the 21st century defenceman, Mike Reilly bearing much of the same embodiment of the evolution of the NHL’s blue line and Noah Juulsen continues to improve and develop at a pace that suggests that he will be an absolute force within approximately a year’s time from now.


Why it remains a question when the three positive examples depicted are so young is due to Marc Bergevin and Geoff Molson’s reluctance to call their transition to a youth movement and a long overdue renewal of philosophy a “rebuild” per se and insist that they were going to ice a competitive team this season; a claim that many openly scoffed at for six months spanning from April to October.


If this team is going to be competitive, why are they still deploying a bunch of dead weight anchors with those poor kids? When Noah Juulsen was called up to the main roster last season he was paired with a seasoned veteran in Karl Alzner, the idea on paper always being that the experienced half will babysit and mentor the fresh face; off paper, it was the exact opposite.  Karl Alzner played almost passable hockey when he was paired with Noah Juulsen but if a guy approaching 30 required a kid that was not even 20 years old at the time to so much as look like he might belong in the NHL in the midst of an ironman streak, that illustrates the problem in and of itself.


Mike Reilly and Victor Mete have been victimized the same way with the likes of David Schlemko and Jordie Benn, being forced to drag these relics of a bygone era and style at their ripe old age of… 31.


Jordie Benn, a little better documented to Habs fans than Schlemko, was often lambasted by Dallas Stars fans prior to his arrival in Montreal.  With only this season remaining on his deal, fans everywhere are anxiously crossing dates off of their calendar until a trade comes about or –at the very latest– July 1st rolls around.  With a salary cap hit of all of $1,100,000 to his name, it certainly is not due to taking up obnoxious amounts of the team’s permitted budget but rather due to the incessant display of absolute bewilderment on Jordie’s behalf as he continuously leaves his man open during his attempts to go and cover someone else’s man and still not managing to properly do so in the slightest.  What makes Jordie Benn different from fellow member of The Three Stooges (much shorter than listing off each individual player’s name) Karl Alzner is that Alzner’s brain seems willing at times but that he is simply too unskilled to carry out the ideas he may or may not have; Jordie Benn is just out to lunch and perhaps dinner and dare to say even breakfast the following morning before he might get a single clue as to what his job is.


Everything comes in threes, they say.  A healthy David Schlemko this season has revealed himself to be the third man to round out the trio of the unfortunate, unskilled and undeserving of occupying roster positions with the Montreal Canadiens.  It is possible that injuries have gotten the best of Schlemko, a once noted bottom pair guy in his stints with past teams but it goes beyond that or “being asked to do too much” given the circumstances and glaring hole on the left side of the Habs defensive unit.  What it is now with The Three Stooges, Schlemko looking like no exception to the rule, is simply a case of the game passing them by; adapt or perish, evolve or get left behind and the results have already seemingly unfolded for these men of minor league fodder.  Stylistically speaking, The Three Stooges are simply not conducive to today’s NHL and now another question is about to be answered.


When the opposition blows by The Three Stooges on a nightly basis, Alzner is incapable, Benn is unaware and Schlemko simply looks unwilling.


“Well, who would  you put in their place?”


Two of the three have already been mentioned: Victor Mete and Mike Reilly.  Mike Reilly has responded in resounding fashion to having been a healthy scratch and has warranted being such far less than The Stooges have.  With Brett Kulak on his way up from Laval and set to make his debut in a Habs uniform and Xavier Ouellet serving as the extra, there is absolutely zero cause to play a single one of The Three Stooges in a single game from here.  Sure, playing them would showcase them for potential trades and such but at this point, leaving them in the press box or sending them off to the minors would make a better case for a team taking them on than putting them out there to flounder and flail about.


“It is better to scratch or waive players and let everyone think that they are terrible than it is to put them on the ice and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain… close enough, anyhow.


With Josh Brook a ways out from being NHL ready, Mete/Reilly/Kulak looks relatively comfortable down the left side for the time being.  If the need should continue to arise –as it likely will to some extent– and this team sustains some air of being competitive, a trade should not be out of the question.  After all, with Kotkaniemi looking just fine thus far and likely in for a big second half of the season (as many 18 year olds come up with), Domi doing as well as he is (albeit perhaps somewhat prone to sustainability catching up with him) and Poehling and/or Suzuki likely on their way next season, the need to trade for a center, for once, is essentially nil.


With Noah Juulsen currently injured, sparking Brett Kulak’s placement on Montreal’s NHL roster, the roster crunch will be very real upon Juulsen’s eventual clearance to play.  With that in mind, here is a wager documented in writing: Karl Alzner will be placed on waivers once Noah Juulsen returns.  Marc Bergevin was already looking to move a depth defenceman out prior to Juulsen being placed in the injured reserve and teams have already begun calling around and kicking tires with other teams.  It should surprise no one when something is done to remedy this situation in the not-too-distant future.


It is early but the Habs look like they may not be too far away after all.  This youth movement bears all of the attitude that this era could hope to.  It is simply abundantly clear that the mistakes of yesteryear in the form of the likes of The Three Stooges are not part of the formula for success and should be shipped out sooner rather than later.

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One Response to The Three Stooges: Habs Defence Bears Glaring Holes

  1. I have been saying for over 1 1/2 years that Benn, Schlemko and Alzner all need to go and until then Montreal’s defense will suffer and the goalies will suffer

    Bay_Bye November 23, 2018 at 12:52 pm Reply

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