The Montreal Canadiens have had two problems the past several years. The first is an injured and aging defense. The second is an undersized and not especially skilled forward group.
Starting with the defensive unit, the injuries this season and last have actually been a mixed blessing. Without the various injuries I don’t think Subban would have gotten the shot he has. Yannick Weber would still be buried in the minors, and no one would know who Rapheal Diaz is. Subban is a hugely skilled asset, with wheels, will and a scoring touch. Despite injuries to Markov, Gill and Campoli this group, with the assistance of Carey Price, has the 8th best goals against average in the NHL. That’s not a bad number for a group who’s most experienced defenseman is Josh Gorges who is a creaky and venerable 27 years old with just under 400 NHL regular season games to his name.
Max Pacioretty is emerging as something more than a bottom six checker or grinder. Michael Cammeleri is a gifted goal scorer and has been he most offensively the most dependable source if offense the last few seasons. After that, even taking the talented Plekanek into account, there’s not much offense to be had. This year the Habs are 20th in goals for, last season they finished at 23rd in goals for.
When the older defensemen return, they can use the silver lining of the first problem to help solve the second. Markov, Gill, and Spacek between them represent a good deal of talent, experience and leadership. There are at least half a dozen NHL teams with much shallower defensive pools who would pay and pay well to get one of them. Bringing back a gifted goal scorer or a high first round pick that could be turned into a goal scorer has to be a priority. Even if it’s a young talent that takes a season or two to blossom, the young blueline and Carey Price can wait. But the team on the ice and in the trainers room just isn’t going to do the trick.