Is it time for fans of the Montreal Canadiens to panic? With no wins in the preseason, few goals, and some serious issues on the blueline, it may be. According to Shea Weber “I do not think we’re ready to start the season, but we have two games left to do it. “
Shea Weber: “We’re Not Ready to Start the Season”
Why aren’t the Habs ready? The most glaring problem in the pre-season is on defense.
There are three contributing factors here.
The first is a lack of talent on the blue line. It is now clear the failure to re-sign Andrei Markov or sign or trade for a true number two defenseman was a mistake. The Karl Alzner signing established the Canadiens as a team prioritizing on defensive-defenseman. While Jakub Jerabek and Victor Mete are exciting possibilities, Jerabek has played zero games in the NHL and the younger Mete is more unlikely to play more than ten games in Montreal.
According to Gord Miller, the Canadien’s defense “just isn’t very good.”
Adapting to Zone Coverage
The second reason is that the Habs are struggling to adapt to Julien’s defensive zone system. Both Shea Weber and Karl Alzner have had some trouble. Julien recently noted that Alzner is still adjusting. “We have some guys who are learning to play differently and we have some guys who are struggling,” Julien said. “We had some breakdowns in our end… ”
On Karl Alzner, Julien said, “He’s used to playing a lot of man-to-man and we play more of a zone. [Shea Weber[ had the same adjustment to make last year and he picked it up pretty quickly.”
Lack of Consistent Partners
The third challenge is a combination of the first two. The lack of consistent defenseman during training camp has made adjusting to Julien’s defensive system even more difficult. To be successful, his system requires communication and adaptation. The biggest challenge is that defensive players need to understand their partners.
As Fluto Shinzawa points out, under Julien the Bruins defensive positioning requires layers of coverage in the defensive zone. As players move through pre-defined areas of the ice, defense partners must work together to cover attacking players and force shots from the points or high slot. It will take some time to work out the kinks. Adjusting to the new system is made even more difficult when you have a different defensive partner every night.
Is it time to push the panic button Habs fans? Well given that the Canadiens hired a defensive coach, traded or failed to resign any players with speed on their blue line, and as yet have failed to adapt to Julien’s defense system, the answer is Yes. When the Vegas Golden Knights are successfully chirping you, it’s time to panic.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 20, 2017
Main Photo: PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 02: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 2, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Canadiens 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)