Insurance Or Inessential: Montreal's Situation On Defense

Usman ShabbarContributor IJanuary 3, 2011

MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 2:  James Wisniewski #20 of the Montreal Canadiens skates in his first home game as a Montreal Canadien against the Atlanta Thrashers at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Thrashers defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

With the addition of two additional defensemen—James Wisniewski and Brett Festerling—comes a growing concern for Canadiens fans: the wasted cap space spent on excess and expendable defensemen.

After General Manager Pierre Gauthier decided acquiring another d-man to replace the injured Andrei Markov was appropriate, the Montreal Canadiens relinquished a pair of draft picks to the New York Islanders.  Was the deal a good one? Sure, and by saying this, I concede that it is not a great deal nor a bad deal.  Some would consider this a great deal, referring to Wisniewski's stats in his first couple of games as a Canadien.

The Maxim Lapierre trade was one Canadiens fans would probably like to have back.  Lapierre, a fan favourite and a big part of Montreal's efforts in their recent playoff run, was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Brett Festerling and a fifth round draft pick in 2012.  Festerling had played in 42 NHL games last season, recording only three points.

When Wisniewski met up with his new team in Tampa Bay as the Canadiens faced-off against the Lightning, I can only wonder how the new addition felt when he stepped into that locker room and recognized the talent on his new team, especially on defense.

Looking at the Canadiens roster, we see that Montreal holds ten—yes, TEN— able-bodied, NHL defensemen.  These players include the likes of:

-       Hal Gill

-       Josh Gorges

-       Roman Hamrlik

-       Andrei Markov

-       Alexandre Picard

-       Jaroslav Spacek

-       P.K. Subban

-       Yannick Weber

-       James Wisniewski

-       Brett Festerling, arguably

We can scratch Andrei Markov off this list as he is suffering from a season-ending injury.  We can also cross off Festerling as he immediately reported to Hamilton, Montreal's AHL affiliate, after the trade.

Let us take a peek at the performance of some of these defensemen.

Hal Gill has not lived up to his title as Assistant Captain of one of the most, if not the most storied franchise in the history of hockey.  His numbers are dismal and Canadiens fans expect more out of him. 

Along with this, P.K. Subban has been struggling as of late according to Montreal management.  His attitude and his confidence have also warranted some verbal attacks in his rookie season. In my opinion, these criticisms are unjustified and P.K. is playing above the standard for a rookie defenseman in the NHL, and some opposing players get frustrated by this.

All other Montreal defensemen are posting decent numbers.  But with this, we must ask two questions:

1.    Are the extra defensemen really necessary?

2.    Are these players worth their salary?

Let’s take a look at some of the salary numbers these players are "earning."

The most reasonable salaries on defense are that of Alexandre Picard ($0.6M), P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber ($0.875M), Josh Gorges ($1.1M), and Hal Gill ($2.25M). 

Some other contracts are ludicrous.  These contracts include Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek.  Montreal is virtually stuck with these large, over-priced contracts until they run out due to the fact that almost no team would be willing to pick up a mediocre defenseman for such a costly price.

Bravo, Montreal. Bravo.

I am sure Canadiens fans will welcome the addition of James Wisniewski to their crowded blue line, as he puts up good numbers as an offensive defenseman.  But I am also sure Canadiens fans will be even happier to see one of their useless defensemen wave goodbye to the city, and the city of Montreal waves back.