Roman Hamrlik: An Undervalued, Overlooked Pillar of Strength for NHL's Canadiens

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Roman Hamrlik: An Undervalued, Overlooked Pillar of Strength for NHL's Canadiens
Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

Habs fans were furious when Sheldon Souray was allowed to walk after the 2006-2007 season.

When Alex Kovalev wasn't brought back into the fold for the 2009-2010 season, there was a public protest outside the Bell Centre.

Fans were ready to riot when Mike Komisarek chose the Blue and White over the Bleu Blanc Rouge.

After this season, one of the more important Habs players in recent memory may leave the team, and it likely won't generate anywhere near as much fanfare.

Roman Hamrlik has been a staple of the Montreal Canadiens defense for the better part of four seasons. He has never missed more than seven games in a single year. He has provided a very respectable offensive contribution in his time with the team, always hovering around the 30-point mark.

Throughout his time in the organization, Hamrlik has amassed a plus-14 plus-minus rating and has been one of the more responsible defensemen on the roster. His solid play has also carried into this season.

Despite his age, the Czech defenseman has been a pillar of strength for the team. Hamrlik is currently second on the roster in average ice time per game, trailing the much younger James Wisniewski by only one second. At 36 years old, he leads the Habs in blocked shots. He leads the team in even strength and power play scoring.

Aside from his more measurable contributions, Hamrlik has also provided the intangibles that are necessary for the success of any organization. His leadership role within the team is of particular note.

The former first overall pick has played in a very unstable time in Montreal Canadiens history. Since his signing with the Habs in 2007, the team around him has been in a constant state of flux.

Andrei Markov, the team's most valued defenseman, has missed the better part of the last two years. Mike Komisarek, once the team's most promising young blueliner, completely imploded and left the organization. The likes of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Michael Ryder and Chris Higgins are gone and have been replaced by Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. He has played in front of Cristobal Huet, David Aebischer, Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price.

Hamrlik and his performance on the ice have been among the few constants that Habs fans have been able to count on throughout a tumultuous four years—four years that included a major rebuild, two years of distracting centennial celebrations, a coaching change, a change at general manager, the sale of the team and constant injury problems.

This year, perhaps his last with the team, Hamrlik has played on a depleted defensive corps filled with rookies and patched up with new arrivals. Through it all, the native of Zlin, Czech Republic hasn't missed a step. The Habs have never missed the playoffs with Roman Hamrlik on the active roster, and it looks as though that trend will continue this year as well.

Earlier in the season, Hamrlik stated that he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay in Montreal. After reviewing his durability, consistency and overall level of play, Pierre Gauthier shouldn't hesitate to grant him his wish. Let's just hope the GM has noticed what many of the fans haven't.

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