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Defenders Hall Gill, PK Subban and goaltender Carey Price
By the end of the season, Montreal went through 13 defensemen. For grading purposes, I’ve omitted Andrei Markov, Ryan O’Byrne and Brendan Nash, who played only seven, three and two games respectively for the Habs. There simply wasn’t enough data to render a fair assessment of these three when taking into account the blueline as a whole.
For the second year in a row, Markov got his season cut brutally short versus the Carolina Hurricanes on November 10. The assistant captain is used to quarterback Montreal’s power play, and his vision and hockey sense are unrivaled amongst his fellow blueliners. He’s fast and offers a stabilizing presence, and losing him early in the season was a serious blow both offensively and defensively for the Habs.
Meanwhile fellow defender Josh Gorges had just come off a good season where he had morphed into a shot-blocking, stalwart and reliable blueliner. Like Markov, he is considered part of the Habs leadership core, and losing Gorges in December was also a blow to the team.
Former NY Islander James Wisniewski and Montreal rookies PK Subban and Yannick Weber were called upon to provide puck movement and quarterback the PP. The controversial Subban was less effective as a defender at the beginning of the season, but seemed to settle more comfortably into his role once paired with veteran Hal Gill who played a mentorship role.
In terms of points, Subban was fifth overall on the team, scoring 14 goals which tied him with Max Pacioretty who played 40 less games. He logged more minutes on average than any other defender in the league save Ryan Suter.
Brent Sopel and Paul Mara were acquired to provide some stability and support and to relieve Roman Hamrlik, who, along with Jaroslav Spacek, played long minutes that seemed to drain them by March.
Conclusion: Along with Subban’s solid rookie season, the team’s adherence to their coach’s system means Montreal’s defense is often times better than the sum of its parts.