The defense will be the most reworked part of the Montreal Canadiens lineup.
Last season they picked up James Wisniewski, who restarted a faltering power play. Unlike a few point shot specialists the Canadiens have engaged in the past such as Sheldon Souray and Marc-Andre Bergeron, Wisniewski also played a credible defensive game. He helped fill the gap with both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges down with early season-ending injuries.
Wisniewski put up 30 points in 43 games in Montreal and his 51 points for his season was the second-highest total on the team behind only Tomas Plekanec. Wisniewski now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Also departed is the aged Roman Hamrlik who was signed by the Washington Capitals in the offseason. The veteran's time in Montreal had come and gone.
22-year-old P.K. Subban is being asked to be a top line defender in his second NHL season. The frenetic blueliner was great for Montreal last season, doing all he was asked to and more, a spark plug who gave the team a jump it hadn't had in years.
He had a good offensive season last year for Montreal and can expect even more power play time than last year when he was second only to the departed Wisniewski in power play minutes.
Subban will make mistakes, though usually he manages to skate or stickhandle his way out of trouble.
Hal Gill has returned for another year in Montreal. The immovable object has found himself a niche mentoring and covering for the meteoric Subban. Gill does what he does and doesn't stray far from the front of his own net. He is painfully slow and has trouble projecting his physical power because of it.
Jaroslav Spacek is back for the last year of his contract. At age 37 he's another player near the end of his career in Montreal. The veteran coughs up the puck more than you would like. His offense, 16 points in 59 games, no longer covers up for his defensive deficiencies.
He was injured in the Canadiens' second game this year and is likely to miss several games with that injury. Spacek is a defenseman who would be nice to replace with a better, younger defensive prospect already in the organization.
Andrei Markov still isn't skating. The man who was Montreal's premier defenseman and power play quarterback two years ago has been limited to 52 regular season games in the last two seasons. The Canadiens were—and still are—banking on Markov recovering from another devastating knee injury.
He has yet to skate with the team this season.
With Markov out indefinitely, Spacek hurt and early-season replacement Chris Campoli also injured, Montreal starts the season desperately searching for defensemen to fill the depth chart.
Swiss prospect Yannick Weber has gotten a few shots at making the club in Montreal. A mid-sized offensive defenseman, he looked to be playing as an extra forward in Jacques Martin's scheme. Injuries will likely see the puck mover with the big shot playing a regular role on defense.
Look for Weber to get a longer look as the other point man on the power play with Subban.
Steady defensive defenseman Josh Gorges is back this season from last year's nasty knee injury. A good defender, he is likely to be asked to be the Canadiens shut-down defenseman playing against every team's best offensive players. That seems a lot to ask of the competent Gorges, but at least he should give Montreal a lot of solid defensive minutes.
A couple of 25-year-old European veterans, Russian Alexei Emelin and Swiss-born Raphael Diaz, look to fill out the depth chart on defense for Montreal. The smaller Diaz moved ahead of the much anticipated Emelin on the early-season depth chart. The physical Emelin hasn't seemed to be up to NHL speed yet this season.
Right now these two are in the mix with Yannick Weber to be the bottom three defenseman behind Subban, Gill and Gorges.
This is not a defense to go to the playoffs with. Spacek, Markov and Campoli all have different dates for their returns, but really only Markov is likely to be an upgrade on the blue line.
Montreal needs another veteran defenseman to shore up the blue line. One who could run the power play if Weber doesn't work out might be a critical component to solidify the defensive corps.