Yannick Weber will allow Guy Carbonneau to turn back the clock. Not to the days of Sheldon Souray and a point shot that had even Gaston Gingras asking where the puck went (Gaston, a hint: most slapshots head toward the net), but to last season, where the traditional 12-forward plus six-defencemen lineup seemed to be nothing more than a suggested serving.
Enough has been said of the the Habs power play of late. To me, it brings the same sigh and groan as Seinfeld reruns. They used to be hilarious, and I’d occasionally even wet my pants, but now when I catch them on every other channel-surfed station, I hang around to watch—reluctantly and without much laughter.
I can't help it, I feel like I am forced to, like the Habs are forced to go on a man-advantage when the opposition takes a penalty. Although often of late, they seem to “decline” the penalty by taking on one of their own seconds in.
But like the Habs power play, there’s no longer any edge-of-chair enthusiasm or any sense of expectation and deliverance when watching these episodes for the umpteenth time. Instead, I watch them with a feeling of “let’s get this over with, get back to normal programming, and on to something that might actually be satisfying.”
There are a lot of explanations thrown around as to why the power play went from first to worst, and many suggestions that Yannick Weber is the new No. 44 or Mark Streit clone. There is also popular sentiment, perhaps only naively merited and based more on hearsay from a few jump-the-gun pundits, that Weber's weak defensive play has held him back.
If Carbo could dress 19 skaters and have one designated to the power play only, perfect. In lieu of that, though, don’t be surprised to see the coach go back to the flex-lineup he dressed much of last season.
Between Mark Streit, Mathieu Dandenault, Patrice Brisebois, and Francis Bouillon, he did a lot of hedging when filling out his lineup.
Whether due to a return from injury, or their effectiveness in only specific situations, Carbo often slated a defencemen, sometimes even two, on his forward lines. This allowed him to leverage a player’s strength and mitigate their weakness, either limiting their minutes in the third period or shifting them back to the blue line and shortening his bench when called for.
The time is once again ripe for that approach. The factors for this include:
the wave and depth of current injuries,
the hesitancy to bring up the entire farm too quickly,
the Ryan O’Byrne setback,
the emergence of Josh Georges and his ability to eat minutes, and
a 37-year old “No. 7 defenceman” who's already played more minutes than budgeted for all year.
As for Weber, his slapshot was certainly impressive during the quick glimpse we got of it in the preseason. The time has come for Carbo to let him dress, give him his 1:30 of each power play, and then get him off the ice and out of harm’s way. At least until he proves he can handle defensive responsibilities.
Don’t bank on him for much defence, and perhaps even have him penciled in on the fourth line that is suddenly without many stand-by passengers. Just prevent him from digging himself a hole like Mr. O’Byrne.
Shoot, there’s nothing to lose. Pardon the pun, but please do shoot. Have him get out there and shoot the puck over and over and add a new angle to the uninspiring rerun.
With the opposition no longer afraid to foul the Habs and have them head to the line repeatedly, he’d be able to take on a significant number of minutes on PP alone. The rest of the game, between Weber used sparingly on defence, Francis Bouillon at forward, Patrice Brisebois filling in, and Georges Laraque eating similar minutes to Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, Carbo should be able to put forth a proper defence without being short-staffed.
The power-play result may also give us what to watch in May and June in lieu of Jerry and friends.