Unless you find the fountain of youth, all of us will get to a point in our lives where we will have to slow down. Some of us have reached that level in our personal life, hockey players reach it much sooner. And when you have made a career of playing tough minutes against top opposition at an elite level, a simple step back is much more noticeable. The mind is still going strong, but the old legs can’t keep up. What used to take a few hours to recuperate from now takes days and the aches and pains are more regular than a Swiss watch… even for a Man Mountain.
The Montreal Canadiens don’t have to look far to see it first hand. Team captain Shea Weber has taken a few strides back this season. Some of it had to do with the fact that his defense partner Ben Chiarot was also not having a good season, but Weber shoulders some of the blame too. For someone who is used to carrying his defense pairing, particularly since coming to Montreal, not being able to cover for their mistakes exposes the entire pairing, himself included. And that’s what fans are seeing right now.
While many think that he’s done, too few can see the forest from the tree. In a shorten season and less rest, the older guys are tiring faster. The old legs are heavy. Mostly though, the lack of top-pairing worthy partner is costing Weber more than anything. Chiarot is not a top-pair defenseman. Nor are any of the left-handed defensemen on the Habs. And that’s why I believe so strongly that Marc Bergevin must do everything in his power to get a player like Mattias Ekholm, to finally better support his veteran captain.
No suitable partner
Aside from Man Mountain, here’s the Canadiens’ defense: Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry, Brett Kulak, Alexander Romanov, Victor Mete. Even if you add Cale Fleury and Xavier Ouellet, which one(s) aside from Petry is first pairing worthy to play against the top opposition? Not who’s the best suited, but who is a top-pair defenseman? Asking the question is answering it. Here are the main defense partners who played with Weber since the Canadiens acquired him. It’s not pretty…
|2020-21:||Ben Chiarot (73.70%)|
|2019-20:||Ben Chiarot (58.78%)||Victor Mete (22.47%)|
|2018-19:||Victor Mete (66.29%)||Brett Kulak (16.27%)|
|2017-18:||Victor Mete (40.10%)||Jordie Benn (38.55%)|
|2016-17||Alexei Emelin (60.33%)||Andrei Markov (22.06%)||Nathan Beaulieu (11.99%)|
The only one who once was a top-pair defenseman on that list is Andrei Markov. It was however Marky’s last season and he didn’t have the wheels he used to have. Now since the injury to Chiarot, they tried rookie Romanov, now they’re trying Edmundson.
How long before Bergevin realizes that Weber is aging and while he carried the Habs’ defense on his back since his acquisition, age is taking its toll and he can’t do it anymore? He can no longer cover for his partners and now, people think that he’s done. NEWSBREAK: He’s NOT!
Look at what Edmundson has done to Petry’s game. He complements Petry’s skating with sound, stay at home defensive play. Petry is the puck-mover, the skating defenseman on that pair. Weber is not the skater or the puck mover. He’s one of the league’s best and most intimidating shutdown (or was) but he has passed the 1,000 NHL games mark. He just can’t make up for weak partners anymore. But put him with a suitable, acceptable partner, and he will still be a great top-4 for a few more years. He scratched the Habs’ back all those years. It’s time for the Habs to scratch his. Go Habs Go!