Defence still a puzzle as Subban negotiations continue
Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien watches his team go through drills during their training camp Tuesday, January 15, 2013 in Brossard, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 4:27PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013 5:40PM EST
The Montreal Canadiens' battle for spots on defence is hard to figure as the season approaches, all because of the wildcard that is P.K. Subban.
Will he play opening night Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs or won't he? As negotiations continue, the top six are shaping up for opening night.
It's a difficult scenario for new head coach Michel Therrien, who has to assess and pick his six for Saturday night without a single true pre-season game.
“It’s not an ideal situation,” he said. “There is no doubt about that. We rely on what we saw in the past year. We rely on the scrimmage we see and the teaching that we try to bring this week.”
Right now, it appears Yannick Weber, Jarred Tinordi et Mike Commodore are the players expected to sit opening night.
All nine players in training camp are trying to learn the new aggressive puck possession system, said Weber.
“We know with the coaching staff that there's a new system; a new philosophy. He makes sure we go step by step. We take baby steps and we practice what we saw on the video – and then we practice what we saw on the video,” he explained.
One of the players on the bubble for opening night is Raphael Diaz, who recently shined in the Swiss hockey league, where in 32 games he scored seven goals and 22 assists for a total of 29 points and a plus-minus rating of plus 19.
“The pressure to the net is intense here. You have to box out the players and help (Carey) Price to see the puck. We have to support each other with little passes and come out together to support the rush,” he said.
Diaz is partnered with Francis Bouillon at camp, who is nearing the end of his career and thrilled to be back playing in Montreal.
Bouillon said he’s impressed with Diaz.
“I’ve been here three days and I feel great with him. He reminds me of my partner that I had in Nashville, Kevin Klein. He was solid defenceman. Handles the pucks and he plays solid in his own zone. That's what I need as a partner,” he said.
The defence corps could be stronger than previously billed: Andrei Markov's healthy, Tomas Kaberle's fit. Alexei Emelin is more experienced, and Josh Gorges is a warrior.