So it seems as if these are the only types of clothes we're going to see Andrei Markov wearing for the next two to four months. For the second game in a row at the Air Canada Center in Toronto Markov has suffered a devastating injury. Memories of the end of last season are flashing in the minds of all Montreal Canadiens fans, but we have to remember how different this team is. For starters we have more depth on defense this year than last. Remember that last year Mathieu Schneider was also injured against Toronto, and the loss of both our big power play guys was too much to handle for a fragile team. This year we have much more depth on defense, and it's very lucky we do.
Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins were forced to play without both Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar for most of the season, and while I'm not saying the Canadiens will win the cup this year, there are important parallels to draw in this situation. Pittsburgh didn't panic when faced with this adversity, and although Michel Therrien was fired as head coach, the Penguins didn't sell the farm for an offensive defenseman to come in as a temporary replacement. They put their faith in young Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. The Penguins were a bubble team for the first half of the season, but this expanded responsibility forced Kris Letang especially to become the player he has the potential to be. Goligoski also improved from this experience, and we'll see that more this year as he gets a shot with the big club. The maturation of Letang and Goligoski allowed Ray Shero to trade highly coveted Ryan Whitney to the Ducks for Chris Kunitz and a top prospect in Eric Tangradi. In all likelihood Yannick Weber will be called up from Hamilton in the next few days to occupy the 7th defenseman slot, and he'll draw into the lineup soon enough to play small minutes on the 3rd pairing along with powerplay time alongside Spacek on the first wave.
Unlike last season we have a lot of depth on defense in the organization. We poached a division rival's #1 defenseman in the offseason in Jaroslav Spacek, and at the beginning of the season Roman Hamrlik won't be as tired as he was last year, so we have two good guys for a first pairing. Josh Gorges is used to playing a top 4 role from last season, and Ryan O'Byrne also seems ready to take a bigger role with the club. Hal Gill and Paul Mara need to have their ice time kept lower than it was last night, I think everyone who saw that game can agree to that. Unlike last season we don't have to depend on Patrice Brisebois to play beyond his years, and with all due respect to Bob Gainey, we have a much better coach manning the bench this year, who can insulate the defense by changing the way Montreal plays. We also have a glutton of prospects who can fill in if need be in Weber, Subban, Carle and if desperate and decimated by injury, even Bell and Benoit. Obviously no one in the organization can replace Markov, but this isn't a death sentence as some would have you believe.
This team will be stronger by the end of this season, and going on in the next few seasons because of this injury. Am I'm not happy that Markov got injured, don't get me wrong, I'm devastated. But I refuse to pack up and throw this season down the toilet because of it, we need to see this as an opportunity to improve.