Roman Hamrlik has been a rock on the Canadiens’ defense for the better part of the last two seasons. Given the fact that he has been charged with shouldering the majority of the load left in the absence of Andrei Markov for the better part of two season, he has shown great poise and leadership. With Hamrlik in the twilight of his career, he has shown that he still has the desire to compete (sometimes too much) , and willingness to get down and dirty when his team neede him to.
All that being said, one of the major issues I have with “The Hammer” is his sometimes ill-advised attempts to pinch. While you can lay a lot of blame on the fact he played the majority of his season alongside Jaroslav Spacek, as a veteran D-man, he should be privy to the fact he no longer has the same athletic ability he showed when he was first drafted to the NHL by the Tampa Bay Lightning first overall in 1992. With his speed diminished, he should have played a more stay-at-home game, and left the offensive efforts come from the likes of P.K. Subban, James Wisniewski and Yannick Weber.
However, one of the primary reasons I can honestly give Hamrlik a pass on is his ability to mentor young defensemen like Subban and Weber. He served as the mentor to Leafs’ Captain Dion Phaneuf, when they were both with the Calgary Flames, and Phaneuf was just a rookie. It can be said that Hamrlik’s departure from the Flames to the Habs affected the play of Phaneuf, who was subsequently dealt to Toronto. While Hamrlik may not be the player he used to be, he certainly has other qualities that make him an important part of this hockey club.
Hamrlik is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1st, and I think it would be in the Canadiens organization’s best interest to retain his services, albeit for a considerable discount. The aging defenseman can no longer quantify a $5.25 Million contract, but would be a good piece to keep on the club for, perhaps, half that amount. Furthermore, for years, we, as fans and media, have been clamoring for a former NHL defenseman to take the defensive coaching duties away from assistant coach Perry Pearn. While Pearn is a good coach, his strengths lie with special teams, and not with developing defenseman. Hamrlik would be an ideal candidate to eventually fill that role.