Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber injury handcuffs Habs to rebuild

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 16: Shea Weber
OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 16: Shea Weber /

The Montreal Canadiens will be without Shea Weber for a good chunk of the 2018-19 season which could make it a building year instead of a competing one.

The Montreal Canadiens haven’t had an ideal off-season, in terms of the on-ice product of course. With news derailing the clubs off-season plans after Shea Weber had an unexpected knee surgery sidelining him for 5-6 months, the Canadiens are left with a lacklustre back end, and only one likely solution.

It’s unlikely that the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most prestige franchises in NHL history, commit to a full rebuild. But with the cards they’ve been dealt this off-season, it sure makes sense to chalk 2019 as a year for development.

In the meantime, how do the Habs solve their glaring hole on defence for the 2018-19 season?

Their best bet is doing it internally. As far as I’m concerned, you can pencil in Karl Alzner, Jeff Petry and Victor Mete as locks to start next season with the big club. Fighting for other spots are likely Noah Juulsen, David Schlemko, Mike Reilly, Xavier Ouellet and Jordie Benn. With the calendar still on July, these eight defencemen are the ones that are going to make up the Habs back end next season, at least until Weber is healthy. Yikes.

If Montreal is smart, they give big minutes to Juulsen and Mete and let them make their mistakes as they continue to develop in the NHL. The Habs also took a flyer on Ouellet during free agency, and if the defenceman can finally string together some consistency and add some foot speed, he could be a nice bargain.

More from Editorials

The back end isn’t the only area that will see Weber’s injury impact the Canadiens. When your team loses it’s best defenceman, and one who eats some of the most minutes in the league, there’s a problem that can’t be solved unless you’re willing to pay the price. Montreal has no reason to try and add a veteran defenceman via trade or free agency, especially one that will cost them long-term assets.

With all of this being said, it’s clear that the Canadiens have holes down the middle of the ice and on defence, both of which aren’t solvable this year. With highly touted center prospects Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling joining the mix shortly, the Montreal Canadiens can afford to be patient and see what 2018-19 brings them at center. Jonathan Drouin isn’t a natural center, and if the aforementioned players develop accordingly, he won’t have to be anymore.

The next item on the agenda this summer for Marc Bergevin is likely a Max Pacioretty trade. Coming off of a 17-goal campaign, Pacioretty’s value isn’t scorching high, but it goes without saying that this is one of the NHL’s most consistent 30-goal scorers over the past five seasons. Habs fans can likely still expect a high draft pick and a good prospect in return for their captain seeing as how this is truly a situation that Bergevin can’t afford to screw up.

Next: Richardson's Coaching Started With Tortorella

Even with a healthy Weber, the Montreal Canadiens weren’t likely to be a force in the Atlantic division this upcoming season. With Weber now sidelined until at least November, the Habs now have the chance to waive the white flag and do so knowing that brighter times are ahead.