It’s impossible to go an entire season in Montreal without some adversity. The fans and media are simply too rabid about the Canadiens to allow the team to float through seven months of hockey without some form of crisis somewhere along the line.
But with the Habs near the Eastern Conference leaders all season and the hockey gods keeping a Kevlar aura around the squad to prevent any serious injuries, Montreal was leading about as adversity-free existence as could be expected.
Then Mike Komisarek got hurt.
The big defenseman who’s always some shade of black and blue will be lost until at least the start of the playoffs with one of those pesky “lower-body injuries.”
Even without playing another regular season game this year, Komisarek will end up leading the NHL in blocked shots. He was a workhorse on the back end, clearing bodies, blocking pucks and just generally inflicting hurt.
The Canadiens cannot replace everything Komisarek brings and would obviously love to have him back in the lineup as soon as possible. But opportunity has long been adversity’s traveling partner and Komisarek’s absence provides a chance for somebody else – maybe a few people – in the Canadiens dressing room to stand up and be counted.
Montreal’s depth and diversity allows it to drop Mark Streit from forward to defense. Ditto for Mathieu Dandenault, if the team so desires. Veteran Patrice Brisebois could even draw back into the lineup if the Canadiens want to go that route.
But it’s about more than just filling the open slot on the blueline. Some players already taking regular shifts need to embrace the spirit of Komisarek’s game while he’s away. Ryan O’Byrne might be a rookie, but at 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds he’s got the frame to mimic Komisarek’s game. Coach Guy Carbonneau is obviously reticent to rely on a first-year player too heavily in the midst of trying to chase down first place in the East, but what better time for O’Byrne to take the next step in his development by making his style a little more coarse.
That would go a long way in keeping things smooth for the Habs.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.
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