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The Habs rank 25th in the NHL according to The Athletic
Credit: Photo by David Kirouac for Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

The Canadiens have had another difficult season. That’s normal, it’s part of a rebuild. The defense is young and has proven that it’s far from ready to compete.

Montreal allowed 281 goals during the 2023-24 season, the fifth-highest total for an NHL team this season. That might explain why Dom Luszczyszyn and Sean Gentille of The Athletic have decided to rank the Canadiens 25th in the NHL for defensive brigade quality.

We must be careful, however. We’re talking here about each team’s current defense, so prospects and young players in development are not (or very little) taken into account.

It may sound frustrating, but it’s deserved. Mike Matheson finished the season with an impressive 62 points, but he also finished with a differential of -24, which isn’t really worthy of a number-one NHL defenseman.

Kaiden Guhle and David Savard also did a good job, but they sometimes played on the first pair in 2023-24, when they’re top-4 players. David Savard won’t get any better over the years, but Guhle still has plenty of time to try and develop as a defenseman who can play regularly on a first pair.

After those three defensemen, it was total chaos. We’re talking about a game of musical chairs between Jordan Harris, Johnathan Kovacevic, Arber Xhekaj, Jayden Struble and Justin Barron. There was no consistency, and we’re talking about a depth defender for each of them.

Dom Luszczyszyn and Sean Gentille admit, however, that the future looks bright for defensemen in Montreal with David Reinbacher and Lane Hutson.

The Golden Knights took first place in the rankings with a defensive brigade comprising Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Noah Hanifin, Brayden McNabb, Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague.

Last in the standings are the San Jose Sharks. This comes as no surprise, given their reliance on Jan Rutta and Mario Ferraro as their top defensemen this season.

In The Athletic‘s other rankings, the Canadiens also rank 25th for quality of wingers and 26th for quality of centers.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in Montreal. Kent Hughes needs to find top-6 forwards, but he also needs to find one or more defensemen who can play an important role in the coming years.

The Canadiens may be tempted to draft a defenseman early on.

Overtime

– Ken Holland should not be with the Oilers at the draft.

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