Yet Another Pupil For Defense Mentor Hamrlik

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    Habster:
    The Canadiens struggle over the past four games can be attributed to many factors: lack of effort at both ends of the ice especially back checking and leaving players unattended in front of their net, average to poor goaltending and other teams being able to shut down the KPK line which has carried the offensive load the last 2-3 weeks.
    While all these problems exist because of a collective team disfunctional situation, it’s very apparent the Habs miss agruably their best all-round defenseman, Roman Hamrlik who has been a solid, unspectacular two way contributor this season.
    I can remember how the media and hockey fans were questioning the merits of signing Roman Hamrlik to a 4 year/ $22 million contract in the off-season. How there were questions about his age, the dollar value of the contract or how he couldn’t possibly replace Sheldon Souray’s offense in the lineup. Well, let’s fast forward to the present and re-evaluate the Hamrlik vs Souray situation to gauge your opinion now………. wow, the silence is deafing!!!
    Yes, Hamrlik would not have put up as many point as Mr. Souray would have if he was healthy in Edmonton (operative word here is healthy) but he does bring a much more solid game in the defensive zone without those famous highlight reel moments that Sheldon would give to the Spezzas of the world.
    I have to admit that I was one of those fans who felt that Bob Gainey had let the bigger names like Brian Rafalski, Kimmo Timonen (-7 folks), Mathieu Schneider, Tom Preissing (-7 and only 17 points), Brad Stuart (-12 and only 17 points) get away and that he signed Hamrlik as a last resort…….this couldn’t be further from the truth as Gainey admitted to the media that Hamrlik was one of his first choices to replace Souray and brings a much more rounded game to the blueline.
    “Roman Hamrlik established himself as a solid NHL veteran. The acquisition of Roman fills a very important need in our organization. He is a strong defenceman with a powerful shot and excellent hockey skills. He brings to our club a solid experience and an excellent reputation,” Gainey told the media when the signing was announced on July 2, 2007.
    The Canadiens sorely need Roman Hamrlik back in the lineup for tomorrow’s game against a struggling, yet very physical Flyers team. Don’t be deceived by their five game losing streak as Philadelphia is a very good hockey team even without Simon Gagne who will be out indefinitely with another concussion (his second of the season, no less!!).
    Getting back to Hamrlik, Guy Carbonneau is hoping to put “Hammer” (as his teammates call him) name on the lineup card against the Flyers to give him a solid top two pairings of Hamrlik/O’Byrne and Markov/Komisarek. Hamrlik has had a very solid season to date and eats up a lot minutes with his calm, good decisions with or without the puck. You can count the number of giveaways/poor decisions he’s made on one hand…..OK!!, maybe one and a half hands!!! He is a huge calming factor for Ryan O’Byrne and will help in his development as he did with another good young defenseman by the name of Dion Phaneuf. It took Dion Phaneuf about 3-4 weeks to find his playing “groove” with another defense partner this season after the departure of Roman Hamrlik which tell you a lot about him.
    Pursegate withstanding, Ryan O’Byrne played two solid games against the Lightning and Panthers (he wasn’t on the ice for any goals against) without Hamrlik as his defense partner……it can only get better with Mr. Hamrlik’s steady presence next to that purse loving guy!!!!