The Montreal Canadiens announced that defenseman Shea Weber will miss the remainder of the season and have surgery to repair the tendon in his left foot. Weber has already missed the past 26 games – not to mention seven other earlier contests due to a lower body injury – so this news is more closure than anything, but the surgery also allows Weber the best opportunity to fully recover for 2018-19.
And really, it’s not like things can get much worse for the Habs. The team has been a trainwreck all season, dropping seven of its first eight games and digging a hole from which they never truly emerged. Weber averaged more than 25 minutes per night when he was healthy and was one of Montreal’s best possession players during that span. He also helped young Victor Mete establish himself as an NHLer, often playing on a pairing with the mobile and offensively-gifted rookie.
So if you’re an optimist, you write off this season and look ahead to next year, where a healthy Weber and a more experienced Mete are the undisputed top pairing in town, helping the Canadiens back to respectability. If you’re a super optimist, you look at the tragedy that is Montreal’s record and see that the Habs have a decent chance of winning the draft lottery, thus earning them the services of NHL-ready phenom defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. With Jeff Petry under contract long-term, all of a sudden Montreal’s blueline looks fairly decent.
But there’s a big “if” in that scenario and by no means are the Canadiens guaranteed to get Dahlin. So we deal with the certainties, which are far less rosy.
Montreal is still a structurally flawed team that cannot win in the current NHL until GM Marc Bergevin finds a true No. 1 center – which also happens to be the hardest position to fill in the league.
And as much as some folks would like to ignore the success that Nashville has earned since the Predators traded Weber to Montreal for the younger and more mobile P.K. Subban, it’s hard not to see GM David Poile as having a better beat on where the game was going when the deal went down.
So with this season turfed, let’s look ahead. Weber will be 33 when next season begins and while that’s not ancient, the physical blueliner has put a lot of hard miles on that 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame of his. Assuming he’s healthy next year, he’ll break the 900-game barrier in a Montreal jersey, and do so as a big-time minute-muncher.
It’s only fair to ask how much longer Weber will be effective as a top-pairing D-man. Yes, his contract states that he’ll be in the NHL until 2026. It’s fair to speculate he might retire before then. The annual cap hit of $7.8 million is a big one. But that’s what Bergevin signed up for when he made the deal and he believed he was getting a game-changer. When healthy, Weber has been good. You don’t want him to tamp down his physical game, because it’s a big part of his effectiveness, but it’s worth wondering what Weber’s role will be in a few years. As of now, Montreal has all the time in the world to wonder. It’s not like the Habs have any parades to organize.