Petry Has Become Essential Piece of Habs’ Blue Line

The Montreal Canadiens roster had done its fair share of shifting around the last few seasons. Certain players, who not too long ago considered themselves “the new guy,” have taken up veteran status in the locker room. Among these players is defenseman Jeff Petry.

In the last few seasons, he has become a staple in the Canadiens’ defensive top four. Petry, though often overshadowed by captain and teammate, Shea Weber, has slipped comfortably into a solid number two spot among the club’s defensemen. He led his fellow defenders in ice time while Weber was out for the first 24 games of last season, becoming Montreal’s most trusted d-man. And with career high offensive production over his last two seasons, his stock seems to only be rising.

Stepping Into His Own

When general manager Marc Bergevin acquired Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in 2015 in exchange for a second round (and conditional fifth round) draft pick, many Habs fans shrugged their shoulders at the deal. The then 27-year-old defender was producing average numbers and had not yet played a full 82-game season in the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

It seems that Bergevin saw something in the 2006 second-round draft pick that others did not. The gamble paid off. While being responsible in his own end, his offensive stats have steadily increased since he first put on a Canadiens sweater. Last season, the defender scored 46 points in 82 games while also accumulating 39 takeaways and 190 hits, making it his best offensive and defensive season to date.

Filling Weber’s Big Skates

With Weber only playing in 84 games over the last two seasons, someone needed to play top defensive minutes. Head coach Claude Julien knew he had his guy in Petry, and the Michigan native was up to the task. He soon became a top scoring defenseman and led the organization in hits and blocked shots during the captain’s absence. The 31-year-old has since averaged over 23 minutes of ice time over the last two seasons. When Weber returned from injury, Petry was moved back to his second pairing spot, but his production has not slowed down as a result. Coach Julien now has two defensemen he can trust in nearly any situation.

Sticking Around

In 2015, Petry agreed to a long-term, six-year deal with the Canadiens. When asked about signing with Montreal, he said “My family, my wife and I made a decision that we really, strongly wanted to come back (to Montreal) and we’re just happy that deal could be made rather quickly,”. The contract, worth $33 million, also includes a no-trade clause. But it looks like there’s no other uniform Petry would rather see himself in. (from ‘Canadiens sign defenceman Jeff Petry to six-year contract worth $33 million,’ Montreal Gazette, 06/02/2015)

Jeff Petry (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His loyalty to the organization is certainly refreshing, since many players are hesitant to sign with Montreal. This is likely a combination of media pressures, language, weather and, let’s face it, taxes. But his ‘sticking around’ attitude seems to have rubbed off on other players. One of which is Max Domi who, in April, called the Canadiens, “The best franchise in all of sports,” and claimed he wanted to remain “a Hab for life”.

Season Projections

Petry has had a solid start to the 2019-20 season. The defenseman has put up 2 goals and 10 points in his first 17 games, with a plus/minus of plus-6. Experts are projecting him to generate around 45 points if he stays healthy all season. And, with what is looking like a more efficient power play and an arguably improved defensive top six, it is very likely that he has yet another career year in terms of points. And while cold streaks and injuries are always likely, one thing is certain, Petry will continue to be a leader for this young team, on and off the ice.