It is becoming increasingly harder to find positives in Montreal’s free fall. However, the play of defenceman Mark Barberio has been one of them. Barberio was an under the radar signing over the summer as he was only expected to be a seventh defenceman at best in the NHL with his most likely scenario being in the AHL with the St. John’s IceCaps. A few months have since changed all that for the local kid who has made an impression with his hometown team.
Making a good impression
Barberio was called up to Montreal on December 27th after their loss to the Washington Capitals and with Tom Gilbert out with an injury, it was mildly surprising considering Greg Pateryn and the now departed Jarred Tinordi were in the press box and ready to play. Of the three, Barberio has been the best. Tinordi was recently traded to the Arizona Coyotes after failing to gain the trust of the coaching staff while Pateryn has been relegated to the press box on a pretty permanent basis.
Montreal’s defence corps has struggled mightily, much like the forwards in the absence of goalie Carey Price. Price is like a third defenceman when he plays as his puckhandling ability helps the Habs break out of their own zone. Andrei Markov’s decline has been painful to watch as his lack of speed has led to mistakes Markov rarely made in the past. Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin have had their own struggles while Nathan Beaulieu has had issues with turnovers and spotty defensive coverage at times. Even PK Subban, who is leading the Habs in scoring with 37 points in 50 games with a +6, couldn’t escape the boo birds at the Bell Centre after some of his turnovers led to goals in a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Here to stay
Since his arrival, Barberio hasn’t played a ton of minutes but his solid play and the struggles of others dictate that maybe he needs to have more ice time. Barberio did play briefly alongside Subban and they looked good during that small sample size. He isn’t a defenceman who is going to light the score sheet ablaze (despite great stats in junior and the AHL) and he isn’t going wow anyone with big hits or outstanding defensive play. Instead, he plays an understated game using his speed to make plays and make the right decisions.
"We need better support, and get better zone exits" – Mark Barberio.
Sign this guy to an extension.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 15, 2016
He got buried last year playing on a deeper Tampa Bay Lightning team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals but he has seemingly found his footing in Montreal for the meantime. The fact he exceeded the 10 game limit in the NHL says a lot because if he is to be sent down, he would need waivers. Clearly management sees a role for him despite the presence of Pateryn and Tom Gilbert on his way back from injury. With the way Barberio is playing, he deserves to stay in the lineup.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.