The Montreal Canadiens have quite a few positives to take away from their 2013 season. They were able to climb out of the depths of the Eastern Conference and grabbed the no. 2 seed in the playoffs. A major reason for that success was the play of their defense, all over the blue line.
While P.K. Subban will get most of the attention as a defenseman for the Habs, and it’s well deserved after winning the Norris Trophy, there are others that were solid contributors as well. One of those players was Raphael Diaz, who built off of a solid rookie season and turned in a very strong sophomore campaign, albeit in limited action.
Diaz was only able to make it into 23 games during the lockout-shortened regular season, but he made every single one of them count. The reason he wasn’t able to make it into more action for Montreal was a concussion that held him out in March and most of April, before he was able to return at the end of the regular season, in time for the playoffs.
In those 23 games, Diaz posted 14 points from the blue line, 13 of them being helpers. That was just two points short of his production in his rookie campaign, in 36 less games than he appeared in during the 2011-2012 season. Eight of those assists came with the Habs on the man advantage.
We know Diaz is an offensive weapon for this team. But he’s also a more than capable player in his own end. His size doesn’t allow him to play the physical game too much, but he’ll block shots, having stopped 44 from getting to the net during the 2013 season. His combination of play in the offensive end and in his own zone bodes well for the future.
Though he’s flying a bit under the radar in Montreal, with some of the other marquee players currently on the roster, he’s more of an all-around defenseman than people realize. With a healthy season next year, he could be ready to break out in a big way, and once again be a big part of a contending Canadiens team.