MONTREAL - Compared to the six other new Habs this summer, it took Jaroslav Spacek a little longer to settle in to the 514 and get his feet wet in his new NHL home. With training camp finally under way, the first free agent inked by Bob Gainey on July 1 is already showing Montrealers why he’ll be worth the wait.
Armed with the league’s best power play two of the past three years, the Canadiens know exactly what it takes to score with the man advantage: a trigger man. Just the man for the job, Spacek is set to put the eponymous “S-word” back into Montreal’s special
After posting a league-leading 22.8% power play efficiency in 2006-07 thanks to Sheldon Souray’s rocket from the point, followed by an NHL-high 24.1% success rate in 2007-08 with Mark Streit manning the blue line, the Habs seemed poised for a three-peat last season. When his troops dropped to a middle-of-the-pack 19.4% in 2008-09, though, Gainey headed out in search of a new quarterback.
Coming off a career-year in Buffalo that saw him lead all Sabres defensemen with 45 points, Spacek is all about creating offense. Tallying 22 points while anchoring the Sabres’ power play, Spacek not only led all Buffalo blue-liners with the man advantage, he also catapulted the team to the seventh-best power play in the league. With 33 of his 73 career goals coming with the man advantage, the 35-year-old will have no problem lighting it up with the Habs alongside All-Star Andrei Markov
Gainey isn’t the only one with Spacek now on his speed dial. With Olympic gold and bronze medals already on his mantle back in Rokycany in the Czech Republic and 74 games of senior international experience under his belt, the veteran defenseman was on the Czech national squad’s short list released last week. If Spacek does suit up for the Czechs in Vancouver this February, he’ll be donning his native colors in his fourth straight Olympics.
Until then, Spacek will be exactly where Gainey wanted him to be when he picked up the phone in July—patrolling the Canadiens’ blue line. Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.comRead alsoTraining camp: Day 2 And so it begins Do not enter Ready for more 54 players invited to official camp