CALGARY - Shea Weber has been nothing short of exceptional thus far this season.
The Canadiens' captain has delivered the goods both offensively and defensively for Claude Julien's contingent night after night - and the veteran bench boss couldn't be prouder.
Following Wednesday afternoon's practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Julien was asked whether he believes Weber's play merits consideration for the Norris Trophy.
And his answer was a resounding yes.
"Does he deserve to be in those discussions for the Norris right now? Absolutely," stated Julien, before listing off the various reasons behind that opinion. "The amount of time he spends on the ice per game, his point production, and his plus-minus, what he's done for this hockey club, along with his leadership, there's no doubt he should definitely be in those discussions."
Through 34 games, Weber sits atop all three major offensive categories amongst the Canadiens' defensemen with 11 goals, 17 assists and 28 points.
His plus-11 differential is also tops amongst all players on the roster - along with his 66 blocked shots - and he logs a team-leading 24:07 of ice time per game as well.
League-wise, Weber ranks second in goals and tied for fifth in points amongst all blueliners.
Admittedly, it didn't take partner Ben Chiarot long to become a Weber fan in his first season with Montreal.
"Playing against him, you know he's a good player. He's talked about as a good leader, but playing with him, seeing the kind of guy he is around the rink and with other people, you know he's a pretty impressive guy," praised Chiarot. "I think that's the biggest reason why he's so respected around the League."
Going about their business alongside one another works especially well, according to Chiarot, because their playing styles naturally mesh.
"We play a similar style defensively. We're pretty good at killing plays and getting it going the other way, so we don't spend a whole lot of time in our own end," explained Chiarot, who has also garnered plenty of attention for logging huge minutes of his own in recent weeks. "He's also got great offensive instincts. With him creating the offense, we just form a pretty good pairing in our own end - and he can bring his shot and playmaking in the offensive end."
Goaltender Carey Price has the best view in the house to watch the six-time All-Star work.
And he's thrilled to have his good buddy on board playing at the top of his game.
"He's obviously a big part of our team and he's been playing very well for us. The puck's been finding him in the offensive zone, and he's a force in our end," said Price. "There's no question that he's a big presence in our locker room."
Some extra love for Carey
After watching Price's 38-save performance against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, Julien was asked about his play of late.
The 32-year-old Anahim Lake, BC native has won four of his last five starts - and allowed just seven goals on 146 shots along the way for an impressive .952 save percentage.
"He's been extremely good. Couldn't ask for better. He's been solid. Even yesterday, he kept us in the game until we got on the board," said Julien. "That stretch where people were maybe second-guessing him and his play, that was a lot of our own fault in front of him. We were so sloppy. We needed to help him more than he needed to help us. I think we've done a better job of that in the last few weeks of tightening up defensively and allowing him to do his job properly."
So what makes Price extra special, Ben?
"It makes life a lot easier for a defenseman with him back there. He's so good. Obviously stopping the puck, but playing the puck, too. He can stop it behind the net and snap it on the tape just as good as any of our defensemen can," praised Chiarot. "That makes life a lot easier for us, and his communication. He's exactly what I thought he'd be, and even better."