When the Habs announced in the 2011 offseason that they had signed Raphael
Diaz, most fans figured he was Hamilton bound and only would see limited time
with Montreal. Instead, Diaz made the team out of camp and played a
regular role before an injury ended his season prematurely. With more
stability having signed a two year deal this summer, what does he have in store
for an encore?
Coming out of training camp, Diaz was looked at as the 6th/7th defenceman but
it didn’t take long for him to move up the lineup. Having gained the
confidence of then-coach Jacques Martin plus a barrage of injuries, he had a six
game stretch that saw him play at least 20 minutes per game including a career
high 27:48 during the Habs’ lost to San Jose in December. Under Randy
Cunneyworth his ice time dropped a fair bit, in large part due to the regular
dressing of a seventh defenceman. He also saw regular time on the second
special teams units; he was just one of two defencemen (the other being P.K.
Subban) to average over a minute per game on both the powerplay and penalty
kill. Despite not playing in 23 games, he ranked third among rookie
blueliners in blocked shots with 102.
Season Stats: 59 GP, 3 G, 13 A, 16 PTS, -7 rating, 30 PIMS, 0
PPG, 1 GWG, 61 SOG, 18:00 ATOI
(As this was his first year in North America, his comparables are from his
time in the NLA in Switzerland.)
Although his spot on the roster is more entrenched than it was at this time
last year, there remains some uncertainty as to what role he will actually have
with the club. The return of Andrei Markov (we hope) and the addition of
Francis Bouillon make the depth chart a little more crowded. As it stands,
he looks to be in the 6th/7th role which is where he was to start 2011-12.
Personally, I’d pencil him in as a regular that should still play a regular
secondary role on special teams but a drop in his average TOI should be
There really aren’t a whole lot of Habs that qualify as ‘sleepers’ but Diaz
is one of them. Provided he stays healthy, he should be able to surpass
last years’ offensive output while playing both special teams units gives him a
chance to pick up the odd point in those categories as well. Of course,
given the depth of the blueline, there is a bit of risk involved in picking him
but that is somewhat mitigated by the fact he’ll be overlooked by many. In
deep leagues he is worth selecting in late rounds while in standard sized ones
he is worth placing on a watch list to see if he moves up the depth chart.