In checking the latest Habs news around the 'net this morning, I came across an article in a Czech newspaper that features an interview with Tomas Plekanec. I was very worried about him going to arbitration because of the potential damage it would do to his relationship with the team. Then he avoided that by signing a one-year deal for 2.75 million; a nice raise and the show of respect from the team he said he was hoping to see. I thought it was all over, and things would be back on track for him now.
But reading today's interview is really discouraging, at least for someone who wants to see Plekanec bounce back and remain a Hab for a long time. In the story, he says he feels like he's on probation this year. He figures if he fails to have a great season, he'll be traded at the earliest opportunity. He says he's trying to put the uncertainty and the trade rumours out of his head and just focus on having a good season, because he enjoys Montreal and he'd like to stay. But although he's saying that, we know his confidence is a fragile thing and the uncertainty will undoubtedly weigh on his peace of mind this season. It's almost as though he's resigning himself to moving on next year, if he doesn't get traded during this season.
I know a lot of fans are ready to see the end of Plekanec. His last season wasn't great and his playoff performances, while as good as anyone else's on the team in the last couple of years, haven't been stellar. But Plekanec, given good linemates and a clean slate, is a very useful player who's more than capable of being a solid second centre. There's nobody else in the Habs' system who fills that void right now, or even the season after next unless Ben Maxell, Louis Leblanc or some surprise like Maxim Trunev can take on that role. And with Plekanec's current market value at an ebb, he's probably worth more to the Canadiens on his own than the return he'd bring from elsewhere.
He says he's looking forward to playing with his new teammates. I hope things work out for him, because the team needs him to be at his best. And he needs to prove to Gainey that he's worth the backing of a multi-year contract. A guy like Plekanec needs to be given confidence in order for him to be confident. Without that support from the team, he's going to feel like he's on trial all year, which will make for tough going this season. If he can perform under that kind of pressure, he should be able to quiet most of the doubting voices out there...including the one in his own head...about his ability to produce during tough times.
And maybe next year, the tone of the interviews he gives before camp will be much more upbeat. I just hope he's still a Hab when he's giving them.