Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Know When To Hold 'Em

You know how sometimes you drive through a city work site and you see the local workers all standing around a bunch of trucks, drinking coffee? And then you drive back an hour later, and they're drinking coffee again...or still? Yeah, well, those guys get it. They have learned never to let the bosses know what they're capable of doing. You know how to fix a truck, even though your actual job is driving the truck? Never tell the bosses that, or you'll be expected to do it. Never let 'em know you can solve an electrical problem if you're a plumber. They'll just call on you to use your skill, but there won't be any benefit in it. You don't get more money or appreciation. You end up doing somebody else's job and you get nothing.

Tomas Plekanec hasn't learned that lesson. Some people are just hardwired to work hard all the time, and they're predisposed to please people. So, here we have Plekanec who's the Canadiens' best centreman offensively, but he's also capable of being the best defensive centre on the team. As it turns out, a lot of players in the organization are able to make slick passes. Not very many are able to cover Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs.

Plekanec is 31 this year. He doesn't have a whole lot of years left to be at his best as an NHL player. Yet, because he's demonstrated his skill at both ends of the ice, he'll, once again, end up taking most of the defensive zone faceoffs and killing penalties because there's nobody else able to do it as well. The past two seasons have seen David Desharnais gifted the best two wingers on the team because most offensive wingers aren't necessarily great in their own end. Plekanec, who's a better centre, gets stuck with the likes of Travis Moen on his line for extended periods because he's playing so much defense.

This is an oversight of Marc Bergevin as GM. He needed to bring in a player who could help Plekanec, either a third or fouth-line centre with superior faceoff skills, or an offensive winger who can handle defensive assignments. He did neither. So, once again, Plekanec will be expected to play massive defensive minutes on a team that really could use some goal scoring. Once again, he'll have a great October and November, then start to flag after Christmas, culminating in criticism of his lack of production in the playoffs (if the team makes them) because he's been given a tough defensive assignment.

Plekanec has been a professional in every way in his years with the Habs. He deserves a chance to be the clear-cut, number-one centre without a bunch of other roles thrust upon him. Soon, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller will surpass him offensively and he'll be relegated to a third-line shut-down role. He should be given a chance this year to take the best wingers on the this case Max Pacioretty and Galchenyuk...and unleash his speed and hands on offence without having to be the defensive conscience of the forward corps.

If there's any justice in the coach's office, Plekanec should be given an offensive assignment this season, and a chance to be a star for once. He's been the most reliable player on the team for years, and even if he'd never ask for it himself, he deserves a chance to just go for it. While it's great to find satisfaction in being a shut-down guy, those joys are usually reserved for those who can't contribute in any other way. Plekanec is more than that. Sometimes, he must regret letting the bosses know what he can really do.


Marc said...

Not sure I agree.

What you are suggesting would probably make the Habs a lesser team and for what? To prove Plekanec can produce more offence when everyone should know he can produce 60-70 points?

Unless Eller was truly ready to take on Plekanec's current role with Gionta as part of the ''shutdown'' line...then it could work. Those are BIG shoes to fill. I think Eller will be able to do it sometime down the road, but asking him to do it this year is a big task.

I don't have an issue going with Pacioretty - Plekanec - Gionta though.

J.T. said...

@Marc: Yes, they are very big shoes to fill. But sooner rather than later, someone else is going to have to fill them. Why not give the job to Eller now and let him learn while he's got Pleky to mentor him? In the meantime, let the guy who's carried a lot of the grunt work for years have some fun for once. It's not like the Habs are real contenders this year, so give the guy a break.

Pierre-Paul Ferland said...

Great writeup JT glad you're back!
As for the article... Plecks has been the Habs most underrated player for YEARS, especially in the french media. If these guys would bother to pull up their head out of the 1970s and dare to check out such things as "defensive zone face-offs", they might just realize how the guy is useful to the team. As you said, he gets all the tough assignments against the Crosbys and Ovechkins while Deharnais benefits from o-zone face-offs and sheltered minutes. I wish Eller blooms this season and shares the workload with him so he can produce more.

Northern_Sooner said...

Last time I looked Plekanec was the highest paid forward on the team.

Regardless of how he is utilized, he'll be collecting his $5MM/year for the next three seasons. After that, as you say, he will probably be moved to a 3rd line shutdown role.

Where is the problem?