One of the more interesting discussions leading into training camp in a
couple weeks time is what to do with David Desharnais. He spent most of
last season at centre but as it stands today, he’s probably 4th on the depth chart at
that position. In last year’s postseason, he spent a little bit of time on
the wing and played well. What should his role be for 2011-12?
Our writers have several different viewpoints on how Desharnais should be
deployed, here are their thoughts.
Matt Dilworth: This is largely dependent on what Lars Eller’s
status is at the beginning of the season. If Eller is healthy, I would prefer
to see Desharnais try out the wing where he was beginning to have some success
in the playoffs. As Desharnais’ diminutive size plays against him down the
middle, Eller’s size would prove more advantageous. However, if Eller isn’t
ready for the season’s start, Desharnais will likely earn the #3 centre role by
default, unless there are some training camp surprises or late signings.
George Kouniakis: I think based on last season, it’s more
important that Eller play at centre. There was a noticeable difference in
Eller’s performance at centre compared to his performance at wing, and by
season’s end, Eller had shown he was capable of playing a solid checking centre
role. If Desharnais is capable of playing on Eller’s wing and continues to
contribute (as well as have a second option for faceoffs) until he is needed to
fill in at centre in the event of an injury, that would speak to Desharnais’
value and versatility. Alternatively, putting Desharnais at centre for the
fourth line could give the Canadiens a very balanced attack, potentially putting
them in the position of being able to roll four lines. Ultimately Desharnais
himself will determine his role on the team, and I have faith he will carve his
own niche. In fact, I expect we will see him wear many hats over the course of
this coming season.
Brian La Rose: As it stands, the Habs presently have only four
centres on the team (Ryan White has played C but mainly has played the wing the
last couple of seasons). By default, Desharnais then needs to be that 4th
line C who could move up to the wing late in games when Jacques Martin
inevitably goes down to three lines. Yes, he is a little small for the 4th
line but he should be protected by wingers with size and/or grit which makes me
a little less concerned. As the season progresses, there will be time to
re-evaluate the situation but for now, I think fans should enjoy having at least
one decent offensive player on the 4th line.
Louis Moustakas: Conundrum. This centre position is
really a contest between Desharnais and Eller. The Danish forward seemed
comfortable at centre and certainly displayed good chemistry with Andrei
Kostitsyn late in the season. However, his faceoff numbers were poor,
winning just over 42% of his draws. Conversely, David Desharnais won a much
better 49.7% of his faceoffs. Yet, the diminutive centre seemed better
able to exploit his versatility and speed on the wings. Given his comfort
at the position and greater size, Eller seems like the better fit to start the
season in the middle. But, if his faceoff prowess does not improve, he may
have to move over for Desharnais.
Mandy P: I think Desharnais and Eller should alternate
centering the third line, with Kostitsyn on the left wing. Desharnais played
well on the wing last season, buzzing the opposing defence well, but I’d like to
see more of his playmaking too.
Michael Richard: Desharnais is naturally a centre so I think he
should at least start the season in that position. He would probably centre the
fourth line, with Eller being the third line C, and he could also get some added
ice time killing penalties. This may not help his offensive numbers as his ice
time would be limited and his linemates will not be the most offensively gifted
but with injuries and Martin’s penchant for line juggling, he’s bound to get a
chance higher in the pecking order.
Norman Szcyrek: Desharnais has versatility which will allow the
coach to play him in both positions liberally this season. It’s too early
still in his career to determine which position he is best suited for.