The much-maligned David Desharnais has come under heavy criticism in recent years. When it comes to his overall production, however, he has been fairly consistent, making him a useful player in Fantasy Hockey.
Desharnais spent much of the season alongside Max Pacioretty. Despite Michel Therrien’s willingness to change the lines on a frequent basis, those two were seldom broken up which was a major factor in some fans’ frustration. Not surprisingly, he piled up plenty of assists while playing with the Habs’ top scorer but didn’t bring a whole lot else to the table.
Desharnais was also a staple on Montreal’s #1 power play unit despite not being much of a threat to shoot the puck; he failed to reach 100 shots on goal for the season. One area he was often criticized for was his supposed tendency to lose the faceoff in the offensive zone with the man advantage. Note that I wrote ‘supposed tendency’ as that particular narrative isn’t even close to being true. His 63.3% success rate on offensive zone power play faceoffs ranked 2nd in the NHL (only behind Jonathan Toews) among those who averaged at least one offensive zone PP faceoff per game.
One area that Desharnais has taken plenty of criticism for is his postseason play. His reputation is that he doesn’t produce when it counts the most and unfortunately for him and the team, that proved to be the case in the most recent playoffs. He was a non-factor in several games and managed just a single goal and two assists in eleven contests.
Season Stats: 82 GP, 14 goals, 34 assists, 48 points, +22 rating, 24 PIMS, 2 PPG, 0 SHG, 4 GWG, 90 shots, 17:14 TOI
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year. Desharnais has only played four full NHL seasons.)
If the team decides to move Alex Galchenyuk to centre, there’s a decent chance that Desharnais will be the one to move to the wing. (Tomas Plekanec seems highly likely to remain as the two-way checking centre while shifting Lars Eller to the wing would force either Plekanec to the third line or an offensive player into a bottom six role.) If that were to happen, Desharnais would likely slot in as a second line winger. While he’d still be on an offensive unit, he wouldn’t be getting the top offensive opportunities obviously either.
Like a lot of you, I don’t expect Desharnais to be permanently taken away from Pacioretty though. The two have played well together for quite a while and have noted in the past that they do enjoy being on the same line. Even if Galchenyuk plays centre, Desharnais will still get his opportunities with the number one trio. If Galchenyuk stays on the wing, expect Desharnais to be the top C in the same role he has had for several years now. Either way, he’ll still see plenty of power play opportunities as well.
It seems likely that Desharnais will spend some time at centre and on the wing this coming season. When he’s on the wing, he’ll be off the top line so it’s reasonable to project a decline in his production from last year. I just don’t see him being taken out of too many offensive situations though (Therrien trusts him more than most players) so the drop shouldn’t be too significant.
From a fantasy perspective, Desharnais’ value is at its best in basic points leagues. In those pools, he’s a decent second liner with some upside if he winds up staying with Pacioretty. Once you start factoring in other categories though, his value drops as he doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of shots on goal, blocks, or physical play, while he also takes a hit in pools that value goals higher than assists. In those leagues, I’d be more comfortable with him as a third option. He has only missed four games in his four full NHL seasons so from a health perspective, he’s a safe player to go after.
Expect more of the same from Desharnais in 2015-16. He’ll pick up lots of assists, be a bit above average in the faceoff department, and have a high shooting percentage to the point where everyone will be pleading with him to shoot more. He may not be a popular Hab but in terms of fantasy pools, he’s a reliable, yet unspectacular option.