Tomas Plekanec, like most if not all of the Montreal Canadiens, had himself quite the start to the 2015-2016 NHL season promptly followed by a house of horrors end to it.
No need to beat a dead horse, everyone knows what a disaster last season was. That being said, Plekanec didn’t do all that badly for himself, but it was still a poor season for him, especially in the special teams department.
He started hot out of the gate and was promptly awarded a 2-year extension for it. He made the most out of Montreal’s early dominant streaks where every bounce seemed to go their way, typified by his excellent two-way game and success playing against the opposition’s toughest lines. He was an early candidate for the Selke award, and you couldn’t really argue it all that much.
Then the other foot fell and he was just as snake bitten and porous at times as his teammates. He had a 19-game goalless streak through much of 2016 and looked out of sorts with a revolving door of wingers as the wheels fell off the Habs’ season. He managed to top 50 points, but they were front loaded as he struggled hard in the last quarter of the season.
His special team stats all nosedived – a single goal on the power play, no shorthanded goals and a single game winning goal is simply not good enough for a player depended on like he is. His total shots were down but his average time on ice was up by a shift or two a game year-on-year.
Season Stats: GP 82, G 14, A 40, PTS 54, +/- +4, PIM 36, PPG 1, SHG 0, GWG 1, SOG 189, ATOI 18:32
5 Year Averages
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
It’s usually a cut and paste from last season; strong two-way play, leadership, 50-points etc. This year’s looking a little different. At the moment, it’s the general assumption that Alex Galchenyuk has become the team’s number one centre. That would mean he becomes the team’s clear cut second centreman.
But with that you’re starting to get crowding on the offensive side, which could limit Plekanec’s offensive output as his job shifts to even more of a defensively responsible forward. That’s not to say he’s off the hook with production, it just seems like he’ll have less opportunities in that facet and would have to make the most of the chances he’ll get.
How does that offence face a potential drop? While he has always contributed offensively, his big asset is his defensive savvy. With Galchenyuk assumed as the first line centre, Plekanec becomes more available to shutdown rather than fill-in as a makeshift first line centre. He still offers a balanced scoring attack, but gone are the days where he’s getting first line minutes, barring injury, a Galchenyuk slump or Michel Therrien impatience.
His time on the power play is also going to surely be trimmed. Regardless of the what the set up will eventually be, you’d assume Shea Weber, Andrei Markov, Jeff Petry and likely Nathan Beaulieu split time on the back end of PP1 and PP2. Plekanec is a top-6 forward and he’ll likely be getting PP2 minutes which will be coming in the dying 30-45 seconds. His offensive value is lower than it has been in years and he’s 33 years old, a decline may be happening or is on the horizon.
Then again, he’s always healthy – or at least healthy enough to suit up having missed only 14 games in the last 10 seasons – so the points will probably be there, they just won’t be special team points.