One of the few players to have survived the multiple regime changes in Montreal, Tomas Plekanec now stands as the longest tenured Canadien in what might very well be his last season with the team.
No matter the year he has, the emergence of Phillip Danault likely means Plekanec is headed for free agency next summer. Will Plekanec finish his career in Montreal as a productive and responsible second line centre? Or will he have overstayed his welcome in the NHL by a few seasons?
Plekanec started the season slowly, scoring only seven points in his first 23 games. This is likely the most uncommon cold streak for Plekanec who usually starts the season strong. He did pick it up slightly in December and January, scoring 16 points in the next 28 games. Unfortunately, Plekanec vanished when it counted as he ended the season with five points in 27 games to end the season before contributing three points in the six games versus the Rangers in the postseason. This marked the first time since his rookie year that he failed to put up 30 points.
However, Plekanec was as consistent as ever in the defensive end, maintaining a very respectable +10 rating despite his terrible offensive stats. This is likely why he stayed on the third line, as opposed to being scratched entirely but it was still a disastrous season overall. Perhaps if an enormous salary and ice-time slash could come into effect, fans would be open to seeing the player back in Montreal in twelve months time.
Season Stats: 78 GP, 10 goals, 18 assists, 28 points, +10 rating, 24 PIMS, 3 PPG, 3 GWG, 139 shots, 16:48 ATOI
Playoff Stats: 6 GP, 1 goals, 2 assists, 3 points, -4 rating, 0 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 15 shots, 18:40 ATOI
Five Year Averages
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a full 82 game season.)
The question around Plekanec is essentially if last season was an anomaly, or if his better days are behind him. If the latter is the case, Plekanec still represents a solid defensive centre option while being able to chip in offensively on occasion. Unfortunately for Plekanec, he will start the season where he finished 2016-2017; centering the third line which should mean he’ll probably be flanked by Paul Byron and Ales Hemsky. He will see little to no time on the team’s power play, mostly due to the better options before him and his role as the team’s number one penalty-killing forward.
Having said all of this, if both Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin prove to be unable to fulfill the role of top line centre, Plekanec could quickly be moved into the top-six. Also, if Danault struggles or Plekanec starts the season strongly, a role reversal of the two players is not an unfathomable idea. Plekanec will be playing for a new contract which usually provides plenty of motivation for players league-wide, so that’s a consideration too. A good year would restore some value but a repeat of 2016-17 might have him simply trying to avoid having to take a PTO. Plekanec will not start the season in the top-six but he represents one of the most likely candidates to move up the roster when things start moving around.
What you see is what you get with Plekanec. Given the current roster build, he should have enough motivation to reach 30 points, but reaching 50 points in his case would mean that injuries have piled up, or that players are grossly under performing which would provide Plekanec with extra opportunities. Considering he provides little to no value in leagues that consider secondary stats like +/-, PIMS, or PPPs, this is not a player that should be selected in most fantasy games.
This being said, Plekanec has always been a player who scores in bunches, so picking him up on the waiver wire at the right moment can provide some much need support from the bottom of the roster in deep fantasy leagues. Just be aware of the end of the streak to return him to the market once it is appropriate to do so.