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Determining Desharnais' role
Determining Desharnais' role(2011-09-07 20:32 posted by B. La Rose)

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 Ellerís 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 Desharnaisí diminutive size plays against him down the middle, Ellerís size would prove more advantageous.  However, if Eller isnít ready for the seasonís 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.

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