Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Tomas Plekanec

The numbers

81 GP: 29 G, 40 A, 69 Pts, 42 PIM, +15, 186 Shots

Career best year
This season

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 4 G, 5 A, 9 Pts, 2 PIM, -1, 40 Shots

Career best playoffs
This season

Plays of the game: 20

Game pucks: 9

Domes: 31

3 Star selections: 5 First, 4 Second, 4 Third

The story

Where he started the season
After a breakthrough season of 20 goals and 47 points, Tomas had convinced me that he was 2nd-line centre material. Shockingly, however, Carbo wasn't convinced and Plekanec would start the year on the third line. Perhaps it was the failure of the Samsonov line, perhaps it was the way Tomas took so long to gel with Kovalev. Indeed, Plekanec leaves you with the impression that he would indeed be a great 3rd line player since he is very fast, defensively responsible (+14 for his career prior to the season) and he doesn't seem 'offensive' enough to be a top-2 line type of guy. But this is selling him short. Forever are players like Tomas cursed for being so good defensively, it's a shame. Since when isn't 20 goals and 47 points for a 24 year-old considered to be a strong offensive campaign? So, he would start the year as our third centre, but at the rate he was improving it always seemed it would only be a matter of time till he worked his way up.

The season
The third line experimentation didn't last too long, as Tomas' play was too good to be ignored. Almost as soon as the season was into its third week, he was playing with Kovalev and Kostitsyn - and was producing. His play was a huge reason for the season that his two wingers enjoyed as his passing ability really gives those two sharp-shooters an easy job. What's easy to forget, however, is the fact that Plekanec himself scored 29 goals, which makes him quite the goalscoring threat too. In general, Plekanec uses his speed and incredible backhand to truly startle opposing goaltenders and defencemen. What's more, Tomas was always one of the players that you would notice when you were watching the games (thanks in part to his knack for being involved in amazing highlight plays - 20 plays of the game no less - and the fact he seemed to be everywhere in both zones). Even when he went pointless, he was still contributing. Some players have a tendency to become invisible for stretches - not Pleks. But it is when he is truly on offensively, though, that he is quite something else. In all, he had 20 multiple-point games which accounted for 47 of his points. It is hard to imagine that he only got points in about half of his games (42/81) because he played a serious role everytime he stepped foot on the ice. So good was his season that he would be called the number one centre for nearly half, and his playoffs were called a disappointment because we now expected him to lead the line. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, he wasn't able to do that in every game, and his frustration and resulting drop in shots to pass ratio were indeed one reason the goals for (and the results) dropped.

Highlights: Little man in the turtleneck is a true gem, as the highlights, well, highlight

Plekanec by the numbers:

Lions' links on Plekanec:
It's not generally noteworthy when there is an absence of specific articles about a player, but for someone like Plekanec, it does beg the question: why? I think it speaks to the kind of season Tomas had, with constant reliability, effort and excellence. Really something should have been done. But, not once did we read the paper and feel a response about Plekanec was required. Not once did we need to explain a slump. It was the essay that was always there, but which you always knew would be there: "Plekanec is Superb". I should mention that he is mentioned in the vast majority of game reports and weekly updates, but these are not part of these links. So, we did write a fair bit about this fan and Lions favourite, just not in a formal piece dedicated to him. I think I feel the seeds of an article already...

Grade: A
Certain Habs fans (and media personalities) won't stop talking about how we need 'big' centres and how the reason we haven't won the cup for 15 years is because of that need. Funny, however, how teams like San Jose, Toronto and the Rangers all have these players that are so coveted by 'us', but also haven't won. I mean isn't Joe Thornton the ultimate specimen? And, to boot the Sharks have Marleau (our answer!!!). What people who buy into whatever the media tells them fail to recognize is that playing big and being big are two distinct things altogether. Plekanec showed all year that he is world-class, as he went on to outclass most opposition centres on a nightly basis. In my opinion, Tomas also plays big - skating with excellent strength and balance and knocking awkward giants off the puck with ease. To me that shows he isn't the problem, but, is in fact one of the answers. Tomas' season hopefully shut some people up and made them realize that all the centres we need are right here in Montreal. I don't even think I can count on one hand the amount of teams with 2 better centres than us. In fact, Pleks has helped to make the centre position the most secure spot on the Habs roster in terms of talent, strength and reliability. I just wish that people would stop assuming that we need big players and take a real look at our team. Hopefully then they would realize that there are other areas that are in much bigger need of some help.

Where we'd have him next season
I see Tom having a huge season for us. This is his last year of a fairly modest contract and if history serves as a good indicator, he will surely put up some serious numbers this year. As of now, he and Saku will be our top 2 centres and I am hoping we stick with that. Between those 2 and the 5 or 6 quality wingers we now have we will be able to make 2 very dangerous lines and 2 very competetive PP units. If Carbo doesn't just simply put his line from this year back together, then Plekanec may be playing with the Kostitsyns, since his chemistry with Andrei, in particular is the best 1-2 punch on the team. The lines we had last year were good and most players enjoyed tremendous seasons, but we shouldn't be afraid to change them. Afterall, we didn't win the Cup, so obviously we don't quite yet know what the winning combinations are. Add Tanguay, and hopefully one more winger, to the mix and we could be in for a long period of experimentation. Whatever happens, I think we'll see Pleks continue to improve and grow into a reliable offensive leader. It's easy to forget this mature Czech is still young and still a long way off from his full potential, which is nothing but positive for us fans.

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