What is Tomas Plekanec?
Is Tomas Plekanec a top-line center capable of making the players around him better? Is he a high-end, second-line center that can produce a steady amount of offence from year to year? Is he the best third-line center in the league?
Maybe the more important question: What exactly is Tomas Plekanec to the Montreal Canadiens?
In Montreal, Plekanec is among the team's top paid players. He's expected to play in all game situations, lead the team in scoring, squeeze every ounce of offence out of his linemates and shut down the top forwards in the National Hockey League.
Is this reasonable?
Is it reasonable to expect this from a Tomas Plekanec who has yet to string two strong offensive campaigns together in his career? Is it reasonable to expect this from a Tomas Plekanec who couldn't get the most out of Mike Cammalleri, couldn't make Andrei Kostitsyn a 30-goal scorer and has yet to become a point per game player himself?
That horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach as you answer these questions? It's the realization that the Habs have committed a lot of dollars and a lot of years to a guy who just can't be a part of the future in Montreal.
Before I go on, understand that I'm not referring to the Montreal Canadiens of the present. Right now, Tomas Plekanec is the team's top center by default. When you compare him to the top centers on the top team's around the league, it's easy to understand why this team is wallowing in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings.
Plekanec is not a first-line center on a good team. At the rate that David Desharnais is progressing, he won't even be the best offensive centerman on this team in a few years. Also, at $5 million, he's way to expensive to be a third-line center on any team.
Believe me, I like Tomas Plekanec. I think he's a good player, capable of helping a good team. Unfortunately, when you look at his salary going forward, his production level and the emergence of David Desharnais as a solid offensive weapon, there's simply no room for him on a Canadiens team that could theoretically compete in the near future.
Everyone knows this team needs a bona fide No. 1 guy. There isn't one on this team or in its system. Desharnais doesn't have the size to be a No. 1, but does have the skills to be a solid No. 2.
Either through the draft or via free agency, a roster spot and cap space for a top line guy needs to be opened up in the near future.
Logically, Plekanec is the odd man out.
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