Tomas Plekanec seemed to have hit rock bottom during the 2008-09 season, being his own biggest critic, he described his play as that of 'a little girl'.
While that may have been slightly exaggerated on his part, the young centre had certainly stooped to the lowest point of his career.
Often times, it seemed like he was never quite sure what he wanted to do with the puck, or that he simply didn't want it. He would either dump it as soon as he got it, or try to weave through three players at once.
These were not good times for the player who had just experienced the best season in his young career, one in which he tallied 69 points and formed one of the best lines in hockey with Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn.
The following campaign was just the polar opposite of that, and many fans in Montreal were beginning to clamor for the departure of number 14.
Bob Gainey was the wiser, however, and inked Plekanec to a one-year, $2.75 million dollar deal.
Not a bad price, considering what Plekanec had done, or could possibly do, which seems to be the main selling point of young players these days.
Gainey's patience and confidence in the player that he selected 71st overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft was rewarded, as Plekanec has become the Canadiens' most valuable player through the first quarter games of the regular season.
Through the first 19 games, Plekanec has put up four goals and thirteen assists, good enough to be the team lead in points.
However, it is not just his offensive production that has been on the rise, but his overall play.
Jacques Martin has not been afraid to place Plekanec in every situation, notably the penalty kill where he has excelled.
The 27-year old Czech has bloomed into one of the best two-way centers in the league, largely due to his renewed confidence.
Unlike his linemate Andrei Kostitsyn, Plekanec has one of the hardest work ethics on the league. The guy simply won't quit, and his stats reflect that.
Although it is team policy to not sign any contracts during the season, Bob Gainey will have to forego this archaic rule if he wishes to retain his player. If Plekanec continues at this rate, his margin of bargaining will be much greater, and he might be able to fetch a more lucrative contract elsewhere.
Being the team MVP so far, Gainey has to re-sign him, as it simply will not be acceptable to lose another great player to free agency, as was the case with Mark Streit and Sheldon Souray.
Also, being offered a contract early on will boost Plekanec's already burgeoning confidence, as this will show him that management believes that he is "their man".
Whether management signs him soon or later, it is apparent that Plekanec is stealing the "franchise player" tag from Carey Price. Although Bob Gainey will never let that happen, Tomas Plekanec is the best and brightest hope for a Canadiens' franchise that is in dire need of it.
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