Montreal Canadiens: Without Tomas Plekanec, the Habs Would Plummet

Jason HitelmanCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 3: Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers on March 3, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Canadiens defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens fans may get a chance at seeing two players in Habs jerseys for the first time, but do they really want to?

Sure, Nigel Dawes has been doing great things since coming over to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Canadiens’ trade with the Atlanta Thrashers. He's compiled 10 points in eight games, including six goals. Unfortunately, at 5’9”, Dawes doesn’t provide the size that the Habs need up front—the Canadiens have their fair share of little guys to say the least!

And yeah, Aaron Palushaj isn't faring too badly down with the Dogs either. He's amassed 44 points in 70 games, not fantastic numbers, but impressive considering that the already developed players in the Canadiens' system—namely Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais—were no longer around to complement the youngster's game in Hamilton. Palushaj is only 21 years old, so he has plenty of time to work on his game.

But to see these players on the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight would be horrifying. It would mean that two-thirds of the Montreal Canadiens' first line is not playing.

The Habs may be able to deal without Jeff Halpern. He's not what you'd call an offensive threat, scoring only 11 goals this season. He is, however, the only player willing to crash the net on the line, and that isn't irrelevant.

Not to dwell on Halpern's accolades, but he is also a valuable penalty killer and is very responsible defensively playing five-on-five, showcasing a plus-8 rating.

Even with all the positive attributes, Halpern is replaceable.

Tomas Plekanec, however, is not.

The Canadiens are going to be in serious trouble without their best forward.

Plekanec does it all. The versatile centreman leads the team in points (53) and plus-minus rating (plus-14).

He's recently been given the task of playing the point on the Canadiens' power play, and it seems to be working.

If that isn't enough, he is on the ice every time the Habs need to kill a penalty.

So how do you think the Canadiens would fare without their top-scorer and best defensive forward against the Lightning, a team that has scored the second-most goals in the Eastern Conference?

It wouldn't be pretty, that's for sure.

I, for one, would be thankful if we didn’t have the pleasure of watching Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj play at the Bell Centre tonight.

If we do, I can only hope that their stints are limited to one game.