Most people are familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Plekanec. Well, perhaps Tomas Plekanec isn’t actually on that list, but he has worn his signature Montreal Canadiens turtleneck for the past twelve seasons with the Canadiens.
"You don't need ninja turtle glasses just because Plekanec wears a turtleneck Caitlyn"
Wanna bet pic.twitter.com/dDpn6ciK1z
— Caitlyn Golem 🏒⚾🏋️♀️ (@CaitlynGolem) February 28, 2018
On February 25th however, it was announced that Plekanec had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and would dawn a new jersey for the first time during his NHL career – and of his rivals no less. The trade sent Plekanec (50 per cent salary retained), and Kyle Baun to the Leafs in exchange for Rinat Valivev, Kerby Rychel and a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Flashback in time to April 23rd 1964, Leafs defenseman, Bobby Baun broke his ankle in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings, but proceeded to return to the game and score the overtime winner. This goal sent the series to game seven where the Leafs won the Stanley Cup. In 2018, this Tomas Plekanec trade sent Bobby Baun’s grandson, Kyle Baun, to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, which would have been thrilling for the Baun family.
Although Tomas Plekanec was not a Montreal Canadien back when Bobby Baun was playing, I can’t remember a time before he was with the team. There is talk that he might make a return to the Canadiens during the offseason but for now, let’s take a look back on his time with the team.
Tomas Plekanec was drafted by Montreal, 71st overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft. He made his NHL debut in the 2003-2004 season, playing two games with the Canadiens.
By the 2005-2006 season, Plekanec had impressed the Canadiens’ coaching staff enough to have earned himself a permanent spot on their roster. On October 15th 2005, Plekanec scored his first NHL goal, funny enough, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the first series of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Montreal faced the Washington Capitals. The Capitals had Jose Theodore between the pipes, who was a former teammate to Plekanec. Prior to game one, Plekanec was quoted taunting Theodore, “it’s not like we’re facing (Martin) Brodeur or (Ryan) Miller. They don’t have a dominant goaltender.” To this, Theodore responded, “Tomas who? Jagr? Oh Plekanec. OK. I thought you meant Jagr.”
Plekanec was then not available to media after that but sent word that what he had meant to say was, “they have very good goalies, but it’s not like we’re facing Miller or Brodeur.” In game one of the series, Plekanec was able to back up his statement with the overtime winner.
Most people counted Montreal out as they were the eighth-seeded team and Washington was in first. After Plekanec scored the game winner in game one, the Canadiens went on to lose the next three straight games, but somehow managed to come back and take the series in seven. Montreal then went on to upset the defending Stanley Cup Champions (the Pittsburgh Penguins) in the second round, where they eventually lost in the conference final to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadiens made an impressive Stanley Cup run, sparked by Plekanec’s game one overtime winner.
Plekanec is comparable to Andrei Markov, in the sense that he has a relatively introverted personality and instead lets his play speak for itself. Plekanec was named an alternative captain of the Montreal Canadiens in September of 2014, alongside P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, and Max Pacioretty. Currently, of those four named alternative captains, only Pacioretty remains and he has been circulating in trade rumours as of late.
Anyone who has ever seen Tomas Plekanec play knows he is a workhorse on the penalty kill, putting up big minutes. This highlight of him scoring when the Canadiens were 3-on-5 is a testament to just how good he is on the penalty kill.
The penalty kill was not the only place Plekanec served an important role. Brendan Gallagher summed it up best, “playing with him, you understand he thinks the game really well. I definitely learned a lot from him in my six years. Got to spend a lot of time on his line and it’s something that I think I’m better for.” Statements like that make it clear that he earned the ‘A’ on his jersey and will be missed in the Canadiens’ dressing room, and surely valued in the Leafs’.
On February 24th of this year, Plekanec sat out of the line-up for only the 17th time, even though he played a whopping total of 981 games with the team. His ironman stint with the team places him seventh on the Habs’ all-time games played list.
Paired with his turtleneck, Plekanec is known for having a signature goatee, but once he was traded, was told to shave it off and fans are having fun with that.
As a fan, it has been hard to get to know Plekanec since he isn’t someone who likes to jump in front of the camera and reveal all of his personal details but thankfully the Canadiens gave us a few glimpses.
Karl Alzner and Plekanec answering questions that pertain to one another earlier this season:
In 2015, Dale Weise and Plekanec went head to head to see who knew each other best:
Children drew pictures of members of the Montreal Canadiens and Plekanec and Carey Price battled it out to see who could correctly guess who the drawings were of first:
My best friend, Tyler Dietrich, is also a Canadiens’ fan and when I asked him how he felt about Plekanec leaving the team, he summed it up best saying, “it’s hard watching a guy who’s been with one team his whole career get traded, but at least he is off to a team with a bright future – as much as I hate to admit that.” Perhaps, Plekanec will become a Stanley Cup champion this year and then return to the Canadiens to finish off his career. For now though, I leave you with Plekanec’s statement.
"It was out of my hands… Toronto Maple Leafs are a great organization."
Tomas Plekanec discusses his trade. pic.twitter.com/WFZ9se9yb9
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 25, 2018