LONGUEUIL, QC. — Montreal Canadiens’ center, Tomas Plekanec never appears to receive the credit he deserves for his on-ice performance. He does have what some could consider, a disadvantage with a height of five-foot-eleven, playing at a position where for many years impatient fans have been demanding that the team get bigger and stronger.
After analyzing what Plekanec has been able to achieve so far in his career with Montreal, I was left to wonder if fans truly understand the type of player that the Canadiens have on their roster.
Plekanec was picked in the third round (71st overall) of the 2001 NHL entry draft by the Canadiens, in the same draft that saw the Canadiens waste their first round pick (7th overall) on defenceman, Mike Komisarek. We all know how the love story with Komisarek ended.
Plekanec travelled the long road to the NHL after being drafted by the Canadiens. He first played one full season with Kladno in the Czech Republic, then played three seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (AHL) before moving up to the Canadiens’ roster. He hasn’t looked back since.
Plekanec is often criticized for his overall point-production, so I decided to go on an adventure to find a couple of similar players to Plekanec in order to compare their point totals. More precisely, I looked for players who started their NHL careers around the same period, who today have a similar number of games played and who also have a similar amount of total points. The two players that I will use as comparisons, are Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings.
First take a quick look at their career totals.
Click on the graphs to view in larger format
The major differences are that Bergeron has an extra season under his belt, but missed almost an entire year (2007-08) due to injury and this explains the down-spike in his Career Point Production graph above. Overall, he has less games played but leads in points over the other two players. Plekanec’s down-spike in 2008-09 can not be justified by injury, Plekanec having played 80 of 82 games that season. Dustin Brown has had the more consistent point production of the bunch but overall has the lesser totals in points.
Further Statistical Breakdown:
Potential Over 82G is measured by taking the player’s Average Points Per Game and multiplying it by an 82-game calendar.
We can see that although all three players have averaged roughly the same amount of points per season over their careers, Bergeron really stands out in the points per game category averaging points in three out of every four games he’s played. Tomas Plekanec on the other hand averages points in two out of every three games he plays, meaning that on average over a twelve game stretch, Plekanec will pick up eight points while Bergeron will pick up nine. If you prefer, over a full season, it averages to about seven points per season more for Bergeron if both play 82 games.
Salary Cap Hits
- Tomas Plekanec: $5,000,000
- Patrice Bergeron: $5,000,000
- Dustin Brown: $3,175,000
What I thought was most interesting when comparing all three players was not when I looked at their point totals, but when I looked at how they were deployed by their teams.
2011-12 Time on Ice Breakdown:
* 13th amongst NHL forwards
Plekanec finished this past season with the 13th highest minutes played amongst all NHL forwards, so I can see how some could be quick to demand that he be traded, for finishing the season with only 17 goals, his lowest goal total since his rookie season with Montreal where he finished with nine. (All sarcasm intended)
Plekanec however, did not spend most of his time at even-strength, finishing the season with the 73rd highest minutes played in this category, spending as much time at even-strengh as players like Daniel Winnick and David Legwand.
On the penalty kill is where he shined. The Value That Kills.
Plekanec averaged 3:13 of ice-time on the penalty kill last season, for a total of 260 minutes and 58 seconds of total short-handed ice-time. Only Maxime Talbot ended the season with higher totals in these categories, averaging 3:29 in short-handed ice-time per game, for a total of 282 minutes and 48 seconds on the season.
What this equates to, is that with a team that finished last in the Eastern Conference this past season, Plekanec ended the season with second highest total short-handed ice-time in the league, on a team that despite the season falling apart, managed to have the second-best penalty kill in the league (88.6%) behind only the New Jersey Devils (89.6%)
Plekanec’s Relative Quality of Competition further supports his minute totals on the penalty-kill, and he finished with a positive 0.905 last season, best amongst Canadiens’ forwards, and only topped by Josh Gorges (1.411) and P.K. Subban (1.266). What’s impressive is that Plekanec’s Relative Quality of Teammates on the other hand was quite average, to say the least. He ended the season with a total of negative -0.629, similar to players like Travis Moen, Petteri Nokelainen and Aaron Palushaj. David Desharnais on the other hand received the best Quality of Teammates of any player on the roster. In other words, while not necessarily playing with the best players on the team, Plekanec was facing the best players on the opposing teams, and constantly.
It’s easy to look at the point column and criticize, but players often do more on the ice than simply attempt to pick up points, and there is value in the ability to properly kill penalties.