Plekanec became the latest whipping boy in Montreal, taking the place of David Desharnais as the most prominent Canadien not living up to his contract. Plekanec had a career-low 28 points, ranked 198th in shots attempted (139) and also posted a 7.2 shooting percentage -- the second straight season he hovered around seven percent. That isn't much for a forward being paid $6 million per year. At that price, a player needs to be more than an elite penalty killer who is trusted to start 60.3 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone. Given the steady production throughout his career, Plekanec is a candidate for a bounceback season, but at 34 years old, he may not revert to the 50-plus-points level.
A quick glance at Plekanec’s career log shows that his .66 points per game in 2015-16 aligns with his career pace, so he had a perfectly normal season, right? Well, not so much. The 32-year-old center’s performance mirrored the team’s ignominious slump over the final five months. He scored 24 points in the first 25 games, but when the Habs slipped into their funk early in December, Plekanec followed along. He went into long scoring droughts, going 21 games and then 19 games without finding the back of the net (resulting in a 13-goal campaign), and he finished with just 30 points in the final 57 games. Plekanec doesn’t need to be a goal-scorer to make an impact – he’s an able playmaker, a responsible three-zone player, and a serviceable faceoff man – but he needs to smooth out the peaks and valleys. If head coach Michel Therrien provides him stable linemates – that’s a big if, as Therrien is a notorious tinkerer – that would help.
Last season was a blast from the past for Plekanec, who saw his scoring surge to levels he hadn't enjoyed since the golden years of his youth. At 31, he scored more goals (26) than he had since he was 24 years old, and more total points (60) than he'd managed since age 26, and he set a new career high in shots on goal with 248. All in all, it was an active season on the offensive end for Plekanec, who had lulled fantasy owners into a sense of complacency with a quiet, 43-point campaign the year before. While his point total might fall back slightly this year, he should again be a steady fantasy option at center.
Plekanec continued to be a valuable part of the Canadiens, playing on both special team units while finishing second on the team in goals scored (20) and fourth in points (43) in 81 games. With the team shedding captain Brian Gionta, Plekanec loses a linemate but he should get the "C" that was on Gionta's jersey. He's well respected in the room and will resume his role as the team's second-line center, likely leading the forwards in ice time. We expect the offensively gifted Alex Galchenyuk on one wing, while Rene Bourque will get his first look on the other.
Plekanec came off a sub-par 2011-12 season to post 33 points in 47 games during 2012-13, improving to plus-3 after a disastrous minus-15 the year prior. Unlike the previous season, Plekanec had steady linemates who were capable of offensive play and he looked like the player we've grown accustomed to seeing. He plays in all situations and is habitually Montreal's leading forward in terms of minutes played. With an improving team that's added scoring punch, Plekanec should continue to post good point totals.
Plekanec scored 17 goals in 2011-12, the first time in six seasons he was under 20 while also posting a career worst minus-15 in what was a trying season for the eight-year veteran. He got caught up in some line shuffling early on and was off the top line, trying to be productive with a rotating cast of wingers and underachievers. The Canadiens need Plekanec and Brian Gionta to bounce back, with the two likley to open the season as the mainstays on the second line. Rene Bourque may skate on the left wing to fill out the redepmtion line --all three had a sub-par 2011-12 season. However the lines shake up, you know Plekanec will lead all forwards in ice time and give owners that snagged him late in drafts a healthy dose of assists.
Plekanec led the Canadiens in scoring for the second straight season and was Montreal’s most consistent forward from October to April. If the Habs can get rebound performances from some of their top-six guys, Plekanec should do better than his 57 points in 2010-11. He’ll open the season centering a line with Erik Cole and Michael Cammalleri.
Plekanec had a team-best 70 points last year, finishing with 25 goals and 45 assists. He'll probably be paired on the first line with Michael Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn, so look for him to have another outstanding season, with roughly the same production with a few added points to boot. Entering the prime of his career, Plekanec just re-signed a nice six-year deal to remain a Canadien until 2016.
Plekanec's numbers were a down in 2008-09, especially his assist numbers. He had 20 goals and just 19 assists, which was a career low. This low assist total may have been due to the fact that coach Guy Carbonneau shifted players between lines so much and it was difficult to form chemistry with the players on the ice. Plekanec's 311 games played since he was drafted in 2001 are seventh most among centers in the 2001 draft class. He has played in all but four Habs' games in the past three seasons, so he has proven to be durable. He is the only Canadiens player to net at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons. If Montreal can stick with a more consistent group of lines, Plekanec should be able to recreate, or at least come close, to the success he had in the 2007-08 season.
Plekanec established himself as a bone-fide top-six forward during the latter half of the 2006-07 season when he scored 35 points in a 40-game span from late Dec. 23-March 26. Pleks proved that 40-game spurt was no fluke when he finished second in team scoring last season with 69 points. The line of Plekanec centering Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn was electric and there's a good chance that it will stay intact in 2008-09, regardless of the team's acquisition of French-Canadian scoring forward Tanguay. The greater threat is the arrival of fellow center Robert Lang. Lang and Kovalev enjoyed career seasons together as linemates in Pittsburgh seven years ago and there may be a temptation by the Habs' brass to unite them. That wouldn't be catastrophic, however, as Plekanec also enjoyed good chemistry last season with the Kostitsyn brothers on the second power-play unit. It's reasonably safe to think of Plekanec as a 65+ point center this year.
Pleks' game really took off in the second half of the season (35 points in a 40-game span from Dec. 23-March 26) and he finished with 20 goals and 47 points in 81 games with an impressive plus-10. That second-half surge should cement him as the second line center this season and a further uptick in production is within reach. His linemates should include the up-and-coming Latendresse and also Kovalev. If Kovalev ever reverts back to his former self, it would get really interesting.
Now centering Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov, the young Czech has a chance to vault his career forward with a big season. With only 99 shots in 67 games last year, Plekanec will need to shoot the puck more as he'll be most likely afforded the most room on the ice with the Russian veterans drawing the most attention.
Plekanec has been the best farm hand in this organization for the last two years. He seems poised to make the club and contribute now. He’s got vision, offensive skill and decent speed. If he plays well enough, he could end up on the second line as the left winger. Plekanec is probably getting his last chance with the Habs this fall.