Czechmark: Tomas Plekanec Does Everything

 

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

There’s a part of me that can’t believe I’m about to write about what I’m about to write about. Eeesh, that isn’t the best start to all of this.

Let’s try this again; Tomas Plekanec is magnificently excellent and spectacularly wonderful, and that’s about the only way to accurately describe him.

Number 14 on the Montreal Canadiens, season after season, puts up admirable numbers while being the most relied upon Habs forward in every single situation imaginable besides post-game and pre-game interviews. Yet for some reason he seems to be the least talked about forward, and when he is discussed, it’s because he isn’t producing enough points. That tends to happen with every player on the Habs, but at least others are mentioned after solid play. No news is good news, I guess.

At an AAV of $5M over 6 seasons (full contract details at capgeek.com) Plekanec is a steal, in my opinion. I was absolutely ecstatic when pen-hit-paper on this contract. He does all those little things that people always say are so important – I think they’re called “intangibles” – as well as the big things that change games. Plus he’s an all-around awesome person. Now, I don’t know this from experience, but I’m going to say it anyway and there really isn’t anything anyone can do about it. Ha.

I took the liberty of compiling a list of cap hit comparables to Plekanec and their average numbers in the main on-ice situations over the past 4 seasons combined (2009-2010 to 2012-2013). Note that shorthanded points (SH PTS) is the total amount over the past 4 seasons and powerplay points (PP PTS) is the average amount per season over the last 4 years. I’d like to thank stats.hockeyanalysis.com, nhl.com and behindthenet.ca for all their work.

Player

TOI/G

PP TOI/G

PP PTS

SH TOI/G

SH PTS

5v5 G/60

5v5 P/60

PTS/G

Cap Hit

Carter

18:37

2:58

12.75

1:06

2

1.15

1.89

0.75

$5.72M

Krejci

18:30

2:27

11.00

1:00

2

0.74

2.17

0.75

$5.25M

Clarkson

15:22

2:35

8.00

0:01

0

0.81

1.36

0.44

$5.25M

E.Kane

17:15

1:48

5.25

0:41

1

0.96

1.94

0.61

$5.25M

Benn

17:17

2:20

9.50

0:41

7

1.04

2.29

0.73

$5.25M

Ryan

18:37

2:23

12.00

0:35

3

1.1

2.14

0.76

$5.1M

Plekanec

20:07

2:53

18.75

2:47

9

0.8

1.76

0.74

$5M

Havlat

17:39

2:49

11.00

0:12

2

0.74

1.87

0.7

$5M

Bergeron

18:34

2:34

9.25

1:59

9

0.77

2.15

0.74

$5M

Kesler

20:00

3:17

19.50

2:23

9

0.74

1.79

0.81

$5M

Neal

18:09

3:13

16.00

0:40

2

1.11

2.2

0.78

$5M

Hemsky

17:25

2:44

8.75

0:23

2

0.65

1.81

0.68

$5M

O’Reilly

17:36

1:21

6.25

2:09

4

0.47

1.41

0.48

$5M

Gionta

19:35

2:57

9.25

1:41

2

0.86

1.58

0.5

$5M

Filppula

17:44

1:58

7.50

0:50

3

0.74

2.01

0.63

$5M

Weiss

20:05

3:21

15.00

1:24

4

0.68

1.55

0.67

$4.9M

Gagner

17:30

2:43

13.25

0:41

3

0.58

1.74

0.65

$4.8M

Clowe

17:30

2:16

11.75

0:02

0

0.61

1.71

0.67

$4.85M

Hartnell

16:36

2:58

13.00

0:07

0

0.76

1.87

0.62

$4.75M

Ruutu

16:29

2:45

8.25

0:02

0

0.74

1.87

0.6

$4.75M

There are some excellent players, some so-so players, and a couple of players that make you wonder how in the world they managed to command such a ridiculous contract (ahem, Clarkson and Clowe). If you didn’t love Plekanec’s contract (or him in general, because like I said, he’s an awesome person) before you saw this table, I’m sure you’re coming around now.

Some key points:

– Plekanec has averaged the most TOI/G.

– He’s averaged the most SH TOI/G.

– While Tomas averages the 6th most PP TOI, he only trails Kesler in powerplay points per season.

– He’s tied for the most shorthanded points with Kesler and that player we all secretly have a crush on. And remember, Montreal’s entire team couldn’t manage a SHG in the ’12-’13 season.

– Only 5 players averaged a higher points-per-game, all of whom have the same or higher cap hit.

– While Plekanec isn’t really thought of as a goal scorer in the least, only 7 players (again, all have the same or higher cap hits) have a higher rate of goals per 60 minutes of TOI.

– Only Bobby Ryan (291) has played more games over the past 4 seasons than Tomas Plekanec (287). Talk about durability, eh?

Think about all of those numbers, and then think about who he’s had as linemates over the past 4 seasons. Yeah, a little more impressive now. Let’s move on from the past 4 seasons and talk about the current lovely season we’re all enjoying. Prepare yourself, these are going to be extremely impressive and come quickly and in bunches.

Plekanec is currently tied for the team lead with 11 goals and a +10 rating, he averages the most TOI among the forward group and is 4th on the team in shots (3rd among forwards). He is tied for 2nd on the Canadiens in powerplay goals, tied for 1st in shorthanded goals and is pacing the Habs in game-winning goals with 4. Plekanec has taken the most faceoffs this season (661); actually leaps and bounds more than Eller who is 2nd with 497. He takes the 2nd least amount of penalties/60 mins of TOI among the Habs forwards. Pleks is tied with Galchenyuk for the most 5v5 goals and points this season with 6 and 12, respectively. He’s 3rd among Habs forwards in unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes (iFenwick/60), trailing Pacioretty and Gallagher. Tomas Plekanec has done all of this while beginning a measly 25.6% of his shifts in the OZone – only Briere, Gionta, Moen, White and Emelin have started less – and facing the opposition’s best night in and night out.

Let’s take this league-wide now. You know that goals for percentage (GF%) thing that you hear mentioned all the time in reference to Subban and Markov? Well, Plekanec isn’t that bad this season, either. At 5v5 he ranks 25th out of 263 forwards that have played at least 26 games this season (roughly 75% of the season). That’s not bad, right? Well consider this: of those 25 forwards, only 11 average more even strength TOI than Plekanec – Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Alexander Steen, Gabriel Landeskog, Jaromir Jagr, TJ Oshie, Jason Pominville, and Mike Santorelli. That’s some unbelievable company. I give you permission to lift your jaw up from off the floor. You also have the go-ahead to tell everyone that including Santorelli’s name was a mistake I made because even as I’m writing this I’m struggling to figure it all out. I digress.

Remember that stuff about Plekanec’s OZone starts on the Habs? Well, there are 228 forwards that have played 75% of the games this season who begin more post-whistle non-neutral zone shifts (O/D St%) in the OZone than Tomas; 33 that begin less. The majority of the players beginning less are guys like Casey Cizikas, Vernon Fiddler, Chris Kelly, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, John Mitchell, Derek Dorsett, Jay McClement, Zenon Kenopka, Brandon Bollig…get my drift?

There are only nine centres in the entire league who have played 26 or more games that average more SH TOI/G than the not-loved-quite-enough-by-all-Habs-fans Tomas Plekanec. Only thirteen forwards that have played 26+ games are averaging more SH TOI/G. Taking that a step further, Plekanec’s 44.2 SHTm% – percentage of a team’s shorthanded ice time that a player is on-ice for – ranks him 16th given the same games played requirement. There are 15 forwards that play a higher percentage of their team’s SH ice time; those players are guys like Craig Adams, Maxime Talbot, Boyd Gordon, Drew Miller, Steve Ott, James Wright, Craig Adams…see what I’m getting at here? These are role players. Plekanec isn’t a role player. He’s just a magnificently excellent and spectacularly wonderful player who does whatever the heck Therrien asks him to do. Considering Plekanec leads Canadiens forwards in SH TOI this season (big surprise there), and the Habs PK% is ranked 6th, I’d say he’s doing an absolutely beautiful job of it.

I’m going to stop here because I could go on all day about this excellent player. It’s time we stop underrating him and start appreciating him more. In games, he’s treated as a top line centre, a bottom 6 forward, a special teams specialist, and a shutdown centre all in one. His cap hit is $5M. You’d potentially need 4 different players to make up for what Plekanec brings to the Canadiens. I’m in awe watching him seemingly effortlessly put in solid game after solid game.

I always knew there would be a reason his jersey was the first one I ever bought.

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