The Myth of Habs’ Number One Centre


Statistics are what they are: a barometer to determine certain things at a certain time, tendencies, no more, no less. The same statistics can be used out of context to try to prove a point in some discussions, or in an article like this one. The fact is that stats, as “advanced” as they might be, NEVER tell the whole story and can be used in many different ways. For that reason, they must not be taken as the key tool to try to prove a point, at least not in most cases.

The Montreal Canadiens have just won three consecutive games, something that they haven’t been able to do since what seems like an eternity. While most of the fan base seems happy to finally be able to celebrate some much needed success from their favourite team, there is a (loud) minority of fans and even one or two media personalities who seem to want to focus on the negative aspects regardless of the end result and none of it has been more evident lately that the utilisation of David Desharnais.

While most fans were tickled pink to see their team win and expressed their joy on Twitter, some kept flooding social medias with their negativity towards Desharnais and the use head coach Michel Therrien is making of him. While one tweet, maybe two if 140 characters weren’t enough, would have been plenty to let their opinion known to mankind, those “fans” (and I use the term loosely as for me, fans should also enjoy following their team and celebrating victories) are flooding social media outlets with details on Desharnais’ use.

Because I am a positive person by nature, I usually simply unfollow those individuals and try focussing on the more positive fans and media personalities, but what prompted me to write this article was when I read someone claiming that the team’s number one centre wasn’t producing. Yet, Tomas Plekanec has had an outstanding week… but they were referring to guess who? You guessed it, it was David Desharnais. But when did Desharnais become a number one centre, I couldn’t help but wonder? Did I miss something? I’ve always thought of Plekanec as the team’s number one.

Then I realised that those fans had decided to make their own definition of what a number one centre was, for the sake of trying to support their weak argument. It’s smoke and mirror, that’s all it is, but because the popular tendency is to put down everything Desharnais (or Therrien) does or doesn’t do, many people buy into the theory. You see, instead of looking at the total time on the ice per game, they “chose” to look at even-strength time on the ice only. Why? Because DD leads in that category? Look again as Plekanec leads in that category as well! Big oops I guess.

Don’t be fooled by the Negative Nancy syndrome folks, as here is the true story. Not only for this season, but for the past five years:

2015-16: Plekanec with 2:34 more minutes per game than Desharnais
2014-15: Plekanec with 1:55 more minutes per game than Desharnais
2013-14: Plekanec with 2:34 more minutes per game than Desharnais
2012-13: Plekanec with 2:45 more minutes per game than Desharnais
2011-12: Plekanec with 2:22 more minutes per game than Desharnais

The only reason why Desharnais’ minutes are somewhat close to Plekanec’s at even strength is because the Czech centreman also kills penalties while Desharnais doesn’t. Anyone would recognize the simple fact that once a player has killed a penalty, he needs a shift or two to rest before getting back on the ice, and that is when coaches send the guys who don’t kill penalties, therefore getting their even strength time on the ice being inflated. Even at the NHL level, it’s that simple folks.

So if I ask you: “Who is the Canadiens’ number one centre?”, your only answer is Tomas Plekanec, no ifs or buts about it.

Go Habs Go!

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