Much has been said and written about what the Canadiens’ needed in order to be considered a contender since the start of this season and with the team slumping as badly as it has in the last several weeks, there seem to be more needs being discovered as time goes by. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the team’s biggest need is to have a healthy Carey Price back between the pipes, not only for his outstanding play, but for his undeniable leadership in a dressing room that appears to be more and more divisive.
Like most, I was thinking early on that the team’s biggest need was a top scoring right-winger to help Max Pacioretty along and while that still holds, there might just be a more pressing need right now on this team. Can we really be satisfied with the production down the middle of the offensive line-up since December?
At the start of the season, I had stated that I didn’t think that this team could take the next step with Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller as their top three centres. This feeling got somewhat put on the side burner when Michel Therrien decided to move Alex Galchenyuk to centre and give Eller a shot on the left side. But no more.
Since signing his contract extension, Tomas Plekanec’s play has been well below what we could expect from a guy taking $5-6 million on the cap hit. While he is still reliable defensively, he is way too often invisible on offense, particularly when the going gets tough, a reminder of his playoffs’ performances in recent years. This is not a knock on Plekanec the person, as he is said to be a true professional and a good individual, but his hockey production is well below what the team can expect.
But he’s not alone. Even when he’s playing well, David Desharnais is the fan base’s favourite scape goat. While he started the season in spectacular fashion alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, DD’s production has come to a halt and like Plekanec, it is reminiscent of past playoffs’ performances. With the team struggling to score goals, it’s the offensive players like Desharnais that must suffer the blunt and the undersized centreman is getting more than his share of the blame.
Further, while I truly believe that Galchenyuk will, in time, become a very good centre, he doesn’t seem to be ready to face top opposition at that position and that became evident when he was given Max Pacioretty as a winger. Galchenyuk may become the number one centre that the team has so desperately been looking for, or he may develop into an excellent second line centre but for now, while showing sparks of greatness, he hasn’t taken that step yet.
Some will suggest that moving Eller back to centre the third line would be best for the team and that’s definitely something that the Canadiens should consider, but in my opinion, they need to do more than that. What this team needs more is a quality centreman, preferably one with size, until Galchenyuk takes over and perhaps prospect Mike McCarron is ready to join the big club.
A Steven Stamkos (who can move to the wing later if need be) or an Eric Staal would go a long way in improving the middle line of Therrien’s team and that’s where Bergevin’s focus should be at this time. Forget Jonathan Drouin as he won’t be traded to Montreal. Go after that elusive centre and, if possible, then get a good right-winger. Ideally, two of three between Plekanec, Desharnais or Eller should find a new team to perfect their art.