Tomas Plekanec: Value that Kills


By Steve Farnham, Associate Editor,

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.

Photo: André Pichette/La Presse

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.

Tomas Plekanec – Montreal Canadiens
Year GP G A Pts
2005-06 67 9 20 29
2006-07 81 20 27 47
2007-08 81 29 40 69
2008-09 80 20 19 39
2009-10 82 25 45 70
2010-11 77 22 35 57
2011-12 81 17 35 52
Totals 549 142 221 363
Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins
Year GP G A Pts
2003-04 71 16 23 39
2005-06 81 31 42 73
2006-07 77 22 48 70
2007-08 10 3 4 7
2008-09 64 8 31 39
2009-10 73 19 33 52
2010-11 80 22 35 57
2011-12 81 22 42 64
Totals 537 143 258 401
Dustin Brown – Los Angeles Kings
Year GP G A Pts
2005-06 79 14 14 28
2006-07 81 17 29 46
2007-08 78 33 27 60
2008-09 80 24 29 53
2009-10 82 24 32 56
2010-11 82 28 29 57
2011-12 82 22 32 54
Totals 564 162 192 354

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:
Tomas Plekanec

  • Avg Pts Per Season: 51.85
  • Avg Pts Per Game: 0.66
  • Potential over 82G: 54.22
Patrice Bergeron

  • Avg Pts Per Season: 50.12
  • Avg Pts Per Game: 0.75
  • Potential over 82G:  61.23
Dustin Brown

  • Avg Pts Per Season: 50.57
  • Avg Pts Per Game: 0.62
  • Potential over 82G: 54.21

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:
Tomas Plekanec

  • Total TOI: 1,680:48*
  • ES TOI/G: 14:26
  • SH TOI/G: 3:13
  • PP TOI/G: 3:05
Patrice Bergeron

  • Total TOI: 1,505:07
  • ES TOI/G: 14:15
  • SH TOI/G: 1:48
  • PP TOI/G: 2:31
Dustin Brown

  • Total TOI: 1,653:51
  • ES TOI/G: 15:10
  • SH TOI/G: 1:40
  • PP TOI/G: 3:19

* 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.


  1. I only have one problem with this post.

    “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.”

    Okay, so it ended poorly, yes. His play beside Markov was not representative of his actual value (which is why I kind of want to swap Kaberle for Komisarek, it’d fill a need we have for a more physical defenseman and, in reuniting him with Markov, could return him to previous levels in a way that benefits us – but that’s beside the point).

    The thing is you said it was a waste of a pick. But who would you pick instead?

    Obviously revisionist history would show that a player like Pleks (71st), Bieksa (151st), Ehrhoff (106th), or Sharp (95th) would be much higher than where they were picked. However we can’t say they should have taken, say, Patrick Sharp 7th overall because that would have been so far off the board that no GM in their right mind would do it. We have to compare to other picks in the middle part of the draft. Such as…

    7 Montreal Mike Komisarek
    8 Columbus Pascal Leclaire
    9 Chicago Tuomo Ruutu
    10 NY Rangers Dan Blackburn
    11 Phoenix Fredrik Sjostrom
    12 Nashville Dan Hamhuis
    13 Edmonton Ales Hemsky
    14 Calgary Chuck Kobasew
    15 Carolina Igor Knyazev
    16 Vancouver R.J. Umberger
    17 Toronto Carlo Colaiacovo
    18 Los Angeles Jens Karlsson

    The goalies, Leclaire and Blackburn, have both fizzled mainly due to injury. Leclaire also suffered from inconsistent play and being chosen by Columbus, but suffice it to say that neither turned out.

    Among the other defensemen, 2 became decent and 1 (Knyazev) never played an NHL game. Colaiacovo suffered for a long time from injuries and Toronto Maple Hype, but the last few years he’s done a decent job in St. Louis. However, would I take his last 4 years over Komisarek’s last 4 in Montreal? No. And the fact it took so long for Colaiacovo to become a regular NHLer means he would have been released by Montreal years ago.
    Dan Hamhuis probably would have been a better selection. -shrug-

    The vast majority of the first 18 picks were forwards (12), and it’s worth noting that Komisarek turned out better than 2 of the 6 forwards who were drafted before him (Chistov and Svitov). But what about those after?

    -Tuomo Ruutu: too offensive for 3rd line, not good enough for 2nd. Was 7th forward on poor Carolina team in TOI/GP
    -Fredrik Sjostrom: never hit potential, now back in Sweden
    -Ales Hemsky: very good, probably best player between 7th and 18th… injury problems only caveat
    -Chuck Kobasew: 4th liner now. Had 2 decent years with Boston (81pts in 141gp), but then was traded to Minnesota and injured his knee.
    -R.J. Umberger: Now is Columbus’s best forward. Ouch. He’s a decent 2nd liner, I think.
    -Jens Karlsson: never made the NHL

    So who would you have drafted over Komisarek? I’d take Hemsky or Hamhuis, and maybe Umberger…but it’s hard to say the pick was wasted when it’s surrounded by a large number of worse picks. That draft was simply awful afterall.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I think you read a little too much into the Komisarek comment. What I meant by “wasted pick” is that in the end, he signed as a free-agent with the Leafs and what was our first round pick, was lost for nothing. I think the majority of Habs’ fans liked Komisarek in the early part of his career, and I’m not saying the Habs were wrong to draft him when they did, he just didn’t turn out to be the big strong fearless defenceman we all hoped he was going to turn out to be.

  3. What I like about Plekanec is that he’s flexible. He can do anything, hopefully in a year or so he won’t have to be like that, and focus more on the 70 point player that I feel he can be. I don’t want another Saku who gave his heart and soul to Montreal and then in the end really not accomplish anything (strictly hockey related, or course he accomplished lots).

    Shane from Brandon, but vacationing in PEI.

  4. This is a great column.

    I have to say, though, that seeing “signed” instead of “shone” was a bit of a kick.

    “Shined” is the transitive past tense of shine, ie using the past tense of shine where it has an object: things are shined.

    “Shone”, on the other hand is the intransitive past tense of shine, ie where it has no object: Wayne Gretzky shone.

    Yeah, I’m no word Nazi, but it all gets tiresome.

    I agree with offering Kaberle for Komisarek (thought I was alone there), but TO needs Kab more than we need Kom, a lot more.

    So throw in Danny Kristo before he goes all Justin Schultz on us, and a little more if needed, and let’s get Colbourne while we’re at it.

  5. TYPO!!

    “SHINED” not SIGNED!!

    Gotta start checking before sending.

    Remember: to err is human,…………………

  6. I live in the heart of Leaf Nation and so am surrounded by Leaf fans. Most of my friends are much more aware than the average Laff fan and actually know things about other teams. There are only two players that I find have their universal respect: Carey Price and Tomas Plekanec. Sure they recognize the talent of a P. K. Subban, but many don’t like him. Erik Cole is moving up in people’s consciousness but lots don’t really associate him with the Habs yet or understand what a really great season he had. Max Pacioretty barely registers on anyone’s radar, and they could not pick David Desharnais out of a police line-up.

    There are many Habs fans who don’t appreciate what Plekanec brings to all aspects of the game. He is not Pavel Datsyuk but he is clearly at the top of the next tier of “all around forwards not named Pavel Datsyuk”.

    The constant mention of Plekanec’s name in trade rumours or suggestions is indicative (depressingly) of Hab fans blindness to what they have OR (more realistically) reflective of the immense value that Plekanec would have on the trade market.

    But what kills me is the overlap between the “sign 36 year old Shane Doan for $30M over 4 years” crowd and the “dump Plekanec before he loses value and is too old” camp.

  7. @Shane: I agree and if you ask me, the main problem is that the Canadiens pick up way too many penalties season after season. Over the last four seasons, they were 3rd, 2nd, 9th and 3rd in minor penalties, and at the wrong end of the scale.

    If they weren’t picking up so many penalties, Plekanec wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the PK and could be more effective at even-strength. He still needs to be well surrounded, can’t do it alone.

    @neumann103: I don’t feel the Habs are in any position to greatly upgrade the team through trade. Anything that would help the team short term, would most definitely cost prospects and hurt the team long term. The Habs aren’t contenders, they can’t rush to sign stupid contracts. (i.e. Doan)

    @rattus: I wouldn’t make that move. I see Komisarek as more of a defensive liability than Kaberle, but Kaberle picks up points offensively which Komisarek doesn’t. Both have 2 years left, caps hits almost the same, I wouldn’t touch Komi. He’s soft for a big guy.

    Thanks everyone, for reading and leaving a comment.

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