A lot of people have already done so, but I think it is time I officially give Tomas Plekanec some major credit this year. Those who communicate with me on a regular basis know I like Plekanec and have been impressed with him this year, but I haven't given him the kudos he's deserved yet.
Plekanec came into this year as an after-thought in my opinion. I thought after last year and how low his confidence was that he would be a poor excuse for a second line center, but boy was I wrong. After watching a couple preseason games I praised Gionta for making Plekanec look good and possibly lighting a fire under his butt, but again, I was totally wrong. Tomas Plekanec is his own worst critic, and that translated into him working his tail off this summer to be a better player. He came into camp in the best shape of his life and ready to prove himself all over again.
It has been talked about all season how Plekanec is playing better than he ever has, how he's become his own player after Kovalev's departure, but to understand how much better Plekanec has been this season I just want to look at one simple statistic; assists. Tomas had a terrible year last year but still managed 20 goals, very impressive for someone who's struggling, but only 19 assists over 80 games. For a guy penciled in as a #2 center coming into the season 19 assists is insanely low, so fans were right to be upset with his game. Over the offseason I questioned how good of a playmaker Plekanec is, thinking that perhaps a dominant powerplay and Kovalev's one good year in Montreal artificially inflated his statistics in 07-08. Tomas has quashed these thoughts in dramatic fashion, in fact he already has 19 assists this season, in 24 games. That means as far as passing goes, he's producing at almost FOUR times the rate as last year. Read that again if you don't believe it. What makes this even more amazing is that before tonight against Columbus, he hadn't played a full game with anyone who could really help him produce. He did most of his work with struggling linemates and on the powerplay.
If you're not already blown away by how well Tomas Plekanec has been passing the puck, allow me to throw out some comparisons. Plekanec is currently tied for 6th in the entire NHL in assists. Players who he happens to be tied with include Anze Kopitar, who's been lights out this season, Martin St. Louis, one of my favourite players and playing with Steven Stamkos, and Nicklas Backstrom, who happens to play with some guy you may have heard of named Alexander Ovechkin. While being tied with Kopitar and St. Louis is very impressive and certainly puts Plekanec in the elite level of playmakers in the league, the one that truly stands out to me is Backstrom. Plekanec has managed, without stable linemates, on an offensively inept (to this point) Montreal Canadiens team, to be tied with one of the best playmakers in the NHL in assists. He's managed to be tied with the guy who sets up the best goal scorer in the NHL. If that isn't amazing, I don't know what is.
Tomas Plekanec is the exact reason why players who have off seasons need to be given a second chance. He wants to play in Montreal and it shows. In analyzing just one aspect of his game I think anyone can tell that we need to keep Tomas long term. Let's hope that Bob Gainey feels the same way.