Tuesday, 16 December 2014

David Desharnais trying to find a new role after demotion from #1 line.

A new role for David Desharnais, now that he's been taken off the #1 line with Max Pacioretty, and put on a third line with P.A. Parenteau and Michaël Bournival and/or Brandon Prust.

Things change.  David Desharnais played his way off the #1 line, he can play his way back onto it.  It's not immutable.  It may be a little premature to pen his obituary.

The way he is a little bit rueful and introspective shows what a humble, character kid he is.  He's self-effacing, a good teammate, modest, a hard worker who's proven himself at every level, with an extra dollop of production to overcome doubt due to his size.  His light-hearted comments when Max was placed on a line with Alex that it was similar to a breakup with a girlfriend, when at first you think you'll never find anyone else, were clearly a joking allusion to illustrate that it's not that big a deal, that things work out.

But some posters were oh-so ready to twist that into a dark Freudian tangle of jealousy and bitterness, a campaign to reverse the change.  Some specifically stated they hadn't seen the video, but forged on anyway, and spouted more conspiracy theories.

Just as he's popular on RDS and with francophone fans due to his heritage, he's a favourite target on English social media because of it also.  His utility as a player is even more under the microscope because there is a significant segment of fans who will attribute such a player's presence on the roster and icetime solely due to marketing reasons.

Offered by analysts after Mike Cammalleri was traded to Calgary was the fact that he was a bit of a malcontent, always in the coach's office, with one of his demands that grated being that he wanted to play with David, not Tomas or some other centre.  Same with Erik Cole, who had a great season in 2011-12, but cooled off the next season after Gary Bettman's Third Lockout, and apparently resisted any discussion of how he should be used, including on another line.

Thomas Vanek upon his arrival in Montréal stated clearly that he was a left wing and much preferred that to right wing.  Michel Therrien had that discussion with him and accommodated him by putting him on the left with Tomas and Brian Gionta on the right, and gave them a few games to hit their stride.  Then, clearly thinking that time was of the essence, that "on a pas l'temps d'niaiser", he abandoned that experiment and put him on right wing with Max and David, and it took a couple of games, but they took off.  The line only was dismantled when Thomas Vanek's performance grew more muted against the Big Bad Bruins.  After the Habs were eliminated, he was forthright in explaining that he wished he'd been left on that line, that he thought they worked well together, even though that went against his stated preference to play left wing.

There must be some value to playing with David, or else these players wouldn't want to, wouldn't have reacted the way they did.  It seems they impute a greater benefit to it than many of David's doubters.

David is a player who I've compared to a scrappy scrum half in rugby, one who isn't a physical specimen with great wheels, but who always does the right thing with the ball and plays smart, or a wide receiver who doesn't wow you when running a fourty-yard dash, but during the game runs impeccable routes and becomes the quarterback's most trusted target, his go-to guy.  David is not Ryan Getzlaf, he's not the prototypical #1 centre, he is a player with many strengths and a few blind spots.  He's a puck distributor who makes superb, inventive passes, and works hard fearlessly.  We can wish he was tough and stout like Bryan Trottier or more productive like Adam Oates, but he is who he is, a player who if used correctly can be very effective.

As Michel Therrien said, “David knows exactly what we expect from him. He’s having trouble producing, just looking at his goal totals for example. But in the past, he’s always worked very hard to bust out of these slumps and I’m confident that he’ll do so again.”

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