Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Is it time to trade Tomas Plekanec for a healthy return?

For two off-seasons I’ve been posting that Tomas Plekanec should be traded. Not in the Stéphane Langdeau sense of “se débarrasser de Plekanec”, not in the Jiri Sekac-HIO-style of ‘giving up on him’, just that we keep circling around the same question about lack of size up the middle, lack of scoring on the wing, etc., yet we stand pat, season after season.

It’s time to adjust our roster, “brasser la soupe.”

Tomas is a trade chip that can return some value. Teams are always looking to upgrade at centre, with size if possible, but not necessarily. Centre centre centre. That’s all I hear from Canucks fans, especially now that Ryan Kesler is gone.

That’s all I hear from my Oiler fan friends, why they kept Leon Draisaitl far later than they should have in the NHL instead of sending him back to junior. ‘Mac T’ had RNH on his first line, then Leon Draisaitl as his second-line centre, then a succession of nobodies for the third line. Matt Hendricks was a stopgap option for the fourth line.

So yeah, despite the near-rant from Marc Bergevin, let’s install Alex Galchenyuk at centre, let’s give our melancholy Dane a boot in the rear and tell him to get going. Let’s scour the sport, C. Montgomery Burns-style ("Alright, find me some good players. LIVING players! Scour the professional ranks. The American League, the National League, the Negro League!”), and see if there are unloved minor league centres out there, or NHL’ers who can be obtained by trade.

Let’s keep David Desharnais as a swing-utility player, a guy who can play Top 9, at centre or left wing, be an insurance policy. And I say this with cold-eyed realism, knowing full well that his trade value is low to non-existent, due to his size and cap hit.

Let’s bring up the kids from the minors for a look, a three-game audition, groom them, ease them in. Not to interrupt their AHL apprenticeship, just to keep our finger on the pulse, help their progression along. Charles Hudon had an extended audition at centre with the Bulldogs, let’s see if that recurs next season, if he can hack a game or two in the bigs. Let’s see if Jacob can take a big step next year, with his rookie pro season under his belt.

So I think it’s time for Tomas to ply his trade somewhere else. I like the guy, like how he competes, how he represents the team. I like how he busted P.K.’s chops after the Olympics roster announcement, when he asked him if he’d made the Canadian squad. P.K. said yes. Tomas said, with a very stern look: “Good. For us.” Meaning, the Czech team’s chances were enhanced by P.K.’s presence on our roster. Classic.

After another mildly disappointing playoffs, with a couple of gaffes that shouldn’t be expected from a smart two-way vet like him, and after another season of not really clicking with his wingers, after many other seasons of making allowances for him for having David or Scott Gomez or Saku playing ahead of him, and of excusing his lack of production by pointing at the poor quality of his wingers, or the paucity of his o-zone starts, or his being worn out from overuse on the penalty kill, I’ve kind of run out of runway for him.

Not a bad player, just maybe not the right player for our team at this time, maybe not the right fit.

Tomas had a good career in Montréal, but it’s time to unclog the logjam at centre, draw from that relative strength to shore up weaknesses elsewhere. And I understand Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien when they say that having more centres on a roster is great, they can play wing and be available in certain situations to pitch in, but really, we’ve taken enough kicks at this can, let’s try a different approach.

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