Monday, 1 June 2015

David Desharnais has earned his job, it wasn't handed to him.

I occasionally see the argument on social media that David Desharnais only got a job, his position as the ostensible #1 centre solely because he speaks French, that he's a local boy.

1) The Canadiens will turn over every stone to look for local products, players who can interact with the fans in this market. Some English-speaking fans may or will never understand this, but there’s an importance for unilingual French-speaking fans, and there are a significant portion of them, to be able to converse with members of the team. Re-watch the 24CH episode when the players go practice in Lac Mégantic. Observe the rapport, the connection that exists between fans and the Head Coach, David Desharnais, Daniel Brière, Francis Bouillon.

2) David Desharnais worked his way up the ladder and earned his NHL job, it wasn’t handed to him. He proved himself in the ECHL, then the AHL, despite the doubters about his size. And other French-Canadian players who were also given a free agent opportunity to work their way up, guys like Danny Massé and Francis Lemieux and Yann Danis, but didn’t distinguish themselves didn’t get an NHL job, they topped out in the minors, and were replaced by other prospects.

3) David is currently a bit of a problem for the team, in that he’s a streaky point-producer who showed early promise but seems to have topped out. He’s a 50-60 point producer in the regular season but peters out in the playoffs.

4) His skillset is relatively limited. He reminds me of my Vanier rugby days, when our battle cry was “We may be small, but we’re slow!”, proffered with a defiant tone. He’s a hard worker and smart with the puck, but with interference and crosschecking neutralizing puck skills, his lack of physical gifts don’t set him up to be able to distinguish himself.

5) I’ve compared him to a scrappy scrum half, one who’s really good at ball distribution, at on-field leadership, but is a little slow, undersized, can’t really tackle. In the right circumstances he can be useful, his teammates will swear by him. Any team would prefer a player who had the same abilities in a more athletic package though.

6) Based on his progression, he earned a reasonable four year deal at $3.5M per, but unfortunately he didn’t quite continue on the trajectory he was on. If anything, he sagged back in terms of production. So the contract makes him hard if not impossible to trade. The Canadiens have to make do with him, play their scrappy scrum half, try to play to his strengths and surround him so his weaknesses aren’t too flagrant. If he’s on the team, he’ll get used in offensive situations, that’s where he’s useful, and sheltered from defensive ones. This will have a spillover effect on Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec, among others. Lemonade out of lemons.

I can hopscotch from one point to the other, admit this problem and that mistake, it’s all reasonable, but there’s no need for some great shadowy marketing conspiracy.

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