Tomas Plekanec had the first season of his thirties last year, and the transition into a new decade looked pretty good on him as he reclaimed his role as the #1 center on the Montreal Canadiens. Under Randy Cunneyworth the year before, Plekanec was still given his usual tough minutes role, but his ice time was cut in favour of David Desharnais. Under Michel Therrien, that nonsense ended, with Plekanec finishing third on the team in points, first among centers.
Heading into 2013-14 Plekanec will be once again forming a tough minutes duo with Habs captain Brian Gionta, and although Rene Bourque will begin the season as that line's third wheel, it remains to be seen whether or not that could be switched up.
The ever-consistent Plekanec is one of those rare players that seems to only get better with age, his veteran savvy compensating for any slowing of skills. But what can we expect from Plekanec this year?
In the following graph, the blue line is Plekanec's even-strength Fenwick percentage from 2007 to 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Plekanec's offensive-zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling ten-game averages. What this means is that aside from the first 10 points in the graph, every point represents a 10-game sample, giving us a better grasp of trends.
With all that information on one graph, it can look a little messy and be tough to decipher, so I've included trend lines for each statistic. To understand the trend lines, blue turns into black, red turns into yellow, and green turns into purple. The x-axis is simply the games to represent time, and the y-axis is the percentage in decimal form, and the placement of the y-axis is the beginning of the 2013 season.
Over the last six years, Plekanec hasn't really been a possession beast, though he has had very, very good numbers considering the minutes he plays. What's impressive about Plekanec, though, is that even with the dead season of 2011-12, and even with his role getting tougher over time as he takes on more defensive assignments, he's still on the upswing in possession. That's right, it's not just good that he isn't declining, he's actually performing better over time.
The team around him has been getting better at a more significant rate, but it's a very good sign for Plekanec that he's still trending up at 30 instead of beginning to decline. Hopefully though, the Canadiens can begin to ease Plekanec's minutes a little bit as Lars Eller and the other youngsters mature.
Plekanec should be good for his usual production, around 20 goals and 50-55 points. With the depth of the Canadiens' scoring forwards, it's unlikely that Plekanec will get enough ice time to gust up past 55 points, especially since his number one job is to shut down the opponent's best lines. He may not get the 19+ minutes per game that he had last year, unless of course Max Pacioretty is shifted up to the top line, then who knows what Plekanec can do?