The much-lauded, much-maligned David Desharnais came crashing down to earth last season (as predicted by EOTP *cough*) after a fantastic season in 2011-12. Unfortunately for Desharnais, the percentages didn't work for him two years in a row, but there are good signs in his play that many are ignoring.
After three seasons watching Davey, and at 27 years old, we know what we're dealing with. Desharnais is an exploitation forward who produces offense through playmaking. He's a complementary player, but a very solid one. He is best used in an offense-only role for about 15 minutes a game, hopefully with linemates that complement him.
The burden of expectations were what really got Desharnais on the bad side for many fans last year. His 48 point pace over an 82 game schedule is nothing to scoff at for a player getting 16:27 per game, he just isn't Max Pacioretty. Is bouncing back to 60 points at all reasonable for Desharnais next season?
In the following graph, the blue line is Desharnais' even-strength Fenwick percentage from 2010 to 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Desharnais' offensive-zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling 10-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.
Considering that Desharnais has been tied to Max Pacioretty's hip for the past two seasons, it should come as no surprise that his possession numbers are fantastic and on the rise. However, he is not at the same level, even with Max on his line, and his role has become increasingly slanted to the offensive zone, with a bit of diminishing returns.
Early in his career Desharnais was outperforming his zone starts, but that isn't the case anymore. This isn't really a problem because his performance is still stellar in those minutes, but he isn't a versatile forward. If Therrien decides that someone else is better served by those minutes, Desharnais' play will suffer.
For the time being though, as long as Alex Galchenyuk remains on the wing, Desharnais has a place on the Canadiens, and he is a positive impact for them.
As documented by Olivier Bouchard here on EOTP and on his fantastic site En Attendant Les Nordiques, Desharnais had some rotten luck on the powerplay last year, which accounted for some of the dip in his numbers, although I don't think we can expect too much of a bounceback in his overall numbers. His ice time is likely to take another hit this year with the emergence of the EGG line, and part of the drop in his powerplay production was a huge drop in scoring chances while he was on the ice, which is less about luck and more about poor play.
It's also tough to expect any major steps forward in his game at 27, as he should already be at or even past his peak. If Desharnais hits between 45 and 50 points, while producing 15 goals, the Habs will be in very good shape this season.