Max Pacioretty is a very good hockey player playing with a line mate who is probably holding him back. David Desharnais is a NHL player, this is clear. Yes, he fought like tooth and nail to reach the NHL, but he is deservingly a NHL player. He is also not the player who should be playing centre to a top player in the NHL. And yes, Pacioretty is elite; deal with it. The problem with tying Pacioretty to Desharnais is it puts both players into roles that they are not suited for. Pacioretty is capable of having a greater impact for the team overall if he is put into a position where his possession-driving abilities are better put to use on a line that could use them to help with the heavy lifting and Desharnais would do fine as a third line centre whose job is to provide bottom six scoring, not top-line production.
The great news is, the Montreal Canadiens could shift lines around a bit and actually create a line-up that allows both players to play these roles. If you have not noticed, Lars Eller has taken over Tomas Plekanec's role as sacrificial lamb expected to both start in the defensive zone a lot and put up points. Brandon Prust is currently the left wing on Eller's line. If that line has heavy defensive zone start and is still expected to put up points, would it not make sense to put your usually excellent left winger on that line?
Now, using Brandon Prust on an exploitation line may not be a good idea, but if Therrien is married to having Prust in the top 9, on Desharnais' line he goes. If not, call up a kid from the farm and have a fun, little scoring line. Little being the operative word because all the Montreal Canadiens top players on the farm are small. If size is a concern, but moving Prust off of a scoring line is also a concern, calling up Eric Tangradi to fill in that role would not be the stupidest move in the world. First of all, Tangradi does not score BUT he does all those things that helps with scoring. On the Winnipeg Jets fourth line last year, he was consistently a positive possession player on the Jets fourth line in relatively easy minutes. His zone entries and exits were well above the team average for the Jets. In short, Tangradi is the type of big player who can handle playing with skilled players as long as scoring is not expected.
What this shift would accomplish is the freeing up of the Habs top offensive player (though Alex Galchenyuk may get this title at the end of the year) from a player that limits him to one that would force Pacioretty into a position where he is challenged more defensively. It would also create mismatches on defence because a line with David Desharnais and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is still a dangerous line.
This move would not probably not solve any of the Habs problems, but it would creating an interesting dynamic with the forwards. If this is about maximizing players' talents, Pacioretty should be moved onto Lars Eller's line. It may even lead to more offence for a team that is looking for it everywhere.