With the news yesterday that Tomas Plekanec had been made a healthy scratch ahead of the trade deadline, reality set in that the longest tenured Montreal Canadiens player may have seen his last game in a Habs uniform. Today, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he will don a new jersey for the first time.
The Czech centre ranks 13th in the organization in career points (605), 18th in goals (232), 13th in assists (373), and seventh in total games played (981). Given the long history of the franchise and some of the stars that passed through in their careers, it’s a testament to the ability of Plekanec to rank so highly.
He was the quiet leader in the room (alongside the also departed Andrei Markov); the veteran presence that helped guide up-and-coming players. He played every role imaginable, from being the top-line centre to the defensive specialist later in his career, and did so as a true professional.
He doesn’t have the same accolades as many other players, but he still deserves the praise for what he has achieved over his career. He took the toughest assignments against players like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin on a regular basis, and for the majority of his career managed solid offensive production as well.
This isn’t how anyone imagined this season going, even in the worst projections for this year. Plekanec was again the loyal company man, keeping his head down and working hard night in and night out. As his career winds down, Plekanec going to a playoff-bound team and potential Stanley Cup favourite is the best end for both sides. Montreal can get assets to start their rebuild, and a veteran gets a well-deserved shot at the top prize.
It’s always sad to see a long-time player leave the only team he’s ever played for in his professional career. Habs fans should wish him well as he heads off to a new destination, even if it is to a rival.
Maybe he’ll be back in the off-season, but who knows. All that is for sure is that if Plekanec has played his last game in a Montreal uniform, it came in a win, where he also scored a goal. I can’t think of a better way to send him off than on that note.