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Devante Smith-Pelly isn't "making room" for Lars Eller

Ever since a guest spot by Ray Ferraro on Melnick in the afternoon, a narrative has begun to take hold that really makes no sense.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the week, TSN analyst Ray Ferraro did one of his regular guest spots on Melnick in the Afternoon here on TSN690, and when asked about whether Devante Smith-Pelly has been disappointing, Ferraro speculated that Smith-Pelly likely needs to shed some of his weight in the offseason to keep up with the speed game of the Eastern Conference. Ferraro then says that it's still possible that even though Smith-Pelly's clearly struggling, his physicality may have opened up some ice for his linemates, namely Lars Eller, who has been producing more offense lately.

Since Ferraro mentioned that possibility, which even as he said it, he made clear it was a guess, it's been repeated at least daily on Melnick's show as fact, and been tossed around social media constantly.

Here's the problem though, it's not true at all.

Eller's offensive production has increased recently, with the Danish center (now back to playing center) putting up five points in his last seven games, Smith-Pelly was only on the ice for one of those points. Give full credit to Smith-Pelly on that one, as he had a nice primary assist, but he hasn't really been a factor in Eller's production over that time.

If anyone should be getting credit for stimulating Eller's offensive abilities, it should probably be the guy who does it for everyone, Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty has been on the ice for three of Eller's five points over the last seven games, scoring two goals Eller assisted on, and providing a forecheck that caused a turnover that led to Eller's empty net goal. Two of those points were shorthanded, because Eller gets so little opportunity to play with Pacioretty in any other scenario (just over three minutes together the last seven games), even though it makes a lot of sense 5-on-5.

This isn't meant to bash Smith-Pelly in any way, though he does not look good so far for Montreal. Questions about his conditioning do seem to have a little bit of credence, and even if they don't, he can not keep up with the incredibly quick duo of Eller and Jacob de la Rose, often looking lost and behind the play while those two are on the attack.

The problem with this entire scenario is how often media does this. The conclusion is that Smith-Pelly is helping the offense, even though all the evidence we have says that he isn't, and any speculation that could hint at Smith-Pelly being a positive is taken as fact, without double checking in anyway.

Since Smith-Pelly was acquired by the Canadiens, he's producing just 3.18 scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength, which is lower than Manny Malhotra (3.67). His linemates are doing much better on the year, with Eller at 6.83 scoring chances per 60, and de la Rose at 6.13, so it's not like there isn't ample opportunity on that line to get chances. Meanwhile Eller has ramped up his chance numbers to 8.83 per 60 minutes since Smith-Pelly was acquired, but there's little to no evidence that this has anything to do with Smith-Pelly, since the two have played just 70:45 together at even strength, and Eller has played nearly 300 minutes apart from him.

Like Ferraro said when he was on Melnick's show, I don't think there's any reason to give up on Smith-Pelly at this point, even though he's been relatively bad. I think we'll know a lot more about the future of the player next year, after the Canadiens have designed a conditioning program for him to stick to over the summer.