David Desharnais has been a polarizing player for Montreal Canadiens fans. To some, he is the local kid who beat the size bias to become an everyday NHL player. To others, he is management’s favourite as he is put into a prime role despite not having the production or all around game to justify the generous ice time. The coaching staff will do anything to make sure Desharnais is going even if it means players like Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller get fewer minutes.
Why the love for Desharnais?
There is a preconceived notion that Desharnais and captain Max Pacioretty have amazing chemistry together and that for the team to succeed, those two need to be together. They did well together in the AHL and had success alongside former Hab Erik Cole during the 2011-12 season. Since then, Pacioretty has established himself as an elite sniper while Desharnais has been an inconsistent offensive producer despite ample time with the best wingers on the team and tons of power play time.
For whatever reason, management has committed to Desharnais as a core player and as an important part of the the team’s offence despite being seventh on the team in points with 26 points in 56 games. However, most of those points came early in the season when he was in a third line role with Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise. He isn’t regarded as part of the team’s leadership core as Pacioretty, Carey Price, PK Subban, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher all wear a letter with the exception of Price.
On any other team, Desharnais would not get the opportunity he receives in Montreal. Other players have gotten shafted in favour of him. Former third overall pick Galchenyuk played the wing in his first three years despite showing more offensively than Desharnais. Even this season, Eller was put on the wing despite being better at the centre ice position and his game subsequently improved after he was put back in the middle. After starting the year on the team’s “third” line, Desharnais got moved up to play with Pacioretty again and has struggled producing in a larger role.
The struggles continue
Lately, the line of Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk has been spectacular for Montreal and they along with Subban have carried the team’s offence. Desharnais has since been reunited with Pacioretty but both have struggled. Pacioretty has gushed about how Desharnais is the best centre he has ever played with but the results as of late say otherwise. Neither player has been playing inspiring hockey and it’s at the point where rookie Sven Andrighetto was the best player by far on their line.
Head coach Michel Therrien is not one to mince words and during this slump, he has been more than critical publicly with certain players. Subban and Eller have been thrown under the bus at times while Nathan Beaulieu has taken a seat as a healthy scratch. However, Desharnais has almost never been criticized by Therrien publicly even when he is struggling. Every player should be held accountable for their performance but it doesn’t make sense that someone like Subban is constantly thrown to the wolves despite being the team’s best defenceman and their points leader while Desharnais is seemingly excused.
In reality, Desharnais is a very average NHL player, but he gets treated like a star by Montreal’s management. No other NHL team would see Desharnais as a core piece or the type of player imperative to a team’s offence. Desharnais is not dynamic offensively nor is he defensively sound. There is no reason why other players who are clearly playing better should be pushed aside in order to get Desharnais to produce. The Habs won’t win with Desharnais in the current role he is in. His usage by the coaching is a detriment to the team as there are other players who are better and deserve the opportunity to shine. Desharnais has had more than enough time to show what kind of player he is. Time for someone else to get that chance.