TORONTO – An optimist might point out that this represents the perfect opportunity for Tomas Plekanec to turn things around with the Toronto Maple Leafs. By his own admission, things have not gone as planned for the veteran since arriving here in the first trade of his life.
“Obviously, I’d like to be better,” Plekanec said Monday, before the Leafs faced the Boston Bruins in Game 3.
There is a chicken-and-egg aspect to his situation. He’s not been put in a situation where most players could ever feel good – barely playing at all and starting fewer than 25 per cent of his shifts in the offensive zone when he does. Among the 15 games where Plekanec has received his lowest ice time in the last decade, 13 have come with the Leafs (courtesy hockey-reference.com):
It is the same hired-gun role Brian Boyle filled for Mike Babcock’s team last spring. In a recent conversation, Boyle said that he had to embrace a total mindset change to get comfortable as a Leaf. His job was basically to win faceoffs and not get scored on at even strength.
“It’s not like that team needed anyone else to score goals,” said Boyle.
There’s not much glory in that line of work. You can only really be spotlighted for the wrong reasons, like when Plekanec came out for a key defensive zone faceoff against Patrice Bergeron’s line in Game 1 and wound up getting scored on in the final minute of the second period.
“You get paid to do certain things – that’s your job,” Babcock said later. “It wasn’t like I was avoiding that at all. I thought that was a real good situation for us. They’re supposed to be able to start in the D-zone and get us in the O-zone and get off the ice.”
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