Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec Announces Retirement From Hockey

Oct 17, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Center Tomas Plekanec (14) waves to the crowd as the Montreal Canadiens team celebrates his NHL 1000th game before the game against St. Louis Blues at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Center Tomas Plekanec (14) waves to the crowd as the Montreal Canadiens team celebrates his NHL 1000th game before the game against St. Louis Blues at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens had many ups and downs during the Carey Price era, but one constant during that time was exceptional two-way play from center Tomas Plekanec.

While Plekanec consistently delivered a strong defensive game, and was a regular contributor on the Canadiens offensive attack for over a decade, he has been playing pro in Czechia since leaving the Canadiens in 2018.

The 40 year old began this season with his hometown team as well, but suffered an injury after nine games and chose to finally retire from the game of professional hockey.

The native of Czech Republic was drafted in the third round of the 2001 NHL Draft by the Canadiens after playing one full pro season with Kladno in his home country. He played the following season with Kladno again before making the move to North America to suit up for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2002-03.

He immediately fit in and began showing his two-way game as he scored 19 goals and 46 points in 77 games as an AHL rookie. He played two more full AHL seasons, thanks to the 2004-05 lockout, and became a regular in the Canadiens lineup in 2005-06. He scored nine goals and 29 points that season, but played a great defensive game and settling in on the team’s third line.

Plekanec took on a bigger role the following season when Mike Ribeiro was dealt just before the season began. He would go on to score 20 goals each of the next five seasons, and be a matchup nightmare for the opposing team’s best players on a nightly basis.

The smart, defensively responsible center would form a somewhat unlikely duo with Alex Kovalev, a player often criticized for his lack of attention to detail and all-out offensive style, but they made it work.

Plekanec’s big breakout season came in 2007-08 when he scored 29 goals, a career high, and 69 points in 81 games. He was centering Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn that season and they surprisingly led the Canadiens, along with Carey Price in goal, to a first place finish in the Eastern Conference.

A new career high in points would be reached two years later when Plekanec was mostly skating between Kostitsyn and Mike Cammalleri. He had 25 goals and 70 points that season and the line was terrific in the playoffs, helping the Canadiens upset the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins as they made a run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Four years later the Canadiens were back in the Eastern Conference Final and Plekanec was still a key part of the team in 2014. He centered a second line with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher on the wings and it was a steady two-way line for the Canadiens. With Galchenyuk hurt, Rene Bourque found his way on the line for stretches and he ended up with 11 points in 17 games that postseason. Plekanec had nine points and was terrific defensively and on the penalty kill.

The 2014-15 season saw him score 26 goals and 60 points, but it would be the last great season for Plekanec. The team was dreadful the following season and Plekanec dropped to 14 goals but still had 54 points while cycling through linemates due to trades and injuries.

Phillip Danault started to take on a bigger role by 2016-17 but Plekanec was still playing a lot with Galchenyuk and Gallagher. His offense dried up though as he had ten goals and 28 points in 68 games, though he scored a huge goal against the New York Rangers in the first round of that year’s playoffs.

Plekanec struggled offensively again in 2017-18, scoring six goals and 24 points in 60 games before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. He had just two points in 17 regular season games with them but added four points in seven playoff contests.

He re-signed with the Canadiens that summer, but last only three games, scoring one goal and suiting up for his 1000th career game. After playing career game 1001, he would retire from the NHL and head to Czechia to continue to pro career.

That was five years ago and Plekanec just called it a career yesterday. He played well for Kladno, his hometown team, scoring 49 points in 52 games last season and 53 points in 59 games the previous year.

He scored 233 goals and 608 points in his NHL career, and another 53 points in 94 career NHL playoff games. His offensive numbers are one thing but his defensive game was far better than his offensive production making him a terrific two-way player for well over a decade in Montreal.

For much of his time with the Canadiens, he was the perfect second line center. Happy retirement Tomas! Habs fans loved having you play for the Canadiens for as long as you did and miss having such a trusted and excellent defensive presence in the middle of the lineup.

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