David Desharnais 2017-18 Expectations
Last summer New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton made a move that flew under the radar by signing Michael Grabner. Many fans and hockey experts believed that Grabner would be a nice role player for the Rangers and nothing more. 27 goals later and Grabner was the steal of the summer.
While I won’t go so far as to say David Desharnais will be the steal of the summer; I will say this move is flying under the radar. While we previously wrote on how Desharnais’ fit with the team as Oscar Lindberg’s replacement, there’s attributes to expect from the Quebec center man.
It’s the Little Things
As a hockey fan, not just a Rangers fan, I find that having a reliable face-off man is such a necessity. Before last season I was probably the only person that thought retaining Dominic Moore was a must. It obviously wasn’t made and the Boston Bruins benefitted from Moore’s services.
At the trade deadline Brian Boyle was the player I wished the team acquired, he wasn’t. Come season’s end the Rangers had the 22nd worst team face-off percentage. Oscar Lindberg and Mika Zibanejad (52%) were the only centers to win north of 50%. Neither played the whole season.
To simply put it, David Desharnais won 51% last season and has an average of about 51% over the last three seasons. While things like this may not seem important; think about how many times Derek Stepan would lose key defensive zone face-offs late in games.
The reigning back to back champions Pittsburgh Penguins had a fourth line center named Matt Cullen average 53% in his two years with the team. In the 2014-15 season the Chicago Blackhawks had Marcus Kruger (53%) as their face-off man when they last won.
Moral of the story, championship teams need a player that can win face-offs. It often comes down to a bottom 6 player, and they are often forgotten about. While their point input may not scream value, the importance of having a face-off winning center is not stressed enough.
As mentioned above, Desharnais will not be lighting the lamp or the score sheet very often. During his career year in 2011-12 the score sheet reads 16 G, 44 A, 60 P. This is not at all to be expected. Desharnais will be the third or fourth line center and will probably contribute around 20-25 points total.
Nothing to write home about but that’s not what the team signed him for. If Desharnais can help on the penalty kill and the face-off dot then he could very will be the most important move of the summer for the New York Rangers. He won’t pack the most punch, we can leave the statistical value to the big names; but with the hopes being a parade through the Canyon of Heroes in June this move could be huge. I would dare to say it could be just as if not more important than getting a big name.
It’s the forgotten names that often prove to be most important in the playoffs. They say ‘it’s the little things that matter in life’; well the 5′ 7″ center will look to validate the expression for the New York Rangers this season.