I hope you read the title. We’re into the month of March and Lars Eller has three points in 2015 for the Montreal Canadiens.
I’m not talking the 2014-2015 NHL season. For that he has 17 points. 17 points is technically better than the recently scratched P.A. Parenteau, who has 15 points. That is until you realize Eller’s 17 points came in 59 games while Parenteau’s 15 came in 41. Parenteau is considered a disappointment and a mistake in General Manager Marc Bergevin’s book. Lars Eller is defended.
— Dylan (@DylanshawDylan) March 2, 2015
So aggressively defended that I have a feeling the next few paragraphs won’t be read due to his most feverish fans immediately rushing to a website to list his analytics. The problem with that is just about every advanced statistician will tell you the stats need context. A good sense of context is watching the game. The other context is looking at how their ability to carry the puck and make the most of their offensive zone starts leads to any form of offence. Some don’t even bother with analytics and will just make up any excuse, from his linemates to the position he plays at forward to some unverifiable hatred from coach Michel Therrien. Anything to excuse what he has shown this season.
Lars Eller has 17 points to show on the season and only three points in 2015.
To put this into perspective, Brandon Prust and Lars Eller have spent a lot of time together this season. When they aren’t together, Prust generally goes to the fourth line, with a few stints on the third. When Lars Eller isn’t on the third line, he has played more with the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and P.A. Parenteau, then he has with fourth liners.
Prust has 14 points this season. More specifically, those 14 points all came from even strength. Eller has 15 even strength points, just one more than a guy Montreal pays to drop the gloves and grind. I’ll force you to do your own homework and see how Eller has compared in even strength points to Dale Weise. Let me just ask if Weise doesn’t need the powerplay to put up points, why does Eller?
There was a lot of teeth gnashing and keyboard mashing when Montreal neglected to pick up a top six forward and instead picked up bottom six players in Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell from the Buffalo Sabres. The Buffalo Sabres have the lowest goals-per-game by a country mile at 1.81. The Arizona Coyotes are 29th at 2.11. So Montreal picked up two bottom six scrubs from the worst team in the league. How’s that going to do anything?
Well Flynn has 17 points. Same as Eller, with one more point than Eller in even strength scoring. In other words, Montreal picked up a player for a fifth round pick with the same scoring results as Eller on a worse team (Flynn played a lot of the season with former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, who Canadiens fans were happy to get rid of).
Remember how I brought up that Eller only has three points in 2015? Mitchell had more than that in his last five games as a Sabre. Montreal picked him up for a 7th round pick and a prospect you probably couldn’t name because he was just a Hamilton Bulldog goon. They played on the fourth line last night. There is a cult surrounding Eller that is still upset that he doesn’t play center between Pacioretty and Gallagher.
If none of this is really putting into perspective the complete lack of scoring by Lars Eller in 2015, Malhotra is just one point from tying Lars Eller’s 2015 totals and he’s going to be a common scratch with the arrivals of Flynn and Mitchell.
But we really shouldn’t be surprised by this. In 2013-2014, once the calendar turned to 2014, Eller had just one point in 13 games in January and followed it up with one point in seven games for February. In 2015 he’s improved on those totals with one point in 11 games for January and two points in 14 games in February. In other words, we should have saw this coming. Eller just can’t score when the calendar year flips. He must have one wicked New Year’s Eve hangover that doesn’t go away until the spring.
Eller’s feverish fans are quick to point at his ability to carry the puck, his hits and his faceoffs. But we’re talking a player that received a four year contract at a $3.5 million cap hit in the summer. We’re not talking Jacob De La Rose, a 19-year-old who earned the coach’s confidence down the middle and has just as many points as Eller in 2015.
The other argument made is that he’s important to keep for the playoffs. Eller played pretty well in the Ottawa series… for as long as he was in it. Nothing spectacular, more just the continuation of a decent shortened season (Eller is good at the start of a season. 13 points in the first 20 games in 2013-14, 8 points in the first 20 games in 2014-15). Last season he was one of the best players for Montreal in the playoffs along with Rene Bourque. One could take a closer look at his statistics in the playoffs and point out that after Eller’s first two playoff road games and the first game against Boston, he went scoreless on the road in the playoffs, getting all of his playoff points on favourable home match-ups (for the past two seasons, Eller has struggled to score on the road where Therrien can’t match him against weaker lines. But Therrien hates him according to the cult of Eller). I just did, but nope. I’ll give any Eller fan this one. Eller was great for Montreal in the playoffs.
But what about Bourque?
Bourque was just as strong and found himself unloaded to the Anaheim Ducks for Bryan Allen. He then found himself in the American Hockey League and dumped once again, this time to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bourque won’t be finding any NHL playoff success there. Habs fans don’t really seem to care about the playoff heroics of Rene Bourque because he has been terrible in the regular season. A waste of a good roster spot.
Of course, he has just as many points in 2015 as Lars Eller. I guess what’s good for Eller isn’t good enough for Bourque at a similar cap hit.
Listen, I don’t have some vendetta against Eller. You probably won’t believe that since I’m not skewing my perspective to the most favourable light to Eller, but really, I want Eller to succeed. There’s nothing I’d want more to see than Eller make me eat these statistics (all those zeroes look like delicious donuts…), turn his game around and rip it up in the playoffs. And continue ripping it up by earning the next three years of his contract. Or at least show he can be a third line center that can score instead of his statistics living among the Brandon Prust’s and Brian Flynn’s of the team. Bergevin re-signed Eller due to a great playoff performance. He let Ryan White walk. White has six points in 2015 with the Philadelphia Flyers. Why should I ever be able to say that White has doubled Eller in anything other than fist fights?
I point out all of these other players to say it’s time to stop the excuses. It’s time to stop bringing up David Desharnais in every single discussion about Lars Eller. It’s time to stop whining about where on a line Eller plays or who his linemates are. It’s time to stop blaming Therrien for his use of Eller when Eller himself can only put up one more point in the 2015 calendar year than Malhotra. Eller is being paid $3.5 million by the Montreal Canadiens and unless moved, will be paid such for another three years. He isn’t being paid $3.5 million to only show up in April and if he is? Might as well tell him to enjoy some peanuts in the press box once the weather gets cold in Montreal.
Are points everything? No, but when you make $3.5 million per season they sure mean a lot. “I had a better February 2015 than David Clarkson” isn’t good enough. It’s time for Eller to show he’s a good enough for the Montreal Canadiens, let alone good enough to pick his spot on the Montreal Canadiens.
It says “No Excuses” at the entrance of the locker room of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s too bad the people who defend Lars Eller forget that.
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