I’m not in denial. I know it’s very unlikely that we will ever see Thomas Vanek in a Montreal Canadiens uniform again. I knew this when we traded for him, and I knew this right after Game 6 against the New York Rangers.
Vanek has been the brunt of a lot of frustration from Guy Lafleur to just about any Canadiens fan. He was brought in to score lots of goals and be the difference. For many nights, he was the difference. However, I’m willing to argue that Vanek was never given a chance to succeed.
He could have said he was hurt. He didn’t. He said it was a lack of chemistry with his teammates. Before you say how that’s a bad excuse, let’s go back to the Tampa Bay series and a feature that Elliotte Friedman did with what was then the Canadiens best line.
In Game 3 of the Boston series, Therrien surprised everyone by putting Vanek with Tomas Plekanec. It resulted in a great pass and a goal. After that, it fizzled until Vanek came back to life in Game 6 of the Rangers series but couldn’t beat Henrik Lundqvist.
So, if it takes Vanek time to get to play with teammates, and in the playoffs when you have no time it might not be the best idea to shake things up.
Now, I’m not blaming Michel Therrien. That move might have gotten them to win the Boston series. That’s a coach’s job.
Pacioretty, Desharnais and Vanek weren’t playing well. With Brendan Gallagher, they played better. It’s not out of the question to think that they would have gotten better with Vanek as well. But you wait and you risk losing the Boston series.
It’s a situation that couldn’t have ended well no matter what – unless Vanek started working out. I would have liked to see him with Lars Eller, but the way that line was going you can’t really make a change there either.
Vanek was great at times with Montreal. The plays he would make showed that he knows what to do with it. However, whether it was nicks and fatigue, chemistry, or just an attitude issue it didn’t work out. He is still a good player and will still be a good scorer over the next few seasons.
But realistically, if you’re going to be a championship team in a salary cap world, a $7 million per year winger better be able to play no matter who his center is. Thomas Vanek was the right idea and the right move for the Canadiens. Thomas Vanek wasn’t the right player for the Canadiens.