Toronto Maple Leafs: The evolution of Tomas Plekanec in Toronto

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Tomas Plekanec
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Tomas Plekanec /

Tomas Plekanec has gone from an enemy with the Montreal Canadiens, to a playoff performer with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season

What a difference a week makes in sports. When Tomas Plekanec joined the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the NHL trade deadline in February, the move was met with some scrutiny.

After all, how do you begin to like one of the longtime faces of a franchise you’ve been bred to dislike?

That was the question facing Leafs fans at the time. On top of the oddity of a trade between the Leafs and Habs, who hadn’t struck a deal previously for 10 years, Plekanec had seen a drop in production over the last few seasons.

After posting a 54-point season with the Habs during the 2015-16 season, he only managed 10 goals and 28 points the next year.

Through his first 60 games of this season with Montreal, Plekanec only potted six goals and had 24 points to his name.

He was brought to Toronto to be the fourth line centre. There were concerns throughout the media regarding his lack of offensive output during his first chunk of games with the Leafs.

Plekanec didn’t register his first point with the Buds until his 13th game with the team. His first primary assist came two games later against Buffalo.

More from Toronto Sports

While he only had two points down the stretch in Toronto, sports is a “What have you done for me lately” business. Fans tend to forget about the struggles while in the middle of a hot streak of offence.

Nazem Kadri‘s suspension following his hit in Game 1 of Toronto’s first-round series against Boston might have been the best thing to happen for Plekanec all season.

For the next three games, he centred the second line, flanked by Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner.

That line would quickly become the Leafs’ go-to option, with Auston Matthews and William Nylander having to match up with Zdeno Chara every game.

Plekanec would get his first point of the series in Game 3, assisting on Marleau’s insurance goal in the third period.

It was Game 4 where Plekanec had his biggest impact as a Leaf. Off a great effort from Marner, Plekanec found himself alone in the slot and blew a shot past Tuukka Rask, for his first goal with Toronto.

Unfortunately, that was the only time the Leafs would find the back of the net that night, as they dropped Game 4 to go down 3-1 in the series.

With Kadri returning and Plekanec playing his best hockey since the trade, the Leafs had a chance to force seven games. And they did with two gutsy performances with their backs against the wall.

Plekanec had his best game of the playoffs in Game 6 on Monday, nabbing a primary assist on the second goal of the game by Marner, and then putting the game on ice with an empty-netter in the final minutes of the third.

While he may have been jokingly referred to as a “Habs Sleeper Agent” after his rough start to his tenure with the Leafs, there is nobody complaining about the offensive performance of Plekanec when it matters most.

Next: Leafs force seventh game with emotional victory

While it’s very likely the Czech returns to Montreal in the offseason, the Leafs might at least offer Plekanec a contract due to this effort. Regardless of where he plays next year, the veteran has gone from public enemy to a hero in just a few short months.