First off, lets take a look at how Eller played last season. I thought that he played well, and showed that he is a serious contender as a number one centre. He hit a career high in points with 30 (8 G, 20 A) while playing well defensively, and spent a lot of time on the Habs penalty kill units. He has been known to score in bunches, and last year he never went more than four games without a point. He played well in all areas of the game and was rewarded for it.
This season seems to be a different story. He is playing the same, if not better, hockey as last season, yet he has been having a difficult time putting up points. He has had shots on net in 46 of 52 games, but just can't seem to find the back of the net. Part of the reason for me, is that he has not been used in the right way as of late. I noticed Eller starting to taper off from the score sheet in early December. He started playing a more defensive game, and playing with different linemates. When Therrien had the "EGG" line together, Eller was playing his best offensive hockey. Every time his line stepped on the ice their were scoring chances galore, and the momentum of the game was completely shifted. After Therrien's attempt to get players like David Desharnais, Rene Bourque, and Daniel Briere going, Eller was thrown around the line-up. Since then, he has not been able to find his groove with his linemates, and is playing the wrong role for his type of player.
Currently, he is playing on the wing (yes, the wing) with two-way forwards Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. If Therrien wants to see Eller produce points, this has to change. With the team struggling in scoring, you'd think Therrien would do his best to set lines up to create the most offense. By utilizing Eller in this position, he is creating a line based around playing against the top line as a shut down offense. I think Eller should be playing with Pacioretty and Gallgher, creating a dynamic trio of offensive capability, but with enough hockey sense to be able to play defensively as well. Eller has the ability to do it all, he just needs to be put in the position to do so.
I believe that at some point Therrien will realize Eller's potential as an aggressive threat. When this happens, expect a huge improvement in points by Eller, as well as a big boost in Montreal's offense. Lars is an excellent player, and he should be used for his strengths. If Eller stays in the same spot as he is in right now. I don't expect to see much offense coming from him. I, for one, would like to see the dominant offensive force that could be, Lars Eller.
By Darrin Harmsworth
By Darrin Harmsworth