The time for experiments is now
Aaron Palushaj is a hard-working player facing the 6 most important games of his career. The young winger has nothing more to offer the AHL, and needs a solid swan song in order to earn a spot in the NHL (with Montreal or elsewhere). Palushaj has earned his opportunity, the only question that remains is will he get his chance?
As mentioned here, at this point in the season Rene Bourque is just a body playing along side Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. Bourque simply kills too many offensive-forays. Palushaj, on the other hand has the best overall risk/reward ratings of any winger not named Max Pacioretty. Palushaj simply has better numbers than Bourque in every even-strength metric tracked.
Palushaj has the third-best offensive-zone risk/reward rating on the entire team; behind only Eller and Pacioretty. His numbers show that he can maintain puck-possession in the offensive-zone, and will be able to support the o-zone cycle with Plekanec and Eller. Granted, he wins only 40% of his offensive-zone puck-battles, but makes up for that with the most offensive-zone loose-puck recoveries per-minute played on the entire team. His success-rate for offensive-zone passes (65%) is even better than the Habs top "money-passer"; David Desharnias.
When engaging in plays that require him to maintain puck-possession, Palushaj's success-rate of 63% is slightly better than even Pacioretty, and surpassed only by his potential linemates, Eller and Plekanec. Palushaj defensive-zone risk/reward rating is fourth-best among forwards. It is equal to Plekanec, and surpassed only by Petteri Nokelainen and Lars Eller.
In terms of even-strength ratio, Palushaj makes 1.84 successful plays for every 1 unsuccessful plays. this is the third-best ratio among wingers, and substantially higher than Bourque's ratio of 1.53 successful plays for every 1 unsuccessful play.
This is not about slamming Rene Bourque. This is about quantifying internal assets. In order to create an accurate and tangible value on Aaron Palushaj, the Canadiens have no choice but to play him with better players.