When enforcer Cam Janssen signed on as a free agent this summer with the New Jersey Devils, it was a homecoming of sorts for him. After all, Janssen came up through the Devils system going back to his days with the Albany River Rats and on to his NHL career with the Devils. Going back to where you started is sometimes a great thing and provides a comfort zone.
That comfort zone aspect, however, is something Janssen was looking to shake up after deciding to leave St. Louis through free agency. Janssen being a St. Louis native and playing for the hometown Blues proved to be a good thing for a while for the six year NHL veteran, but as he tells Jeremy Rutherford of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it proved to make things a bit too comfortable for him in the end.
Saying this week that he’s both ecstatic to become a Devil again and sad to see his days with the Blues end, Janssen admitted that it was time to move on.
“I felt like I was spoiled here,” Janssen said. “I’m living next to my parents. I have my friends here. It’s hard to explain. It was reality, but it was not reality, too. To play in your hometown, you have distractions. It takes a toll on you, it really does. That’s the life you live as a professional hockey player, don’t get me wrong, but it’s magnified in your hometown.
“It was the best time of my life, but it was time for a change, it really was. I think everybody saw that.”
Janssen isn’t what you’d call an integral player on an NHL roster. Over his career he’s averaged just 4:49 of ice time per game and when your role on a roster is as an enforcer, ice time these days in the NHL is tougher to come by. While some teams have moved completely away from having tough guys on the roster (Detroit and Tampa Bay) others seem to treat enforcers like a side sow production to put them out there against other brawlers so they can do their business.
For Janssen, even playing that role was made a bit trickier in front of the hometown fans as well as for his parents, Denny and Amy Janssen, watching him as well.
Janssen was familiar with the faction of fans who felt he shouldn’t be in the lineup. They cited his lack of production — seven points in 165 games.
“I take everything to heart, I really do, and sometimes that hurt me,” Janssen said.
Denny and Amy heard the criticism in the stands at Scottrade Center.
“It was a little hard because not everybody is a Cam fan,” Denny said. “Sometimes you hear things like ‘Hey Cam, just cause you’re from Eureka’ … that kind of stuff,” Denny said. “That kind of hurt. My wife was always like, ‘Let it go, let it go.’
For Janssen now, he heads back to New Jersey where he cut his teeth in the NHL and while you can’t fully expect to see his ice time grow exponentially, the Devils made themselves a bit meaner by adding Janssen and former Thrashers tough guy Eric Boulton.
Whether that helps make the Devils more of a pain to deal with in the rough going Atlantic Division and back into the playoffs is debatable, but with that brand of hockey back in Newark, the Devils surely won’t be an easy team to handle in a lot of ways. With Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scoring goals and Boulton and Janssen punching lights out, the Devils figure to be a major thorn in the side.