St. Louis Blues defenseman Wade Redden might play in his 1,000th NHL game tonight. It’s a feat that’s special on its own, but it’s his path to this day that has been truly unique.
Back when Redden was shining as one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL during his days with the Ottawa Senators, no one would have had a problem believing that he would someday reach the 1,000-game mark.
After inking a six-year, $39 million deal with the New York Rangers prior to the start of the 2008-09 campaign, reaching the major hockey milestone was seen as nothing more than a rapidly approaching inevitability.
Of course, things didn’t go as planned. Redden’s contract with the Rangers was a disaster and after 994 career NHL games, the Rangers decided to make him an extremely well-paid minor-leaguer. Redden spent two seasons in the AHL before the lockout prevented him from doing even that.
If it wasn’t for the amnesty buyouts that were included in the new CBA, he still wouldn’t be playing in the NHL. Fortunately for him there were and now he’s with the St. Louis Blues after signing a far more modest one-year, $800,000 contract.
“I know how hard he worked to be ready for when he got a chance again,” his former captain, Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson, said in an Ottawa Citizen report.
“He was in a tough spot. He couldn’t really do anything. He couldn’t just ask for a trade and get a new start somewhere else. It was a really hard situation. We had talks about whether he wanted to keep playing. The money is obviously not the issue, but it wears on you mentally and with the motivation. I’ve been impressed with how he stuck with it and it’s nice to see that it’s paying off.”
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”
Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.
The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.
“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”
“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”
Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.
“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”
The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…