Confidence is a funny thing. While just about any hockey player probably grapples with fears and doubts from time to time, some combination of luck, courage, talent, hard work and confidence propelled them to the NHL level. Yet as pride and confidence might help a previously obscure player gain his 15 minutes of fame, those same thought processes can also be his undoing during times of uncertain employment. (Especially when good old-fashioned greed enters the picture.)
In most peoples’ eyes, five years isn’t a long time. The reality of professional sports, however, is a lot can change in five years. Just look at the career of Jonathan Cheechoo; he scored a league-leading 56 goals in the 2005-06 season but now finds himself mired in minor league irrelevance.
Such a predicament shouldn’t be lost on one-hit wonder Fernando Pisani. The marginal winger scored 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games during the 2006 playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, becoming something of a folk hero in the process. That outburst ended up being a mirage, as he turned in rapidly decreasing numbers* with the Oilers after signing a four-year, $10 million on the heels of that outlier of a postseason run. That contract finally expired last summer, so the Chicago Blackhawks signed him for one year at the league minimum. They got what they paid for, too, as Pisani generated just 16 points in 60 regular season games and zero in three postseason contests.
Considering how far his career has fallen, you’d think Pisani would take what he can get. The 34 year old forward told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal that he’s not interested in a training camp tryout or a sojourn in one of the European leagues, though.
“Going to camp (without a contract) isn’t a situation I want to be in. I’ll hang tough and see what happens in the next couple of weeks or so,” said Pisani, who has had his nose pressed up against the NHL glass for months, but nobody will let him in, or sign him.
“You never know what’ll happen in the summer. Early on, there were a lot of trades and action, but there hasn’t been much activity the last two or three weeks,” he said.
When asked if he might consider Europe, Pisani said: “No door is really closed.”
It’s perfectly fine that Pisani wants to handle this situation on his own terms, I’m just not sure he’s taking the right course of action. While he showed a willingness to kill penalties last season for Chicago (1:25 shorthanded minutes per game), Second City Hockey points out that he wasn’t a very effective penalty killer. He’s also been hounded by injuries, missing 155 regular season games since his magical playoff run in 2006.
If his last few seasons are an accurate portrayal of what he brings to the table, then Pisani is an aging winger with little upside and isn’t a particularly strong defensive player. My guess would be that his best chance to stick with an NHL team would be to change some minds in training camp – or better yet, have a hot string of preseason games – but the former Oilers forward looks primed to opt to hope for a break or two.
Then again, he got really lucky during one summer just five years ago, so maybe the bounces will go his way one more time.
* – Since signing that contract, Pisani scored 28 points in 2006-07, 22 in 07-08, 15 in 08-09 and 8 in 09-10 before departing for Chicago.