First of all, I just finished watching the game against Montreal. Couldn’t do so live because I’m in the actual Mines of Moria for work today. Boo. Thoughts on the game? Jimmy Howard. Holy. Effing. Balls. Jimmy is capable of amazing saves. Pavel Valerievich is still my favourite player, despite almost missing that 3”x1” slot above Carey Price’s left shoulder on the backhand, keeping the defender’s stick away with his skate. Seriously though, incredible shot.
You know who I didn’t see in that game? Jiri Hudler. The subject of today’s discussion. Did he make one memorable highlight? Did he try severing a man’s head with his skate? Did he swing his stick around wildly, aiming high, for people’s eyes? Or did he fly under the radar and make sure nobody was talking about him after the game…
Jiri Hudler scored the first goal of Live action hockey I have ever seen, at my first ever Red Wings game (remember now, Phoenix wasn’t there for me in my childhood and I grew up fairly poor). Because of this, I’m actually pretty laid back and relatively easy on Jiri Hudler. The guy scored 23 goals, helped set-up 34 others and was a key player in our 2008-2009 season (which, when not talking about regular season gallantry, never happened). The next season, which was last year, he spent in the KHL scoring 19 goals with 35 helpers in only 54 games. Points per game, in other words (because I’m an engineer, a nerd, and LOVE numbers) has been 0.71 PPG in the 2008-2009 and 0.98 PPG for Dynamo Moskau, balanced by a sh*tty 0.25 PPG in our current season. Now, whilst we’re number one in all categories ever invented by man to quantitatively track ice hockey, I’m not going to get too upset. As long as we’re winning, right?
Well my patience only goes so far, and at this pace, his 0.25 PPG will earn him 3 goals and 17 helpers. For the price, that’s terrible. For Justin Abdelkader that’s terrible. For Drew Miller that’s…meh.
What we’re saying is that Happy can’t keep this up. He’s our whipping boy when we’re on a “horrendous” 3-game skid and he’s our whipping when we’re winning games. Fair? Well, I used to say no, but really I can only stand up for a guy who’s doing jack sh*t so much. Then it starts to make me look bad.
So where has he been? We all know he committed impure acts (Christian-wise, I mean it’s almost Christmas season) whilst in Russia; money and a love of hookers will do that to a man. But he’s back now, and at the same he isn’t back. This isn’t the Happy we sent to Russia, for sure. This isn’t the Happy that scored game winners, second-unit-power-play goals, breakaway goals and tapping in the garbage.
If you think back to most of his signature Hudler goals, he was around the net, not in a Tomas Holmstrom, annoying way, but in a sort of “I’m going to time my visits to the crease in such a way that I’m always there for a rebound,” way. He is better when he’s around the net, and that’s true for most hockey players not named Pavel Valerievich. He’s just not there anymore. He’s not hanging out in front of the net like he used to and I don’t know why. Part of the problem has been him with Dan(ny) Cleary and Mike Modano, one who is a guy who likes to scrap and dig the puck out of tough places and could use some support in that venture, the other is an Emo scene-kid who slits his wrists when he’s not scoring. After that he moved to the fourth line. Again, tough, hard nosed hockey and a lot of battles down low. That’s not where Hudler succeeds. He fails in that role, and I think 24 games played shows us that. He succeeds with a puck-possession system when pucks are flying at the net from all directions and he’s there to tap in the garbage.
This is all speculation from a concerned fan, but I just don’t see him where we used to see him, cruising in and being a net presence. Could that be why he’s struggling so much this year? I don’t know, but there’s got to be some explanation other than “cocaine’s a helluva drug, man.”