OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 7 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:
2008-2009 Regular Season: 78 GP, 5-6-11, +/- -9, 28 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 20 GP, 0-1-1, +/- -1, 2 PIM
Season Highlight: Playing in his 1,000th NHL game. (But I was really tempted to choose this "interview" because it's comforting to know that his garage is as messy as mine is. And that he has weird neighbor kids.)
Season Lowlight: Getting benched in the playoffs.
Like his former Grind Line buddy Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby didn’t have a particularly good ’08-’09 campaign. He and the rest of the fourth line struggled defensively all year. They weren’t able to wear down opposing lines they way that they need to in order to be successful. As a result, he found himself benched a few times in the playoffs. if not for the injury bug that hit, he probably would’ve sat a lot more.
I’m really hoping that he finds a way to turn things around this year. I have a pretty strong nostalgic attachment to Maltby thanks to the good old Grind Line days, and I’d love for him to be successful again. When he’s effective, he can still bring something to the team. The question is whether or not he can still be effective. At present, it looks like he’s going to be fighting with Patrick Eaves for ice time. I noticed in the playoffs that when he got back into the lineup after being benched, he played much better. Maybe that competition will be exactly what he needs in order to find his way back into everyone’s good graces. He doesn’t need to put up anything different offensively than he did last season, but he does need to step up the defense. That -9 +/- rating isn’t going to fly for a second consecutive season. And with all of the young guys waiting to jump into the lineup, Maltby’s going to have to work extra hard all season to justify his presence on the ice.
What he needs to do to make me happy: Reverse the sign on his +/- from last season.