7 NHL Veterans Who Will Have to Earn Their Jobs in 2012-13
Many veteran hockey players come to training camp with the idea of getting into game shape and then fighting to stay sharp through the monotony of workouts and preseason games.
Top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen know they are virtually assured of their roster spots. They don't have to go to training camp so they can win a place on the roster and assure themselves of a high salary.
However, nothing lasts forever and players who were solid veterans a few years ago may be hanging on for dear life this time around. Due to age, salary-cap considerations or diminished skills, the following players will have to earn their jobs this year.
Mike Rupp, New York Rangers
Mike Rupp is a journeyman player who brings what hockey executives call "character" into the locker room.
Rupp will go into the corner, take an elbow to the head and dig the puck out to an open teammate. He will also go into that same corner, square off with an opponent and start throwing punches.
His spot on John Tortorella's Rangers is anything but assured. He may need a top-level showing in order to keep his job in 2012-13. If Tortorella does not think his services are necessary, he may not be back with the team this year.
Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
The praise and the criticism have both been warranted.
However, Bertuzzi is not the force he once was. While he can score, play the physical game, handle himself with his fists and make a general contribution to the Detroit Red Wings, he is not the player he used to be.
Bertuzzi, 37, has slowed down to a degree. He had 14 goals last year and he had 16 goals the year before.
The Detroit Red Wings lost veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement in the offseason and they will have to determine if Bertuzzi is still the right man for this team.
Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Penguins
The 2011-12 season was a big turnaround year for Matt Cooke.
After establishing himself as one of the dirtiest players in the league and being the impetus for some of the illegal head shot penalties that are now imposed as a result of his 2010 hit on Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins, Cooke pledged to clean up his act and turn things around in 2011-12.
To the surprise of many NHL observers, Cooke did just that. After exceeding the 100-penalty minute mark for three straight seasons, Cooke was whistled for 44 minutes in penalties last year. He also had an impressive 19 goals.
Which Cooke will show up this year? Has he really turned his game around or will he revert to his previous form? If he shows tendencies to play the "dirty" game this year, Dan Bylsma and the Penguins may not want to keep him.
Dan Paille, Boston Bruins
The Bruins are loaded with talent and that means that lower-end players like Dan Paille do not have their roster spots guaranteed.
Paille has a world of speed and often looks impressive in a workout. However, he treats the hockey puck as if it were a hand grenade. His passing is average and his shooting is not dependable. He had 15 points for the Bruins last season.
Head coach Claude Julien likes to use him in penalty killing situations, but he is going to have to show the Bruins more skill if he wants to prove he still belongs on the team.
Jamal Mayers, Chicago Blackhawks
The 37-year-old Mayers has been a hard-working tough guy who has filled the role of enforcer during a number of his NHL stops.
The Blackhawks probably can use a player who can stand up for his teammates, but it may not be Mayers. Dan Carcillo is scheduled to return this year and that may make Mayers expendable.
Mayers is a good guy in the locker room and will do what his coaches ask. However, his ability is limited and the Hawks may choose to go in another direction.
Mike Komisarek, Toronto Maple Leafs
At one point in his career, Mike Komisarek was an up-and-coming young defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens.
He made a few contributions to Les Glorieux, but the most notable aspect of his career in Montreal was the beating he took from Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins.
Komisarek, 30, has since moved on to Toronto, but he continues to get pounded by Lucic (see video above). How does taking a beating help his team?
If Brian Burke believes the effectiveness has been pounded out of Komisarek, he will not make the Leafs.
Toni Lydman, Anaheim Ducks
Toni Lydman is a solid defenseman who can play the physical game.
But Lydman, 34, plays for a team that may be looking to rebuild this year. Lydman does not have special qualities and that makes him expendable for the Ducks.
If they are not going to be a playoff team, why do they have to bring back a defenseman who did not score a goal last year and finished with a plus-minus rating of zero?
In 2010-11, Lydman had a plus-minus of plus-32. That's quite a dip and he may not belong on the Anaheim roster much longer.