(photo credit: Getty Images)
I'll admit it. When I first read that Jeremy Roenick was coming out of retirement to play one last season with the San Jose Sharks, I was more than a little skeptical.
Sure, his 20+ years of bone-crunching NHL experience and leadership skills would benefit youngsters like Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi, but how effective would he actually be on the ice? Didn't he retire for a reason?
I'm happy to report that all of my doubts about JR's ability to show up when it really mattered were put to rest in last night's do-or-die Game 7 against the Calgary Flames.
Now, I'm truly a believer.
In a dashing effort, Roenick tallied two goals and two assists to tie a Sharks franchise record for points scored in a Game 7. The Sharks prevailed in the game, beating the Flames 5-3. More importantly, they also prevailed in the series, eliminating Calgary and moving on to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Earlier in the week, Sharks head coach Ron Wilson scratched Roenick in Game 6, causing many to question whether or not No. 27 still had the goods to be the badass veteran who the team so desperately needed.
What seemed like a crazy move by Wilson lit a fire under JR. A text message from Wilson to Roenick stated that Wilson would be relying heavily on the seasoned veteran in Game 7.
JR responded. And responded. And responded. He truly played like a man possessed. Wilson didn't look so crazy after all.
And the great thing about a player that displays that kind of passion is that he makes his teammates rise to a higher level in the process.
Devin Setoguchi looked like he'd been playing in the NHL for years, despite the fact that his goal last night was only the first playoff goal of his young career. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski also benefited from Roenick's superior efforts.
Up next for the Sharks are the Dallas Stars. This series promises to be a more intense and physical version of the one the Sharks just won.
If they intend to advance in the playoffs, every single member of Team Teal will need to take a note from Roenick's notebook and play that hard and with that amount of desire. As amazing as JR is, he can't do it alone.
Whatever the case may be, I'm excited to see just how much JR has left in the tank. So far, I'm totally impressed.