July 16 2012 04:16PM
Theo Peckham had a good laugh on Jason Gregor's Show on TEAM 1260 today, and it wasn't about his listed weight of 235 pounds in the Edmonton Oilers media guide, although the guffaws were most certainly related to it.
"I love cheeseburgers," admitted Peckham, who was no nearer his listed weight of 235 pounds last season than I am to an appearance on the cover of GQ Magazine. "I love burgers . . . just any type of burger, anything. I haven't had on in a about two-and-half weeks and it's killing me."
I don't know exactly what Peckham weighed last year, but my best guess is he tipped the scales closer to 250 on his six-foot-two frame than 235. A love of cheeseburgers will do that, even to a pro athlete like Peckham, who gets more exercise in a week during the NHL season than most of us do in a full year.
While a guy who writes about hockey might be able to get away with that – I know a scribe the same height as Peckham who arrived in Edmonton in 1989 weighing 220 pounds and bent the beams at 315 in 2010 after years of touring NHL restaurants – a guy who plays hockey for a living cannot.
That became apparent to me every time I saw Peckham in the Oilers dressing room this season – fat is fat no matter how you dress it up – and I'm hoping it's clear to Peckham because it needs to be if he intends on staying in Edmonton's plans beyond the one-year contract for $1.075 million he just signed.
There's still a place for fat guys pushing three bills or more up in the press box. Down on the ice? Not so much.
TIME TO GET SERIOUS
It's not all about weight, of course. Body composition and a whole bunch of other measures play into the equation, but the bottom line and square one for a limited, third-pairing defenseman like Peckham, who is a better athlete than most people think he is, is he has to be in shape.
Peckham, only 24 as he gets ready for his fifth season with the Oilers, needs to be leaner to give himself a chance. Of course, Peckham has to be combative, smart and play a simple game, but everything for a naturally big-bodied guy like Theo begins with being in shape.
To that end, Peckham is spurning his desires for those big patty stacks in favor of workout sessions with fitness guru Norm Lacombe, who looks like he's in better shape now, in his 50s, than when he played. That's the first step in Peckham getting back to the form he showed in 2010-11 before his struggles of last season.
With just a one-year deal in place, Peckham can't afford another season like he had in 2011-12, when he played just 54 games and was made a healthy scratch by Tom Renney with regularity. The shape he was in and confidence issues played a significant role in that.
Touted as a comer destined to be stay-at-home, shot-blocking shutdown type after 2010-11, Peckham is today behind Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz, Justin Schultz and Corey Potter on the defense depth charts going into 2012 training camp. He doesn't have more room to slip if he intends being part of the plan moving forward.
BACK ON THE HORSE
If Peckham commits to getting in shape and back down to 230 pounds or so, as he said was his goal in his interview with Gregor, he's got a chance to be what a lot of people thought he might become just a year ago.
The other thing I see with Peckham, as I mentioned, has been lack of confidence. With the kind of tough, physical game Peckham plays, and has to play, I trace that back to a fight he lost to Nathan Horton at Rexall Place Feb. 27, 2011. Peckham got KOd in that scrap. He hasn't been the same since.
While it's a lot tougher to do than it is to say, Peckham has to find a way to put that fight behind him and regain the edge he played with. If you're going to step up on guys as Peckham must, and if you’re going to be the antagonistic, yappy needler he is, then, rest assured, somebody isn’t going to like it and the gloves are going to come off.
That's a bell Peckham has to be willing to answer again. Perhaps a chat with assistant coach Kelly Buchberger might come in handy on that front. Bucky often took a licking and always found a way to dust himself off and come back for more. Buchberger always got back on the horse. Peckham must, as well.
If Peckham can get his body and his head straight, there's a player there.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.