March 03 2013 10:07AM
We are quickly reaching the point where "if" gives way to "when" in regard to Jonathan Cheechoo resuming his NHL career. It may not come this season, and it may not be with the Oilers, but the Cheechoo train is rollin' and at some point someone is going to notice.
Once upon a time, Jonathan Cheechoo was an NHL sniper. A decade ago his NHL career had just hit the tracks and he would rip off seasons of 28, 56, 37 and 23 goals from 2003 through 2007. He would then fall off to 12 goals, get traded to Ottawa and eventually find his way to the minors in 2010.
Where he kept scoring, first in Binghampton then Worcester then Peoria. Cheechoo has done some humbling things over the last few years (had to sign a PTO with Worcester in 2010--that's a professional tryout offer where they have a 10-game look at you with no promises), but has never given up on the dream of returning to the NHL.
Why did he fall off the NHL map so quickly? Part of it was injury.
- Cheechoo: “I had a lot of injuries that last year in San Jose. A lot of little injuries add up after a while. It took a while to open my hips back to get more power, more strength. I had a good finish last year (56 points in 70 games). This year I'm looking to jump right in and get going in a shortened season.”
Cheechoo's story also includes lack of speed, and in the same article he address it:
- Cheechoo: “With all the injuries that happen during a shortened season there could be some opportunities. I always work on improving and getting up my speed a little bit. I've just got to take care of my game. You never know what might happen.”
THE 501 BLUES
Cheechoo has been stuck on 501 NHL regular season games since 2010 (170 goals by the way, he can score goals) although he's been close a couple of times (Pittsburgh had a look, St. Louis a longer one).
Is it unusual for a player to spend a couple of years in the minors and come back? Not really. It's more unusual for a former Rocket Richard Trophy Winner to spend a minute in the AHL before his 35th birthday, but Cheechoo (as noted above) has had some health issues that took his performance level down a notch.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Cheechoo's arrival in OKC came on the heels of the airlift of NHL kids back to Edmonton. To say he's delivered is an understatement--Cheechoo signed (another) PTO and has gone 8-10-18 in 13 AHL games while averaging 3.5 shots per game. I know the AHL isn't the NHL, but those numbers are worthy of notice.
You may say the Oilers don't have room on RW and that's true--with Eberle, Hemsky, Yakupov and Ryan Jones on the roster Edmonton is rich and young in this area.
However, Cheechoo is 32 years old and wants back in the NHL. If it doesn't come in Edmonton, I think there's a chance he plays #502 somewhere in 2013.
And good for him. A great story, this Jonathan Cheechoo comeback and it's cool part of it is happening in OKC.
(Cheechoo photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).