If there’s one thing pro sports is good at, it’s making you feel old as hell and tossing you to the curb like that kitten stamp collection you got from your Aunt Cindy for your birthday. And, at 36 years of age, that’s the crossroads that Matt Hendricks has found himself at these days.
After being acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Devan Dubnyk mid-way through the 2013-14 season, Matt Hendricks quickly endeared himself to the Oilers faithful with his blue-collar style of play and willingness to stick up for his teammates. In a city like Edmonton, a guy that can bang, crash, and play a tough brand of hockey is always a welcomed commodity, and Hendricks brought that flavour of play consistently to a lineup that desperately needed it.
I mean, how can you not love a guy that takes a shot to the pills and gets himself back into the game only a few minutes later? Dude is a man’s man and probably virile as all hell, in my opinion. I would have probably laid on the ice, clutching me figs until a mortician showed up to take me away. “Mr. Baggedmilk, you’re dead now.” The thought of coming back into the same game after suffering nut-devastation like Hendricks did seems unfathomable to me, but I’m just a stupid blogger, Hendricks is a steel-dicked wild man.
In 214 games played with the Oilers, Matt Hendricks put up 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points, but his biggest impact (arguably) came as a result of the physical style of hockey that he played night in and night out. Whether he was sticking up for a teammate or throwing a big hit, Matt Hendricks was always there for his teammates and I salute him for his dedication to one of the worst hockey teams ever. Hendricks was a good soldier that was lead into battle by toddlers with a map and a crayon, and the fact that he never complained is a testament to his character.
According to HockeyFights.com, Hendricks got into 23 regular season scraps while wearing the Oilers’ crest on his jersey and that willingness to chuck barrages of fist kisses was part of what made Matt Hendricks a fan favourite (honourable mention to the paralyzer, of course). Imagine what it must have been like to go out and fight for a team that was the NHL’s equivalent of a dog dragging its ass on the carpet for most of the time he was here. Having him leave for free agency may not be the worst thing for the product on the ice, but it does come at the expense of a salt-of-the-earth human being.
WHAT HE SAID…
After the season was finished, Hendricks spoke to Jim Matheson at the Edmonton Journal and walked him through some of the ups and downs that come with getting into the later stages of an NHL career, including being scratched for all 13 of the Oilers’ playoff games.
“I thought I might have deserved a crack for a few games in there (playoffs) but that’s the way it goes.”
Frankly, I’ll admit that I was surprised that Hendo didn’t even get into a single game. I know he’s lost a step lately, but I figured that his rough and tumble style of play might have been enough of an asset to get him into a few playoff games. I mean, couldn’t you have seen Hendricks tuning up Ryan Kesler’s face in that series? I could have.
“I understand what the organization is thinking, and these guys need their opportunity to grow as players, and this is the time of year to learn those lessons. The young kids played well and deserved to be in the lineup.”
It must be a weird feeling to be 36 years old and feel like a dinosaur. In the grand scheme of life, Hendricks is still a young dude but in the NHL the guy is a fossil and that has to be a tough transition for anyone not named Jaromir Jagr.
Despite falling out of the regular rotation, Hendricks was still appreciated and wanted by his teammates.
“The leadership group went to Todd and asked if I could be the guy who takes warmup every night because they wanted me in the room. Everything was pretty much status quo — I still took part in the meetings and was in the locker room before and after warmups, except I wasn’t playing.”
I know you stats dudes are going to make fun of me for this, but this quote is the kind of stuff that old MSM guys talk about when they go on about intangibles. The truth is that personalities matter in a team sport like hockey, and clearly Matt Hendricks had something going on with his that kept him in the minds of his teammates that are basically half his age. I mean, no offence to Andrew Ference, but he’s younger than Hendricks and didn’t get that kind of treatment.
“Being a young team, I wanted to keep the guys loose and we had nothing to lose. Not a lot of people expected to be where we were except ourselves, but there’s a fine line between having guys loose and taking their mindset away. I don’t want to get too detailed but it was kind of like being a psychologist, a very inexperienced psychologist if you look into that line of work”
Now I’m just picturing Matt Hendricks busting out some sweet dad jokes, puns, and movie references that none of the players had even heard of before. Who doesn’t love a court jester? No one, that’s who. Admit it, you’re thinking about Hendricks in a colourful costume too aren’t you?
Jokes aside, it’s a tough part of the business that leads to guys like Matt Hendricks being replaced with younger, cheaper talent, but that’s part of the gig. As for the future, we don’t know for sure what it may hold but if you’re Matt Hendricks it looks like his journey will be continuing elsewhere
“I’d love to be back in Edmonton, but with the direction they’re going, I don’t think I fit in.”
Sports, man. They can be a ruthless mother trucker sometimes.
HENDRICKS’ NHL CAREER SO FAR