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Top 10 Unsung Heroes: Jason Strudwick (10)

Jason Strudwick is a man of many talents. Aside from re-inventing names and mangling the English language as a guffawing radio talk show host and pushing the human limits of singing off-key as a member of the Bubblegum Gang, Strudwick’s most noteworthy, and probably unlikely, accomplishment is that he hung around the NHL for 674 regular season games, including 186 with the Edmonton Oilers.

Strudwick, a plodding skater, managed that feat despite having not even a thimble full of offensive ability or creativity, because he was willing to put in the work, knowing he could be sitting in the press box instead of on the bench when the game started. He maximized marginal talent with work ethic and the willingness to give his teammates everything he had. If that’s not the definition of an unsung hero, I don’t know what is.

Jason Strudwick

Defense — shoots L
Born Jul 17, 1975 — Edmonton, ALTA
Height 6.03 — Weight 230 [191 cm/104 kg]

Drafted by New York Islanders

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Round 3 #63 overall 1994 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

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A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

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TOI

ATOI

1995-96

20

NYI

1

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7

1997-98

22

TOT

28

2

2

-2

65

8

0.0

1997-98

22

NYI

17

1

1

1

36

3

0.0

1997-98

22

VAN

11

1

1

-3

29

5

0.0

1998-99

23

VAN

65

3

3

-19

114

25

0.0

833

12:49

1999-00

24

VAN

63

1

3

4

-13

64

18

5.6

958

15:12

2000-01

25

VAN

60

1

4

5

16

64

21

4.8

599

9:59

2001-02

26

VAN

44

2

4

6

4

96

13

15.4

429

9:45

2002-03

27

CHI

48

2

3

5

-4

87

19

10.5

409

8:32

2003-04

28

CHI

54

1

3

4

-16

73

32

3.1

805

14:55

2005-06

30

NYR

65

3

4

7

-10

66

31

9.7

1009

15:31

2006-07

31

NYR

8

2

3

0.0

109

13:40

2007-08

32

NYR

52

1

1

2

40

21

4.8

673

12:57

2008-09

33

EDM

71

2

7

9

-4

60

32

6.3

896

12:38

2009-10

34

EDM

72

6

6

-18

50

19

0.0

1219

16:56

2010-11

35

EDM

43

2

2

-16

23

9

0.0

648

15:04

5 yrs VAN

243

4

15

19

-15

367

82

4.9

2818

12:09

3 yrs EDM

186

2

15

17

-38

133

60

3.3

2763

14:51

3 yrs NYR

125

4

5

9

-10

108

55

7.3

1791

14:20

2 yrs CHI

102

3

6

9

-20

160

51

5.9

1215

11:55

2 yrs NYI

18

1

1

1

43

3

0.0

Career

674

13

42

55

-82

811

251

5.2

8588

13:19

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

ATOI

2000-01

25

VAN

2

2:15

2005-06

30

NYR

3

-1

2

0.0

13:35

2007-08

32

NYR

2

9:41

Career

7

-1

2

0.0

9:14

WHY HE MAKES IT

I’m not cracking on Strudwick here with the comments about lack of talent and creativity because traits like that don’t mean a damn thing if you aren’t willing to apply them to the job at hand. There have been plenty of examples of that over the years — players with twice the ability of guys like Strudwick who never got more than a cup of coffee in The Show, let alone more than 600 games, because they couldn’t be bothered to break a bead of sweat.

That was never an issue with Strudwick, who toiled on some of the worst Oiler teams in the history of the franchise. He played for three different head coaches in three seasons at the start of a reluctant rebuild. Strudwick had all of 17 points during that tenure as a third-pairing blueliner. His calling card was doing the dirty work — blocking shots, banging bodies, dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate when the situation called for it and always being ready to play. That’s a tough gig. That’s being a pro.

In two of his seasons here, the Oilers managed all of 62 points — once under Pat Quinn and the other time under Tom Renney after an 85-point season under Craig MacTavish. These were Oiler teams that were overmatched and overwhelmed on a nightly basis. Suffice to say, it’s easier to put the work in on a front-runner or a playoff contender because there’s something to play for. These teams were not that. The Oilers were hopelessly out of contention by the New Year in two of Strudwick’s three seasons here.

THE FINE PRINT

In 2009-10, Strudwick finished second on the team in blocked shots (138) to Tom Gilbert, who had 162. Strudwick played 72 games and averaged 16:56 in ice time per game. Gilbert, a first-pairing guy, played 82 games with an average ice time of 22:25. Strudwick had six points that season, leaving him with a blocks-to-points-ratio (my contribution to advanced stats) of 23-to-1. That, folks, is the epitome of doing the grunt work.

Of course, we give Strudwick a hard time around here because he’s been a friend and contributor to Oilersnation (whomever edited his raw copy deserves to be on this list) since retiring in 2011. Then, there’s the sweaters and the hair and the awful karaoke and the on-air WTF moments — like the bouquet of flavors coming in his mouth. That laugh. We’ve had a steady diet of that since June, when Strudwick took over as the full-time co-host of the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

All that said, Strudwick earned his place on this list. It’s not surprising he runs a hockey camp for defensemen here in Edmonton. Guys like him tend to end up being coaches or instructors because they had to pay attention to every detail to get to the NHL in the first place, let alone stay there. He was a beauty, and the kind of player every team needs. If you want to read a bit more about Strudwick off the ice, there’s a terrific piece by Gregor here.

This series of various Top 10 lists will focus on the post-1990 Oilers – the players who haven’t played on a Stanley Cup winner in Edmonton.