11
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 Unsung Heroes: Matt Hendricks (2)

From time to time during a season in which the Edmonton Oilers have struggled and under-achieved, fans and media-types have asked if maybe losing a glue guy like Matt Hendricks has contributed to what we’ve seen unfold so far. Contributed? Yes. Has the absence of the hustling Hendricks been the most significant factor? No. That would be a reach. Big picture, when the Oilers decided to cut Hendricks loose and move on, it was the right decision at the right time.

Hendricks said as much last summer before catching on with the Winnipeg Jets. After 214 games with the Oilers over parts of four seasons, Hendricks saw the writing on the wall in Edmonton. No beefs. No regrets. He said so during an interview before he even knew where, or if, he was going to play again. Honesty, be it in approach to the game or understanding and accepting a role, is one of the common traits of players on this Unsung Heroes list. It’s what makes them what they are. Team-first guys like Hendricks.

Matt Hendricks

Center — shoots L
Born Jun 17 1981 — Blaine, MN
Height 6.00 — Weight 209 [183 cm/95 kg]

Drafted by Nashville Predators

Round 5 #131 overall 2000 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

FO%

2008-09

27

COL

4

0

0

0

1

13

5

0.0

34

8:30

0.0

2009-10

28

COL

56

9

7

16

1

74

63

14.3

519

9:16

39.8

2010-11

29

WSH

77

9

16

25

-2

110

113

8.0

882

11:28

53.8

2011-12

30

WSH

78

4

5

9

-6

95

97

4.1

946

12:07

53.6

2012-13

31

WSH

48

5

3

8

-6

73

54

9.3

563

11:43

56.8

2013-14

32

TOT

77

5

2

7

-11

112

102

4.9

981

12:44

54.0

2013-14

32

NSH

44

2

2

4

-5

54

53

3.8

508

11:33

53.8

2013-14

32

EDM

33

3

0

3

-6

58

49

6.1

473

14:19

54.1

2014-15

33

EDM

71

8

8

16

-14

76

103

7.8

934

13:09

49.5

2015-16

34

EDM

68

5

7

12

2

82

62

8.1

900

13:14

55.4

2016-17

35

EDM

42

4

3

7

-3

29

42

9.5

451

10:45

56.9

2017-18

36

WPG

43

4

7

11

-2

21

35

11.4

409

9:31

50.0

4 yrs EDM

214

20

18

38

-21

245

256

7.8

2758

12:53

54.5

3 yrs WSH

203

18

24

42

-14

278

264

6.8

2391

11:47

54.9

2 yrs COL

60

9

7

16

2

87

68

13.2

553

9:13

39.3

1 yr NSH

44

2

2

4

-5

54

53

3.8

508

11:33

53.8

1 yr WPG

43

4

7

11

-2

21

35

11.4

409

9:31

50.0

Career

564

53

58

111

-40

685

676

7.8

6618

11:44

53.2

Playoffs

Season

Age

Tm

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

FO%

2009-10

28

COL

0

0

0

-2

0

5

0.0

59

9:52

66.7

2010-11

29

WSH

0

0

0

-2

4

1

0.0

64

9:09

50.0

2011-12

30

WSH

1

1

2

-1

6

22

4.5

225

16:05

56.0

2012-13

31

WSH

0

0

0

-2

0

3

0.0

74

10:32

40.0

Career

1

1

2

-7

10

31

3.2

422

12:25

52.9

WHY HE MAKES IT

Mar 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Pardy (6), goalie Cam Talbot (33) and center Matt Hendricks (23) celebrate win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. The Oilers defeated the Flyers, 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, Hendricks emptied the tank during his time with the Oilers. He gave the team what he could and what it needed during his tenure. On the ice, that meant hustle and effective work on the penalty kill and in the face-off circles and standing up for teammates when he got a chance to play. Off the ice, Hendricks provided a professional approach to preparation and an experienced voice in the room. He was an example and a conscience that demanded his teammates answer to each other. Honesty.

That trait, honesty, came out yet again in an interview with Mark Spector after the Ottawa Senators cut ties with Chris Neil, a hard-nosed role-player cut from the same cloth as Hendricks. “I would say it’s 99 per cent sure I won’t be back,” Hendricks said. “Kind of the same type of thing as Chris. With the young guys and the experience (the Oilers) have to gain, it’ll be hard for me to get into the lineup. It’s hard to have a fourth-line guy who is good in the room and stuff if I’m going to be sat out every night. I totally understand it, but it’s not going to work for either side. If this team’s going to be good they need to get their young guys experience. I get it.”

It turned out, of course, that Hendricks caught on in Winnipeg. It should surprise no one he has provided the Jets with the same kind of moxie he showed with the Oilers. “For me, he has already made the players around him better,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said during pre-season. “He has completely embraced the role of the bottom-six forward guy, that role player. So he practiced differently than some of our young, bottom-six guys who still practice like they did when they were on their No. 1 line in junior or on their college teams. They do everything as hard as they can and practice is where they drive the pace.”

THE FINE PRINT

Late to the NHL – he was 27 by the time he broke into the league with Colorado in 2008-09 – Hendricks stuck around and earned his keep on the ice in the bottom six by banging bodies, being sound defensively, blocking shots and doing whatever it took. Speaking of same, Hendricks might best be remembered around here for a slapshot he blocked against the Dallas Stars. A shot that busted his protective cup. It hurts just to watch it.

That sack-rattling slapper aside, what epitomizes Hendricks for me is the scrap he took with hulking Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, who came looking for retribution for a hit Hendricks threw in a previous game on Aaron Ekblad. Hendricks was suspended for three games for taking Ekblad coconut-first into the end boards. When Hendricks’ suspension was done, Gudbranson was waiting for him in his first game back

So, while I don’t think the Oilers would be significantly better than they are right now if Hendricks, the only player in franchise history to be voted the Unsung Hero three times, was still here – he can’t play goal and he can’t fix the special teams by himself — I think it’s fair to say that most contending teams have a player or two of his ilk in the line-up or in the press box waiting to step in. Do the Oilers have that player right now?

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.

The List:

    • jultz=2cups!😂😂

      Lol. Wah wah. Brownlee writes an article about a hard working ex oiler and the 1st post is whining and crying about something completely unrelated. I miss Hendricks. As usual I was probably his only real fan while he was here as I remember whining oilersnation complaining that he didn’t score enough. And then in the same breath tell me they love blue collar players. Then complain that Hendricks doesn’t score enough. Classic oilersnation lol

  • Big Nuggets

    If I was GM I actually would have kept Hendricks on for another season and then convince him to sign on as an assistant coach for next season, so that now the guy in practice barking at you to skate hard for drills was the same guy who last season was sticking up for you when the games got rougher. Could have been am excellent motivanal tactic.

    Watching how well Doug Weight is doing in Long Island reminds me that coaching is more about motivating and instilling a work ethic and focus in your team than it is about drawing up the right Xs and Os on the board. You obviously need a good game plan but regardless of what that plan is the players are more likely to succeed with that plan if they are focused and believing in their abilities. The idea is to get the team collectively to enter what is refered to as a ‘flow state’ in which they are acting and reacting naturally or instictively, rather than overthinking on ice decisions.

    Just some thoughts, Im not an NHL coach so take it for what its worth. I think Ralph Krueger was this type of coach and I wish we could get him back or someone like him. I also wish the Oilers would hire me as GM. #BigNuggetsforGM

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    we’re missing more than just Hendricks. we’re missing Ebs, Poo and Pitlick as well. and we were hoping that the young guys like Pool , JJ and Strome would pick up the slack and to be fair, Pitlick has what, 10 goals? and Pool has 9 so that’s basically a saw off. and Pouliot has 10 goals and Khaira 8, so close to a saw off there too in my book. we lose big time with points and goals from the Ebs trade though ! Strome is clearly a 3rd liner with no more than about 30 point capability whereas Ebs can usually get you 50 to 60, thereabouts every year and we’re missing that offence. we never replaced Sekera with anyone competent either and that really hurt.

  • SailorD81

    The Oilers are 100% worse off without Hendricks. Solid bottom six guy who would do anything to win and gets along great with the rest of the team and all for $700,000. He’s obviously not the solution to everything that ails the team now but he most certainly wouldn’t hurt to still have around.

  • ubermiguel

    It’s worth noting MacT worked really hard to get Hendricks on the team; when he failed in free-agency he traded with Nashville that year to get him. I think MacT recognized the need for quality bottom-six character veterans and grabbed a good one.