November 09 2013 02:18AM
Zach Redmond was picked in the 7th round, 184th overall in 2008 as an over-age player. He'd already played a year at Ferris State University by the time he was drafted, and he would finish his four years before turning pro for the 2011/12 season. To say he was a long shot to play an NHL game is an understatement.
Now 25, he's played in 8 NHL games, but his window is closing through no fault of his own. When will Zach's moment come?
The Jets have given some indication of how management sees their organizational depth chart this year on defence. This isn't a list of 'most valued' but rather, who the team seems to prefer to give minutes to, and the order in which they might be called up from the AHL.
- Trouba (IR)
- Stuart (IR)
- Postma (IR)
Redmond's two-way contract and non-waiver eligibility made him an easy cut from this roster, and arguably put him behind Postma in the organization almost irrespective of his training camp performance. The addition of Pardy in the off-season and Ellerby on waivers have pushed Redmond further down the line.
Worse for Redmond, three of the Jets' top four defenders are right handed and play right defence, just as Redmond is and does.
In fact, so far down the depth chart this year and last, injuries are the only reason Redmond has been recalled from AHL. Last year, injuries to Enstrom, Bogosian, and others gave Redmond his first opportunity in the majors. His unanticipated 8 game debut had everything - offence (a goal and 3 assists), physical play (including 12 PIMs), and a wide range of skills on display. His skating was better than expected, and his control of the play more advanced than advertised. It seemed the Jets had a player.
This season, injuries to Trouba, Stuart, and Postma have taken Redmond to #7 on the active list - on the edge of another shot at the majors. But with Trouba due back within weeks and Stuart's timeline unknown, Redmond could be sent back to St. John's without playing in an NHL game.
Injury is not just the reason for Redmond's NHL paycheque. His personal injuries have cost him dearly.
After 8 games and raising his stock in the organization, Redmond suffered the well-publicized and horrific leg laceration and nearly died at practice. His long recovery meant missing the rest of the season, and starting again at the bottom of the heap thanks to his contract situation. He needed to play more to force the organization to play him more - a frustrating chicken and egg dilemna.
This season, a knee injury in St. John's meant he wasn't available when the rash of injuries began. The team called up and sent down Ben Chiarot before Redmond was healthy. The team also took Keaton Ellerby off waivers before the Detroit game. A strong win. Redmond sits. A loss to Chicago. Redmond sits. A strong win against Nashville... when will Redmond get his chance?
Sadly, his best opportunity has come and gone. The St Louis game where Ben Chiarot was dressed and embarrassed should have been Redmond's game - his chance to take a roster spot on a team desperate for answers. Instead, the team has a functioning third pair now with Keaton Ellerby and Adam Pardy. Moreover, Redmond is still the safest demotion from an asset management perspective, given that he doesn't need to clear waivers. Unless the team sends Trouba down, Redmond will need another Jets injury to get more than a passing opportunity, regardless of Postma's and Stuart's time tables.
Even if re-signed by the Jets this off-season when he enters RFA status, Redmond will be the 5th right handed defencemen on the books, behind Byfuglien, Bogosian, Trouba, and Postma.
As happy as he might feel at being back with the Jets, we have to ponder how long it will last, and whether he's shown enough to earn an opportunity elsewhere or break the log jam in Winnipeg.
Timing and context so often define the career path of fringe NHL'ers. Redmond hasn't been fortunate in either so far.