Slater hurt, Cormier up from St. John’s

Patrice Cormier was recalled today to replace an injured Jim Slater, who is suspected to have a broken hand from blocking a Phaneuf shot while down 5-on-3 in the third. I picked on Slater a bit in my review of the Jets’ Penalty Killing troubles, but I have to admit that now I feel as though the hockey gods are trying to teach me to appreciate what I have. Inside a quick look at what we’re getting in Cormier.

Cormier is in the final year of his entry level contract, but his professional career has been marred by injury so far, playing just 97 games since turning pro in 2010. Famously, Cormier was a centre piece of the underwhelming return for Ilya Kovalchuk (though New Jersey’s 1st acquired in that trade was later used to get Byfuglien, so all is forgiven). While we can’t evaluate him against Kovalchuk, his performance to date has been disappointing by most standards – just 38 points in 67 AHL games, and 2 in 30 NHL games.

His ‘plus’ factors have been touched on today around the blogosphere – our friends at Arctic Ice Hockey mentioned his faceoff acumen. Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press noted his “heavy” style of play. I would add that Cormier’s play at the NHL level has also been surprisingly disciplined – just 4 minutes in penalties – and he’s worked hard to shed the reputation for dirty play he earned when he injured Michael Tam with an elbow to the head and was suspended from the latter half of his final QJMHL season (warning, that video is hard to watch).

The hope for Cormier is perhaps a Ben Eager-style player (and Eager himself will tell you it’s not easy to be a Ben Eager-style player after hitting waivers today). He has a large body, capable skating, and enough hockey sense to get the puck directed at the right net with his above average shot. He’s a frequent name in the St John’s Telegram for ‘hardest working IceCap’ and that counts for something.

Will he help the Jets?

Some of the Jets’ most visible problems have come from their fourth line, which has included all of Wright, Slater, Thorburn, Tangradi, and Peluso during the year. I can’t help but think I’d rather see Spencer Machacek in his place (oh, for a DeLorean!), and that a line of Tangradi, Cormier, and Thorburn will see very few minutes and require careful sheltering. Part of choosing Cormier for this assignment may be an attempt by Jets management to see what they have as they approach negotiations with the RFA. Still, I think I miss Jim Slater already.