Things are good right now if you’re a Jets fan. The team is contending for top spot in not only their division but in the entire West Conference, they are getting top-notch goaltending, scoring is plentiful and the defence is solid. Even the fanciest of stats would suggest that the Jets may, in fact, be for real.
And it’s all thanks to Matt Hendricks!
The time and energy that’s been spent both praising and criticizing the 36-year-old journeyman forward who signed a one year, $700,000 contract just before the start of training camp are equal parts amusing and eye-roll worthy.
Hendricks is a “heart and grit” type forward. Before the 2017-18 season, he has 100 points in 521 games played with four different NHL clubs.
He had also had racked up 664 penalty minutes for an average of 6.6 penalty minutes per game, but still viewed by some as a player who could be effective on the penalty kill.
His career faceoff winning percentage had been hovering just over the 52% mark which is marginally ok at best, yet he was seen as a “faceoff specialist.”
He was even billed as a bit of a shootout specialist, but even that was a bit of a false flag as his career converting rate of shootout goals is only at 43.3%. He did, however, have one season (2011-12) where he almost couldn’t miss and was five for six in shootout attempts with the Washington Capitals.
The only thing in the scouting report on Matt Hendricks that couldn’t be measured was that whole “good guy to have in the room” bit, which caused many an eye roll.
When the Jets signed Hendricks, it left many scratching their head. Some thought it was a stupid deal that would set the team’s development of younger players back. Some (ahem) felt there was no way this was meant to be a signing for the main club and was more of a Manitoba Moose deal. (aka, the “Quinton Howden special”)
When he signed with the Jets, Edmonton media that had spent the last two seasons covering his time as an Oiler treated the loss of the forward with a shrug and an attitude of “well, that was fun, but… good riddance.”
“For as long as cans protect testicles, Matt Hendricks will be an Edmonton Oilers legend. That said, he won’t be missed on the ice here.”
Fast forward three months or so later…
Reuniting With An Old Teammate
November 17, 2017
Having missed a little over a full month of action due to injury, Mathieu Perreault had returned to the Jets lineup the day before against the Philadelphia Flyers. Before his injury, Perreault had been seeing ice time with the Jets top six forward group and playing anywhere from 12 to 17 minutes a night, but not wanting to break up two top lines that had been going strong for Winnipeg, as well as not wanting to risk re-injury, Paul Maurice slots Perreault into the fourth line. Perreault didn’t take long to get back into the groove again, scoring on the power play in a Jets 3-2 shootout win over Philly.
Now, in his second game back Maurice keeps Perreault on the fourth line with Hendricks and Joel Armia. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before Maurice will have to make a tough call and find a way to get Perreault back into the top lines.
Only the “fourth line” for the Jets starts putting up numbers. Hendricks gets his second of the season thanks to work from Perreault and Armia. Nine minutes later, Perreault scores with assists from Hendricks and Armia. Suddenly it’s brought up that Perreault and Hendricks have a history. From 2010 to 2013 they were teammates and quite often linemates in Washington with the Capitals. There is some familiarity there between the two players.
The fourth line is kept together and plays well. After having played with Shawn Matthias and Brandon Tanev, Hendricks (and Armia) finally benefit from playing with a forward who has the ability to drive play as Perreault does.
Suddenly it’s maybe Winnipeg’s best line and Matt Hendricks is putting up decent numbers…
It’s Not Really His Doing, But He’s Doing It
Matt Hendricks is racking up hits. He’s blocking shots. He’s even getting a point here and there! The Jets are winning and on top of all the standings!
Meanwhile over in Edmonton – the darlings of media and fans who were ready for Oilers Dynasty 2.0 – are off to the worst possible start to the season and languishing in the basement of the NHL standings.
What is the reason? There are literally dozens of factors that could explain it for both sides, but only one is very simple and can be said in the span of nine words:
Matt Hendricks left the Oilers and joined the Jets.
Suddenly, “The Oilers might miss Hendricks!” Suddenly, “Maybe it was a mistake to let a guy that Connor McDavid leaned on go to another club..”
Correlation does not imply causation, but in this case, doesn’t it? It kinda feels like it should.
Said TSN’s Darren Dreger on the radio interview…
“Let’s not give Matt Hendricks more credit than he deserves, truthfully, he wouldn’t want that, but he’s a part of the success and he’s deserving of whatever accolades we want to heap his way. Because I can tell you this much, I’ve had a number of conversations with those deeply involved with the Edmonton Oilers, and they recognize that perhaps allowing Matt Hendricks to walk away and ultimately sign in Winnipeg was a mistake by the Oilers because he’s a glue guy.”
Is Matt Hendricks the reason why Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are near the top of the NHL scoring leaderboard?
Has Matt Hendricks unlocked the full potential of Connor Hellebuyck in goal?
Does Matt own a secret magical talisman that he found deep in the caverns below the Washington Monument that grants him and whatever team he is on good fortune and success?
Don’t be silly, there is no such th…
Wait, we can’t actually prove he doesn’t have a magical talisman, so… maybe? We can’t rule that one out.
Matt Hendricks is but one chapter in the story (so far) of the 2017-2018 Winnipeg Jets. He’s likely a small chapter, but still a chapter and not say a mere footnote.
Numbers can’t measure just what his value is to the team, but there is little doubt that there is a value that he’s bringing to the team that can’t be measured. You can’t chart it, but you can see it in the faces when he’s part of a scoring play.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) November 28, 2017
Matt Hendricks deserves credit. How much of it, depends on what exactly you value in the sport, but he does deserve some.