One of the moves that Kevin Cheveldayoff made over the summer was to bring in depth forward, Matt Hendricks. While his contributions on the ice may be somewhat limited, what he does behind the scenes shouldn’t be questioned. Case and point comes from the Matt Hendricks profile that was done over at our sister-site, Oilersnation.
This past weekend, longtime Oilersnation writer, Robin Brownlee, did an in-depth profile on veteran winger Matt Hendricks and listed him at #2 on the Oilers Top 10 Unsung Heroes countdown. This is seemingly high praise for a player that was deemed not worth re-signing by the Oilers this past summer. Fortunately for Jets fans, their loss is our gain.
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.
While Hendricks seemingly knew that his time in Edmonton was over, he still had a passion for the game and knew that he wanted to continue his career. That yearning to continue his NHL career landed him with the Winnipeg Jets in late August when he signed a one-year contract worth a $700K AAV. Though there weren’t many expectations in terms of what he would be able to contribute, Hendricks has certainly carved out a role for himself here in Winnipeg.
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.
With this level of dedication to his team and to his craft, should it be surprising that Matt Hendricks has found some success with the Jets? No, he won’t ever win a scoring race but he does serve as a valuable piece of the machine. Even so, we’re not sure that anyone would have expected him to dress for 47 games already, but Hendricks is a consummate professional that provides grit and leadership to a young Jets team that can use all the guidance it can get. Hendricks is an NHL vet that has been around for a long time and has worked tirelessly for everything that has come his way, something that will surely continue until the day he hands up his skates.
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.”
Considering what Hendricks meant to his teammates, it’s almost surprising that the Edmonton Oilers couldn’t find a place for the veteran. But at the end of the day, the Oilers’ loss turned out to be a low-cost win for the Jets. Matt Hendricks won’t ever be the flashiest player on the roster, but he certainly provides plenty of grit and leadership for a very low cost. Seems like a decent bet from here.
HENDRICKS’ CAREER SO FAR