Of all the Winnipeg Jets forwards that played this season, Matt Hendricks was one of them. The man who was a bit of a surprise signing by the Jets in late August 2017 actually had a handful of fine moments this season and by all accounts was the biggest reason why the Jets were able to make the leap from non-playoff team to Western Conference finalist in the span of one year.*
(*=If you in fact look past the improvement in goaltending, overall improvement in team defense and ability by the team as a whole to be one of the higest scoring clubs in the NHL)
#15 – LEFT WING
6’0″ / 207 lbs / Age: 36
Current Contract Status: Pending UFA
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PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
It was a little bit surprising for the Jets that had just spent the summer moving on from players like Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn, guys who were given the label of “good in the room” but not exactly swift of feet or of high end hockey skill, to go out and sign the even older and maybe slower Hendricks.
Jets: we're getting rid of our bottom 6 vets and going with a younger, faster team
Also Jets: We have signed Matt Hendricks
— b chals (@ChunkyChal) August 27, 2017
Winnipeg signed Matt Hendricks so you can now play bingo.
This is usable on most signings. pic.twitter.com/QyU2VOPhn9
— Mike Pfeil (@mikeFAIL) August 27, 2017
When you hear your team signed Matt Hendricks. pic.twitter.com/HcpBhWAAui
— ??Cristiano Boateng?? (@oceanidiot) September 12, 2017
— Jeti (@Jets_4ever) August 27, 2017
It seemed like such a contradictory move and hell, some people *ahem* even thought this just had to be a move meant more for the AHL Manitoba Moose than the actual pro club because there was no way a team like the Jets was going to have Matt Hendricks as a regular on the roster… right?
60 games later, here we are talking about Matt freakin Hendricks and it’s astonishingly not all bad.
Hendricks drew into the Jets lineup in late October right around the time the Jets had some injuries to deal with. In the first 15 games he actually had a pair of goals and assists and along with Mathieu Perreault and Joel Armia, formed a pretty good fourth line – now granted a LOT of that was thanks to the ability of Perreault to drive play, but there was also hints of chemistry between Perreault and Hendricks going back to their time as teammates in Washington.
And from that point on he was mostly a mainstay on the Jets roster, not usually playing more than 10 or 11 minutes a night, doing all the “heart and grit” things you’d expect an aged fourth line winger to do. He’d chip in the odd assist or goal just to remind you that he had a pulse. Oh and he punched a few guys in the face including some “friends”…
Should have other players like Marko Dano and Nic Petan been playing instead of him? Yeah, probably, but Matt Hendricks isn’t the one that held back younger Jets players in favor of a player in his late 30’s that by the end of the regular season looked like the wear and tear of a full regular season had caught up to him – that’s on Paul Maurice – the only thing that Hendricks could do was play to the bet of his abilities and most nights that play ranged anywhere from adequate to “well he’s 36 and 54 career goals in 10 NHL seasons, so what do you expect?”
But his teammates love him and his absence was enough to make some Oilers fans and media question if their bad season was due to a lack of Hendricks and not general ineptitude from their general manager… That makes his surprise signing in August an overall positive one.
Much like the regular season, Matt Hendricks played in it for reasons known only to a select few. He didn’t really produce anything in the five games he played and again there was likely better options for the Jets to play in those five games.
Just like it was last season, given the amount of young talent the Jets have coming up through the system, it would frankly be a surprise if the Jets sign Hendricks to another deal for the 2018-19 season. Even during the playoffs he admitted in a rink side interview that he was just trying to keep up with the speed of the game and that if the coach was going to put him in the lineup, then he’d do his absolute best. No one ever questioned his work ethic and love of the game, but there are plenty of questions if he can still play it at this level. The Jets would no doubt love to keep him around, but are they willing to give up a roster spot to do so?