American Hockey League veteran Derek Whitmore doesn’t feel he got a fair shake during his brief time in St. John’s, where things went sour after four productive years in Portland and Rochester.
The 27-year-old winger left the IceCaps Tuesday morning to join Augsburg of the German Elite league. He is expected to be in the Panthers’ lineup for his first DEL game this weekend.
“I don’t think necessarily I did (get an opportunity to play in St. John’s),” Whitmore said Tuesday afternoon.
“I played back-to-back games once and then I played three in a row. That was it. I was never able to get into a groove.”
Whitmore was on a 25-game professional tryout contract with the IceCaps. That PTO was set to expire Dec. 11 with the IceCaps’ 25th game.
He was supposed to be a key off-season addition to the IceCaps, bringing a goalscorer’s touch to the team. Last season, with his hometown Rochester Americans, Whitmore scored 28 goals. The year before that, he netted 27 for the Portland Pirates and 18 in his second season in the AHL. Whitmore scored 11 goals as a rookie in 2008-09.
Yet as the IceCaps’ scoring woes continued, Whitmore found himself in the press box. He appeared in Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Providence Bruins when he scored his one and only goal for St. John’s.
But prior to that, he had been a healthy scratch for four straight games.
“Before this season, I’d only missed six games in four full seasons — four as a healthy scratch and one from injury and one game last year when I was on recall (to the Buffalo Sabres).
“I had a stretch of over 200 consecutive games played in the American league. I pride myself as being a guy who is in the lineup every night, and to have that role reversed was definitely hard to accept.”
If you’re Keith McCambridge, the IceCaps’ coach, that’s all fine and dandy, but hockey is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately exercise.
“When you go into the lineup,” McCambridge said, “you have to do something for me to keep you in that lineup. That goes whether you are a veteran, or whether you are a non-vet player.
“When he did play, he didn’t do enough to stay in the lineup. With that being said, I thought he was real good for us in his last game with the IceCaps (Sunday).”
Whitmore has no ill feelings towards the organization or the coaching staff.
In fact, this move, he says, has more to do about the NHL lockout than the IceCaps/Winnipeg Jets organization.
“If there’s no lockout, we’re not having this conversation right now,” he says.
Whitmore was one of eight AHL veterans (teams can only dress six) on the St. John’s roster, and he was the only player without a contract.
No lockout meant Spencer Machacek, Derek Meech and Aaron Gagnon were probably starting the year in Winnipeg.
“I think (St. John’s GM) Craig Heisinger’s intentions were signing me after my PTO if the lockout was resolved,” Whitmore said, “but here we are now almost into December and there’s still no resolution.
“If I’m waiting until Dec. 11, who knows what would will happen. I’m away from my wife, and I want a little bit of security in that I know I’m going to be in one place for the remainder of the season.
“As much as St. John’s wanted to promise me that, they just couldn’t make that determination.”
While Whitmore prepared to head across the Atlantic, the IceCaps hit the road Tuesday afternoon for a brief road trip through Adirondack, Albany and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that begins tonight in Glens Falls, N.Y, against the Adirondack Flyers.
Whitmore’s spot Sunday will likely be taken by Aaron Gagnon. Defenceman Travis Ramsey (broken hand) and forwards Jason King, Patrice Cormier (knee surgery) and Hunter Tremblay (concussion-like symptoms) won’t travel, although King skated Tuesday with a red no-contact jersey.
Forwards Ray Sawada and Eric O’Dell, who have been day-to-day with injuries, will travel.
McCambridge said his goaltender against Adirondack will be a game-time decision. Eddie Pasquale stopped 40 shots in a shutout performance Sunday.