McCambridge likes the new guys - But will they get to play for him in St. John’s?

Brendan McCarthy
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Forward Jermome Samson shown playing for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. - Carolina Hurricanes photo/Gregg Forwerck


Keith McCambridge had read the résumé, seen the stats and learned about the playing style of Andrew Gordon, one of a number of free-agent forwards recently acquired by the Winnipeg Jets.

There was much to impress, but “what really jumped out” for McCambridge was what he learned about Gordon’s leadership abilities on speaking with Scott Arniel, who had been Gordon’s coach with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves last season.

“He (Gordon) hadn’t played for him (Arniel) before, but Scott told me that if he had knew at the start of the year what he had come to know by the middle of the season, he would have named him (the Wolves’) captain,” said McCambridge.

That’s an opinion McCambridge will trust, given he had once been Arniel’s assistant on the coaching staff of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Now, McCambridge is preparing for his third year at the helm of the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, looking for a rebound from a campaign that saw St. John’s finish out of the Calder Cup playoffs and 14th overall in the league’s Eastern Conference.

Players like Gordon, along with Jerome Samson and Matt Halischuk, the other two free-agent forwards signed by the parent Jets in the last week, could go a long way in turning things around., although McCambridge is quick to note the main reasoning for the acquisitions was to add more depth  for the Jets, “guys who can step up and play in the NHL ... who’ve shown they can play in the NHL.”

Nevertheless, the three are all signed to two-way contracts, making it more likely they could play for St. John’s sometime in 2013-14.

The 27-year-old Gordon, who also got into six games with the Vancouver Canucks last season and 55 big-league games in total with Washington, Anaheim and Vancouver, is described by McCambridge as a “hard-working, driven guy ... and offensive guy who also plays a strong two-way game.”

McCambridge says Gordon, a Nova Scotia native who once scored 37 goals for the Hershey Bears in 2009-10 when that team won the AHL championship, projects as a right-winger in the NHL, but could easily fit as a scoring-line centre in St. John’s.

Samson, who turns 26 in September, is also a right-winger who also brings scoring ability (he too had 37 goals in the 209-10 AHL season) and skating speed that McCambridge craves.

“We want to be a faster team this year and Samson would help with that,” said McCambridge. “He plays with speed, he’s a guy who plays the game in a straight line.”

The six-foot-195-pound Samson has suited up in 46 NHL games, all with the Carolina Hurricanes, including 16 last year.

“He’s a guy who can play that third- or fourth-line role in the NHL, who fills holes in the depth chart,” said McCambridge, adding Samson was “high on a lot of teams’ lists” when it came to free-agent forwards who have straddled the NHL/AHL line in their career.

The same goes for Halischuk, although the former Canadian world junior player has only played two AHL games in the last two years. He was in 36 games with the Nashville Predators last season, scoring five goals and adding six assists, after having 15 goals and 28 points in 73 games with Nashville in 2011-12.

Halischuk’s deal with Winnipeg will pay him $650,000 in the NHL and a fairly big-ticket $250,000 in the minors.

Organizations: American Hockey League, NHL, Winnipeg Jets.There Jets Vancouver Canucks Hershey Bears Carolina Hurricanes Nashville Predators

Geographic location: Washington, Anaheim, Vancouver Nova Scotia Winnipeg

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