Winnipeg Jets prospect has been a healthy scratch for five games
Zach Redmond is 25, a third-year pro and, aside from his rookie season, when he appeared in 82 games, does not know what it’s like to play anything other than a college schedule.
© — Photo by The Canadian Press
The Minnesota Wild’s Dany Heatley (right) chases down the Winnipeg Jets’ Zach Redmond (25) in front of Jets’ goaltender Al Montoya during the teams’ pre-season game in Winnipeg this September. After returning from a 10-game stint on the injured list to start the season, Redmond played two games with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps before being recalled to Winnipeg. He has been a healthy scratch for the NHL club ever since.
Redmond missed much of last year which, in the grand scheme of things, was but a minor wrinkle given the circumstances. The defenceman nearly died on the ice last February when his femoral artery and vein were severed by a skate blade in practice.
He did manage to lace up the skates for a pair of St. John’s IceCaps games late in the season in Hamilton and Toronto, proving to himself, if nothing else, he could play again.
This was supposed to be a big year for Redmond, one in which he’d play, and play a lot. If not in Winnipeg, then St. John’s. Or maybe splitting time between the two cities.
But wouldn’t you know it. Redmond came up lame to start the American Hockey League season, and was sidelined for the first 10 games of the IceCaps’ year.
When he did return, he made an immediate impact, registering a goal and an assist in his first game back, a 4-2 win over the Pirates in Portland, Maine, earlier this month.
Redmond played another game after that, in Worcester, Mass., and was recalled to the Winnipeg Jets.
He hasn’t suited up since.
Not including last night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Redmond has been a healthy scratch in five NHL games.
Though in his mid-20s — which could be seen as getting on in years in hockey circles — Redmond is considered a prospect in the Jets’ scheme of things.
Perhaps not as prized or as highly-touted as Jacob Trouba or Mark Scheifele, but a prospect nonetheless.
Winnipeg sure has a funny way of showing it, however.
Through four years of NCAA Division I hockey at Ferris State University, Redmond played 37, 38, 40 and 26 games. Since his rookie season of 2011-12, he’s played in 48 games — 38 in St. John’s and eight in Winnipeg last year, two with the IceCaps this season and zilch with the Jets since the recall.
At this stage of his career, especially coming off a significant injury, Redmond needs to play, and he needs to develop.
Neither is happening in Winnipeg.
No question, Redmond would prefer to be with the Jets. He’s skating with the big team, flying on charters instead of riding the bus and, let’s be honest, pocketing the pro-rated portion of his $715,000 NHL salary vs. the 65 grand he makes down here.
We can’t blame Jets coach Claude Noel. Entering last night’s game against Philly, Winnipeg enjoyed a modest three-game win streak and we all know coaches, since their days guiding peewee teams, have been taught not to mess with a winning lineup, unless, of course, injuries or an unforeseen circumstance necessitates change.
So as long as Winnipeg keeps winning, Redmond keeps rusting in the press box, and the IceCaps, whose coaching staff could ride him like Secretariat on the blueline down here, tries to figure out a team that’s been middling all season long.
A team that would be much different with a Zach Redmond in the lineup playing 25 or 30 minutes a night.
Oh yes, we know, we know. The role of the farm team is to support the parent club.
So if the Jets deem it important that Redmond sits and watches in Winnipeg rather than play a lot in St. John’s, fair enough.
But that doesn’t make it right. Or, for that matter, much sense.
There’s no doubt to even the most casual of observers that the talent pool in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, circa 2013, is far better and deeper than it’s ever been.
By last count, there were four players in the league — Darren Langdon, David Ling, Terry Ryan and Doug O’Brien — with NHL experience, a number with a minor pro résumé and umpteen others who toiled in the Canadian major junior, university and Tier II junior ranks.
Years ago, an import hockey player who played third string in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League made news in what used to be our insular, little world.
Today, it’s no big deal.
Funny, though, that while the play on the ice is much improved and more entertaining than it’s ever been, the organization and governance of the league remains the same haphazard, bumbling, amateur hour sideshow we witnessed throughout the ’80s when the inmates ran the asylum — eventually, into the ground.
In what other league would the participants demand — and receive, no less — additional players (in this case, imports) by threatening to pull out of the league?
I can only imagine these rank amateurs trying to pull that stunt on my late, dear friend Don Johnson, who was known to run Newfoundland hockey with an iron fist in the late 1960s.
Where else would you witness a team — in this case, the CeeBees — bullying the ticket-buying public into ponying up cash for tickets, or else the team is folding? And this with a week to go before the season opens?
And how is it one team — Western — is permitted four imports, while the CeeBees and Mount Pearl can sign only two?
How is that?
We don’t know, because the league’s pseudo-president from Clarenville — some chap named Neil Norcott — neither attends HNL meetings, nor returns phone calls.
In many ways, the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League of yesterday survived in spite of itself, until finally the jig was up in 1990, when it went under.
It’s been said those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Senior hockey in this province, despite the presence of the pro game, has a strong, staunch following. Especially outside the overpass.
Yet despite its popularity, those who steer the ship still have not figured out a way to properly market the product and cash in on what could be a very, very viable enterprise for all involved.
Rather, those running provincial senior hockey have not proven to be savvy enough to learn from past.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort