by Ron Spence
A team falters all season – mired in controversy – gets it together, squeaks into the playoffs, and then makes a run for the Stanley Cup….
A player improves, flourishes, falters, and then gains redemption, when he returns to his roots – to the team where he started his career – as he makes a comeback….
Most of us love these stories. They remind us of different elements of our own lives.
The NHL is playing out variations on the second plot line.
Jeff Friesen is trying to resurrect his career in San Jose, and Jeff O’Neil is attempting to return to the NHL, with Carolina.
Friesen was chosen 11th overall, in the 1994 Draft. He played part of the 1994-95 season with the Sharks, and full seasons until 2000-01, when he was part of the Selanne trade, with the Ducks. During his time in San Jose, he scored 22, 26, 28 and 31 goals.
Friesen played one season in Anaheim, and two in New Jersey, where he helped to win the Stanley Cup – by scoring 10 playoff goals. He played two part seasons for the Capitals and Ducks – following the lockout – and one full year for the Flames.
Last season, he played in only five games in the AHL, before hanging up his skates due to injury.
Jeff O’Neil was selected 5th overall by Hartford, in 1994.
He started playing for the Whalers in 1995-96, and scored 8, 14 and 19 goals, before 25 goals, and 41 goals in 2000-01. He helped Carolina to win the Cup, and by 2002-03, he had his third consecutive 30 goal season.
O’Neil was injured and had a subpar year, there was the lockout, and then he was traded to the Leafs. In Toronto, he played for two seasons, and his production slowly fell off, largely due to personal problems.
Petr Nedved’s colourful NHL career has been well documented. Sportsillustrated.cnn.com wrote.
The Sports Illustrated highlights didn’t mention Nedved’s unpopularity in New York – after he’d been sent there from St. Louis.
John Dellapina, of the Daily News, provides some details of Nedved’s first tenure in the Big Apple:
People are pulling for the east and west Jeffs.
“What a great story it would be if Jeff could continue his career with the team he started with, and contribute and the team has success,” the San Jose coach said. “But so many things have to happen prior to that.”
“He did nothing to hurt himself,” McLellan continued. “But did he climb the ladder to the top? No, he didn’t do that either.”
Bryan Thiel of the Bleacher Report wrote of O’Neil: “For his sake, I hope he can prove that he’s earned a spot on the Carolina Hurricanes roster. Or at least proves to the league that, after everything he’s been through, he can still play, and still be a factor, maybe prove that he’s still that mullet-wearing, hockey-loving kid he used to be, with the same passion anyone brings to the game—just now with a little added fire.”
Friesen and O’Neil are still at the Sharks’ and Hurricanes’ camps, but Nedved has been released by the Rangers.
He played well enough, but there weren’t any roster spots available.
But, had the talented Czech made the New York squad, it wouldn’t have been a feel good story.
Friesen and O’Neil had lost their way – due to injuries and personal problems – whereas, Nedved has always been just plain greedy.
He has never had any loyalty.
He wasn’t playing for redemption. He wanted more money.
Few have any sympathy for Petr Nedved. He has burned his many Karmatic bridges behind him, so to speak.
P.S. And now, Claude Lemieux wants to make a comeback. Well, at least it won’t be for the money.
The following from the newsobserver.com:
In 2000-01 Jeff O'Neill was the only player to lead his team in both goals and hits.
Alas, Jeff Friesen was in shape, but the San Jose Sharks were chockablocked full of forwards. It was the same sitaution, in a way, as Nedved’s in New York.
The San jose Mercury reports:
Word is obviously already out that the Sharks ended Jeff Friesen’s tryout without adding him to the roster. I won’t pretend this is breaking news.
In hindsight, there were hints along the way that was how this might wind up, but I know a lot of longtime Sharks fans were hoping it would work out differently.
Midway through training camp, for example, Todd McLellan said he recognized what a good story it would be if Friesen could continue his career where it began, if he’d be able to contribute to the Sharks’ season much the same way Dallas Drake did in his homecoming to Detroit a year ago. Then the coach added: “But it’s up to Jeff.”
Coaches are rarely forthcoming with detailed explanations when players are cut or benched. They’ve got their reasons, but it’s usually not in their best interest to spell them out.
Today, McLellan seemed to be following the traditional tack.
“We now went through a couple days where we sorted out as an orgazniation where we wanted to be and made a decision on the 23-man roster,” the coach said. “In fairness to Jeff, he had a good camp, he competed very well, he did everything he could. But for us to continue to hold onto him and to linger with hm wasn’t going to help him in his attempt to come back.”
GM Doug Wilson said earlier in the week that the staff was waiting for a medical update on Marcel Goc’s injury before having to make a decision on Friesen. McLellan said today that Goc was back on the ice for a light skate today, but that his possible availability was only “somewhat” of a factor in the Friesen decision.
I’m trying to reach Friesen. So far, no luck.”