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Matt Hendricks Is Exactly What the Jets Needed

Now that I gave some of you a quick chuckle to begin, let’s get right into the point here:

A young Jets team, loaded with all kinds of talent, needed some veteran leadership.

And Matt Hendricks has been the guy to provide it.

When Winnipeg signed Hendricks, there seemed to be a collective “WTF???” that could be heard throughout the hockey world.

I mean Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could have tried to sign Jaromír Jágr instead!

What was the value in bringing in a 36 year old center? Maybe he was signed to help out the Manitoba Moose, who had struggled even worse than the Jets last season?

But the thought of bringing him in to play on the fourth line with the Jets seemed like nonsense.

Well, apparently not.

Not only has the 533 NHL game veteran been playing on the fourth line, he’s been contributing.

Reunited with former Washington Capitals teammate Mathieu Perreault, Hendricks logged 16, yes, 16 shifts, for a season high 13:20 of ice time to log a goal and an assist against the New Jersey Devils.

Hendricks also scored when the Jets visited the Arizona Coyotes. And get ready for this folks, in 12 games this season, Hendricks has four points and sits at a +2.

Now no one is suggesting those are All Star numbers by any means. What Hendricks has brought to the Jets also translates off the ice.

NHL news sites blew up last month with the photo’s of the prehistoric fish Hendricks caught while fishing in Vancouver with Dustin Byfuglien. That in itself appeared to be the first sighting of Hendricks as a Jet.

Since then, Hendricks has caught a lot of people’s attention back in Winnipeg.

Even looking back to his career with Edmonton, Hendricks had earned that organizations respect, and seems to be missed on a slumping Oilers team to start this season. Was he more valuable to them than even they suspected?

David Staples, (of the Edmonton Journal), upon Hendricks signing with the Jets last August, had this to say about his time in Edmonton:

“When the Oilers lacked spine and togetherness Hendricks was one of the few players who consistently brought both. Even if few others were willing, he was keen to stand up for his teammates. He also played with a great amount of hustle and intensity, even as that quality was often lacking in some of his more talented teammates. He once famously threw his body in front of a shot that was so wicked and probing, it crushed his can.”

And look what’s missing from the Oilers currently.

When Edmonton was in it’s playoff run last spring, Hendricks didn’t get to suit up. But his teammates still wanted him around. Jim Matheson, also of the Edmonton Journal wrote about Hendricks influence on his Oiler teammates during that time.

“Frankly, I’ll admit that I was surprised that Hendo didn’t even get into a single game. I know he’s lost a step lately, but I figured that his rough and tumble style of play might have been enough of an asset to get him into a few playoff games. I mean, couldn’t you have seen Hendricks tuning up Ryan Kesler’s face in that series? I could have.”

“I understand what the organization is thinking, and these guys need their opportunity to grow as players, and this is the time of year to learn those lessons. The young kids played well and deserved to be in the lineup.”

“Despite falling out of the regular rotation, Hendricks was still appreciated and wanted by his teammates.”

“The leadership group went to Todd (McLellan), and asked if I could be the guy who takes warm-up every night because they wanted me in the room. Everything was pretty much status quo — I still took part in the meetings and was in the locker room before and after warm-ups, except I wasn’t playing.”

“I know you stats dudes are going to make fun of me for this, but this quote is the kind of stuff that old MSM guys talk about when they go on about intangibles. The truth is that personalities matter in a team sport like hockey, and clearly Matt Hendricks had something going on with his that kept him in the minds of his teammates that are basically half his age.”

And now the Jets are benefiting to whatever “it” factor Hendricks has about him.

No one suggesting Hendricks should be centering a line with Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. Or feeding passes to Patrik Laine on a nightly basis.

But maybe, just maybe there is a place for Hendricks on the Jets fourth line. If nothing else, just his presence has somehow helped the Jets to the third best record in the entire NHL.

And for a game where superstition is huge among the culture, don’t mess with what’s working.

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