So NHL rookies Jesse Joensuu and Matt Martin are on their way up from AHL Bridgeport to provide a little size, create a little space, hopefully score a little. For Martin, it's his first NHL game. What can he expect?
A popular meme among observers of coaches -- in many sports -- is how they handle young players. "He hates kids. He always sticks to veterans." ... or "He rushes kids." Such common complaints among fans, who see old news in their veterans and future hope in the kids. But it's not that simple, of course: We don't have a handle on the locker room dynamic nor how the coach perceives maturity in each youngster. We can only guess.
Scott Gordon can hardly be accused of neglecting youth, but each kid is different. John Tavares steps into the NHL at the first possible opportunity and plays first-line center. Most guys don't get that treatment, and rightly so.
What follows is how Scott Gordon has used other rookies in their NHL or season debuts:
Easing In? First games under Scott Gordon
|Rob Schremp||Oct. 8 09||3-2 OTL @Ott||17||14:02||0:57||2 minors|
|*John Tavares||Oct. 3 09||4-3 SOL v. Pit||27||22:05||5:02||1g, 1a|
|*Josh Bailey||Nov. 11 08||3-1 L v. Phi||18||12:30||3:01||2 minors|
|*Jesse Joensuu||March 2 09||4-2 W v. Col||17||11:35||0:08||1st goal|
|*Trevor Smith||Dec. 31 08||4-2 W v. Fla||15||10:55||0:32||minus-1|
||March 7 09||7-3 W v. NJ||17||12:37||0:00||2 asst.
||April 2 09||5-1 L v. Mon||18||11:31||0:16||1 minor
||Oct. 10 08||2-1 L @NJ||23||18:48||4:36||minus-1
||Feb. 28 09||2-0 W v. Buf||12||7:14||0:00||2 blocks
||Jan. 28 10||4-1 L @Car||15||11:35||0:00||1 block
*1st NHL game
Joensuu is returning after a short injury call-up earlier this season. In seven December games, he averaged around 11 minutes per game -- sometimes more, sometimes less. He picked up a goal in the second game of that stint but otherwise didn't dent the scoresheet.
In the above table, the date links to the game sheet, the score links to the recap here. I left out enforcers like Trevor Gillies and Joel Rechlicz, who get the handful-of-minutes treatment and don't really apply to the role Martin will be serving.
Clearly Gordon is a little more careful when breaking in defensemen, understandably so. MacDonald's victorious but careful debut ironically came at the height of last season's veteran complaints about Gordon handing the reins to the youngsters too soon. For the forwards, unless your name is John Tavares you can expect a standard of 15 or so shifts, 11 minutes or so of ice time. With both Joensuu and Martin coming in Tuesday, maybe Martin gets less than that, particularly if he's left to the fourth line (presumably we'll get a better idea after practice).
Mostly this was an excuse to look back at some rookie debuts (or in Schremp, Hillen and Iggulden's case, first games under a new coach very early in a player's NHL career). But it does tell us Gordon isn't afraid of working new forwards in right away. Whatever concern is keeping Jeff Tambellini to an enforcer-like five minutes, we can expect that won't afflict Joensuu and Martin.