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Apparently Doug MacLean doesn’t read EOB

June 16, 2006

Yesterday, the Blue Jackets re-signed LW Jody Shelley to a two-year deal reportedly worth a total of $1.2 million. The franchise leader in penalty minutes is now contracted through the 2007-08 season. Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch also states in the article that the organization may be closer to terms with free agents Manny Malhotra and Trevor Letowski.

In the EOB season review Spotlight Series, I had given my thoughts on Jody’s future in Columbus. My suggestion was to let him play out the final year of his (previous) contract (which it turns out was a player/club option), and then cut him loose. I based my thinking on the fact that Shelley is not an offensive or really even defensive force. What he does accomplish for his team is to create some amount of accountability for the opposition in regards to the physical aspect of the game.

I’ll be the first to say that big #45 has made strides at improving his NHL game. I’ve seen him at practice staying on the ice after other (more talented players) have gone to the dressing room. He will practice shooting, one-timers, skating, anything necessary to keep his place on the team and hopefully improve his comparably mediocre hockey skill. This is surely among the many reasons why his teammates truly enjoy having this guy on the team. His apparent love of the game and his willingness to do whatever is necessary to stay in the game embodies the spirit of hockey, to me.

The Blue Jacket fans love Shelley, as well. Jody is involved in the central Ohio community, having participated in many charity events, reading with children at local bookstores, and he is a partner in the many Sports Clips (hair cutting) franchises around town. Everybody has a friend like Jody. He’s the guy who looks (and sometimes acts) like he could squash a big rig, but is as loyal and reliable as a security blanket.

I still wonder if the team will be able to get over the hump and into (or close to) the playoffs next season. This summer’s free agency period will be a major indicator for this team (as it usually is). Will the Blue Jackets continue to ask their acquisitions to play above their head (Marshall, Marchant, Sydor, etc), or can management ink a player who will actually fit on a first or second line forward or defensive pairing?

As much as I’ve said I wouldn’t have signed Shelley to a new contract, I can’t say that the move surprised me all that much. There are a handful of teams in the NHL that can get away with not having an enforcer. The Red Wings did not have one last year, but the combination of skill and size that many of their players possess precludes the need to have a roster spot taken up by a guard dog. Even if the Jackets didn’t keep Shelley, they are not to the point of being an elite team that they could get away with not having someone play the role of overbearing policeman.

The team still has a few days left to come to agreement with Malhotra, Letowski, and Radoslav Suchy, but Shelley’s wait is over. Now he can enjoy the summer, and continue working hard to keep his spot on this team on the rise.

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