Shelley Game: Enforcer’s role with Flyers

When the Flyers acquired big-bodied forward Jody Shelley, on July 1 for $1.1 million a year for three years, fans shrieked in confusion.  Why? They asked. Why would general manager Paul Holmgren pay that much for an enforcer that will only play a shift or two, take a penalty and ride the bench?

The answer is simple — Holmgren sees 6’3, 225 lbs. Shelley as a player, not just an enforcer.

“We feel we got a guy who can play a role for our team we haven’t had in quite some time and play a third or fourth line,” Holmgren told the media after the signing. “He’s a bigger body, so I’m very happy.”

Sure, Shelley (34) is still known more of a brawler than anything, proving his ability in February when he buckled Toronto’s Colton Orr in a short bout. But despite the reputation as solely a tough guy, when the grizzled veteran became older and more mature, so did his game.

As  Larry Brooks wrote in a piece for the N.Y. Post prior to free agency…

“It’s beyond me, just beyond me, why the Rangers GM would risk losing such an important piece as Jody Shelley in order to perhaps pursue someone else he can’t know will fit as well as the universally respected enforcer who came to the Rangers in February and immediately established himself as a badly needed force off the ice as well as on it.”

He continued

“In two months of wearing the Blueshirt, Shelley established himself as important fabric of team.”

In his 21 games with the New York Rangers last season, Shelley averaged seven minutes of ice time a game under notorious stickler John Tortorella.  That is three minutes less than recently departed Flyers forward Arron Asham, who managed 10:04.

But where Asham, a third and fourth line winger, had puck skills, Shelley brings an immense amount of toughness and size.  Asham, at 5’11, 210 lbs., was tough, but Shelley is bigger and tougher.  Where Asham scored 24 points and a minus-2 in 72 games, Shelley scored nine points and plus-5 in 57 games.

Think Shelley is replacing Cote as a spare part?  Think again.  By all evidence, he is replacing Asham.

As fans scratch their heads at the Shelley acquisition and predict that will be a healthy scratch during more games than he plays come the regular season, consider what makes up the glue of a Stanley Cup winning team.  Work ethic, grit, determination and cohesiveness are all ingredients of a champion and all things the well-liked forward possesses and is respected for.

So, heading into training camp in Sept., if you are pondering Shelley’s role on the 2010-11 Flyers, think more Asham and Ian Laperriere — and less Cote.

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10 Comments

Filed under 2009-10 season

10 responses to “Shelley Game: Enforcer’s role with Flyers

  1. Carl Hannah

    Fans understand what Homer had said and what had been reported. But Shelley has never shown any evidence of even a basic ability to play third line minutes. Both Carcillo and Asham scored more points last year than Shelley had over the last four years. Both the signing and the expectations are absurd. I can’t believe so many reporters haven’t even expressed slight disbelief. Guess they are all drunk at the beach.b

    Guys like Belanger are legit third liners good for forty points and quality defense.

    Instead, Homer overpaid for a worthless goon on the first day of FA. Only an idiot signs a goon then, and yes, Sather is an idiot. This offseason should have been simple… Tweak the third line and third pairing and sign a real goalie in a buyers market.

    Sigh.

  2. Ryan

    Sigh all you want. Life is like a box of chocolates. You recall when upshall was traded for carbomb right? Every freaked out.

    Shelley will be a fan favorite by mid October.

    • Carl

      Yeah, people freaked out because Homer’s cap management led us to not only dump a solid player (was leading his team in goals last year before he got hurt) but ALSO include a 2nd round pick. It was a horrible salary dump that occurred through ignorance.

      Life is like a box of chocolates? Now you are sounding like Homer. Of course, his phrase of choice is “What can ya do?” which is only slightly less inane. He said that after screwing over our cap situation after putting Jones on recall waivers. A debacle that even casual fans knew would end poorly.

      The fans may cheer when he wins his fights (which will happen far more frequently than Cote.) But he has no place on a playoff roster and it’s laughable that he’ll be given time on the third line.

      But, aside from that, his contract is absolutely insane for a team in the cap situation that this one is in. Totally inexcusable. He’s spare parts, nothing more.

  3. Nick

    As someone who follows both the Flyers and Sharks (where Shelley played before NYR), he’s actually an underrated guy as far as the skill part of the game. You’ll remember that it was his line–I think he was with Voros, and I forget the center–that really helped the Rangers make a run towards the playoffs that took the Flyers to the wire at the end of the season. I think he’s more than capable as a replacement for Asham, though it sucks to see Asham go, especially after seeing him in the playoffs where you could visibly see how much it meant to him. Even though the contract is a bit rich, I do think Shelley will surprise some folks who aren’t too keen on this signing by mid-season.

    • Carl

      Yeah, Homer saw those two last games, too. Apparently that’s all he saw…

      By mid-season Shelley will be 34. He won’t get better with age. He can’t turn back time or break the laws of physics. And he certainly isn’t used to playing a full schedule, even when young.

      Asham played 3 more minutes per game than Shelley ever had last season. Carcillo played almost 5 minutes more. At no point has Shelley ever been more than a goon. And people are pointing to some hidden talent?

      So, Homer is more knowledgeable than every single GM, coach, and assistant that Shelley has had since he started playing semi-pro hockey as a teenager? They all realized he is just a fighter. But I guess they are all wrong…

      • Good point. But don’t discount what Shelley means to the team aside from being a depth player. His presence will free up the games of Ian Laperriere and Dan Carcillo, who may have to take less fights and his locker room attitude and personality is heralded. He’s a grizzled vet. Him, Sean O’Donnell and Ian Laperrere are built from the same mold.

  4. Brandon

    This off season has been a disaster that never needed to transpire the way it has. Impatience and one bad trade screws up everything. Ugh, back on topic though I’m expecting Carcillo to actually replace Asham and for Shelley to take the 4th line spot. I think Carcillo got noticeably better under Laviolette and I look for him to keep improving his game this coming year. He’s got stick/puck skills and plays with grit. He’s proven he can score goals in the past, he just needs to focus a bit more on that than being strictly the “agitator”. I think Shelley was a good pick up by Homer, I just think the contract is complete and total garbage.

    • You’re right. Carcillo is set to take over for Asham on that third line. But to be clear, the Arron Asham example was more to prove that Shelley will play more of an Asham role and less of one like Riley Cote. I was attempting to disprove the point that Shelley is nothing but a spot goon that will be scratched.

  5. Drew Franklin

    All I can say is, “We’ll see.” I’m not buying the positives so much here, but we’ll see.

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