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.”
“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.