When I asked Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland why he was inviting goalie Dan Cloutier to training camp during a phone interview, noted THN office-wisecracker Ryan Kennedy overheard and blurted out, “Oh, I don’t know…irony?”
I don’t usually laugh at Kennedy’s lame attempts at humor, but I must admit I almost fell off my chair at that one. Perhaps the Red Wings are trying to recapture the glory of their Stanley Cup victory in 2002.
You’ll remember Cloutier, then a member of the Vancouver Canucks, was an integral part of the Red Wings’ run that season. After the Canucks took the first two games of their first-round series against Detroit that year, Cloutier allowed a marshmallow-soft goal to Nicklas Lidstrom from center ice that turned the series around and began the Red Wings march to the Cup.
Actually, Holland has no idea what to expect from Cloutier, who has played just nine NHL games over the past two seasons. All he knows is that the 33-year-old feels he can still play and is willing to prove himself in camp to play for a two-way contract.
“Back in 2005 I got a call from (agent) J.P. Barry and he was looking for a tryout for Dan Cleary,” Holland said. “We didn’t think it was going to amount to anything, but we got lucky.”
Holland isn’t counting on the same kind of luck this time, but hopes a proven NHL veteran will push his younger goalies seeking the backup job to Chris Osgood.
“I think it will be good for Jimmy Howard and Daniel Larsson,” Holland said. “I want to make them earn their spot.”
Cloutier is one of an interesting crew of players who will be on strict tryouts when NHL training camps open this weekend. And we still haven’t even mentioned Theo Fleury, who was reinstated by the NHL and hopes to make a comeback at the age of 41 and after being out of the NHL game for six years.
Here are some other players who will be playing for a contract in the coming weeks:
Jason Allison (Toronto)
At his best…Allison was almost a point-a-game player for the Boston Bruins and was one of the premiere set-up men in the game.
When we last saw him…He was on a breakaway with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2005-06 season and we’ve just received word he recently crossed the blueline. There’s an old joke that Leafs’ coach Pat Quinn had to use the facilities in the middle of the game that year, and reckoned that if Allison got the puck, he’d have time to do his business and return to the bench without missing anything.
Dave Scatchard (Vancouver)
At his best…Scatchard was a two-time 20-goal scorer for the Islanders and a reliable all-round player at the NHL level.
When we last saw him…He was playing 11 games in the American League two seasons ago.
Ronald Petrovicky (Vancouver)
At his best…He was a journeyman who could fill in on your NHL roster for a short spell, but was more of a minor leaguer.
When we last saw him…He was playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins two years ago. Since then he has bounced around Europe.
Blair Betts (Philadelphia)
At his best…He was a serviceable player and top-notch penalty killer for the New York Rangers.
When we last saw him…He was doing exactly that for the Rangers. One of the more stunning examples of a player being squeezed by the salary cap.
Brett McLean (Tampa Bay)
At his best…After spending years in the minors, McLean finally found a home in the NHL and has been there the past four years, posting a career-high 15 goals for the Colorado Avalanche three seasons ago.
When we last saw him…He was scoring just seven goals for the Florida Panthers last season.
Christian Backman (Florida)
At his best…He was a decent puck-moving defenseman for the St. Louis Blues.
When we last saw him…He was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, scoring two goals and seven points.
Martin Skoula (Florida)
At his best…He was a decent all-round No. 3 or 4 defenseman who scored 10 goals for the Colorado Avalanche in 2001-02.
When we last saw him…He had spent the past four seasons with the Minnesota Wild. He should be good enough to earn a contract.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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