By Paul Armbruster • KingsNewsDaily.com •
As the old adage goes, you can’t teach experience. And in the world of NHL hockey defensemen, no truer words define what it takes to have a long career as a blue-liner. But how do you get to play for over a decade without that experience?
In one word, watch. Closely.
Jon Rosen’s latest player feature focuses on Rob Scuderi, the only current Kings D-man over the age of 30 and the oldest member on the active team by two years. Simon Gagne is the second oldest at 32. Scuderi, as he points out, is playing the same ‘ugly but effective’ game since he was 18. If that’s true, then wouldn’t that mean he’s still playing like an inexperienced young man at the veteran age of 34?
Consistency, as Coach Darryl Sutter pointed out in the article, is they key. And while learning important aspects of the game over time are critical to the development of any player, it’s how well you apply those lessons consistently and effectively that give you the edge in carving out a long career in the NHL.
I don’t think even Scuderi would say his game is EXACTLY the same as it was 16 years ago in the literal sense. What I believe he means is his overall style is the same. Stay-at-home, hard working and, yes, consistent. But if he was asked pointedly, I believe he would cite a hundred little things he does better now than he did then and that is where the younger defenseman on the team can learn something.
Scuderi has never been a vocal guy and while he is the picture of “action speaks louder than words” that doesn’t mean words don’t have their place in helping guys like Jake Muzzin or even Drew Doughty learn to be more consistent.
It’s those little tips he gives when asked, coupled with watching his play on the ice (in games and at practice), that can really help a young defenseman navigate the treacherous frozen waters known as the D-zone.
Nothing can replace experience. That is a given.
But knowing how incorporate lessons from guys who have it can make or break the careers of many aspiring young players in the NHL. Or as Scuderi puts it, “I don’t have a lot of offensive talent, but putting yourself in the right position, just knowing where to be, knowing where to put your stick, trying to drive a guy in a certain direction – a lot of those things kind of happen naturally that you develop over the course of your life…but hopefully a guy just sees it and sees how you do things. I know that’s how I picked up some things – not necessarily through conversation, but just through observation and trying to pick up things to help myself.”
Words of action seen, not just heard.