Shelley Turning a New Leaf?
If Matt Cooke can do it, who's to say Jody Shelley can't straighten up and break away from his reputation of being an echoing, on-ice delinquent?
As most of you know, I loathe Shelley's existence on this roster. I hate his contract ($1.1M AAV), and I hate how he's always managed to get us into terrible penalty trouble consistently throughout his tenure as a Philadelphia Flyer.
So you could only imagine my excitement when I heard the news yesterday that Shelley was making his first start of the season before last night's match against the Maple Leafs.
Coming off of a five preseason, five regular season (ten total) game suspension, Jody was looking at a very short leash and small allowance for error. I was sure he'd screw it up, and personally I feel I had every right to think that way.
First off, I was extremely confused as to why Jody was getting a start in a game we were trying to win and prevent losing a third consecutive time. Secondly, this team needs all the PK players we can get. So scratching Andreas Nodl (one of our forwards on the penalty-kill) for a 4th line skater who commits penalties often.....was a mystery to me.
However here I sit after a win that I feel Jody Shelley contributed positively to, and wonder that if he's able to put out the same disciplined effort with each start he gets....will my opinion of the man completely flip? Is it possible that one day I may think Shelley's $1.1M yearly cap hit is worth it?
I'm getting ahead of myself. It's one game. Surely not enough to erase an entire prior season's frustration that dominated the man's image as strongly as it did.
But as long as I'm willing to admit that Jody sent up the red flag in mind after a good outing, perhaps I should be willing to go the extra step and give him his props which, I believe, he's earned in less than a day.
If you didn't know already, Jaromir Jagr has his own set of keys to the Flyers Skate Zone which he takes advantage of nearly every night Philadelphia does not have a game. After opening the doors and locking them behind him, Jaromir spends the moonlight hours doing extra practice drills.
He's not alone.
One of his teammates who has tagged along is our 4th line enforcer, Mr. Jody Shelley.
Jagr has taught Shelley to skate backwards, among many things, to further strengthen his game. Jody had his chance to put his Jagr Hockey School lessons to the test in last night's tilt. On his first shift, Jody set himself up in Gustavsson's crease and nearly scored the Flyers first goal of the match...
Yes, he got a penalty for goalie interference, but you don't need 20/20 vision to see how Shelley never even touched Johan in his net. Instead it was Toronto's stud d-man, Luke Schenn who barely clipped his own puck stopper, and Gus took that opportunity to display his acting skills.
Nevertheless, Jody winded up in the penalty box on a terrible call. But his positioning and crashing to the crease was flawless. He's a big body, so setting himself up deep to get the dirty, garbage goals is ideal for a skater of Jody's stature.
Not only did he almost score once, but he did it a second time midway through the 2nd....
This time it was Shelley on the ice during one of the Flyers best chances of the evening. If not THE best chance.
And it was Shelley who contributed to the length of the chance's life excellently. He gained possession of the puck behind Gus' cage and handled it through a rough and tumbling crease. Johan saved the shot, but Jody's attempt left the puck open to be put in on a rebounding chance.
I loved what I saw from Shelley last night. So much so that I believe he's earned back-to-back starts. I want to see more Jody Shelley. I really never thought I'd ever in my life say that.
After all the kudos, after all the props I've handed out just now, am I really ready to give Jody and many of his fans some deep apologies for everything negative I have ever said about the man?