With so many players that are set to become free agents, whether it be a UFA or a RFA, one's mind can wonder when speculating on the roster surrounding the usual core players next season. Changes are a certain to come, perhaps a new face or two.
Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Erik Johnson are shoe ins for new contract based on age, potential and performance. Milan Hejduk will also play as long as he pleases. But what about the guy who has played the third most games in an Avalanche uniform? (DDC) What about the grinder that makes so many sacrifices?
What about Cody McLeod?
Cody McLeod currently ranks 4th in the NHL for penalty minutes and is a (-4) playing on the fourth line for a team the a goal difference of (-13). He sees time on the PK every once and a while and is probably stronger than anyone in the locker room. The man referred to as Highlander isn't putting up a ton of points. Coach will tell you that it's not really his role.
Instead, McLeod has found his place going toe-to-toe with some of the meanest guys in sports. He doesn't always go quietly to the penalty box either. This is a guy whose single goal is to get the blood pumping and to set the tone for the game. After the fight is broken up, he doesn't simply go quietly. He throws his arms and screams to chirp at his adversaries or just to get the bench going. He is a guy who reminds the boys that you have to play with heart to win.
But still, with the developing politics in hockey and the issues surrounding head injury, you cannot be sure that he will don the uni-pron in coming seasons. From a strategic standpoint, we can use his size front and he's never been scared to lay a good hit on somebody. But many cynics will likely write his departure off as addition by subtraction.
To say he brings nothing to the team is shallow outlook on his contributions. He brings the game back to a more raw form. Through reintroducing a level of intensity on a game to game bases and keeping suspect skaters a little more humble.
Something they may not know is the NHLPA wants to keep fighting in the game. Overwhelmingly.
I'm not arguing more fighting should be encouraged. There should also continue to be major penalties assessed with the official's option of game misconduct. I am certain that fighting should and will continue to be monitored. Hockey is in the unique situation in comparison to the other major sports. This aspect of the game can be utilized in a (excuse me) gentlemanly manner. The sportsmanship is usually consistent and the primitive nature keeps the competition more exciting to watch. Law of Club and Fang if you would.
I hope Cody McLeod gets a new contract. So what if he gets scratched every once and a while? Those are the tendencies of the role he plays for his team. Hockey is a team game. And if he can stop players from taking liberties on our core guys, more power to him. 82 games makes for a long season, and then there is the playoffs.
RW/LW: Cody McLeod
Age: 27 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 210 Shoots: Left