Sometimes "old-school" is a compliment. Fans use it with reverence to describe players who succeed within a tried-and-true model -- often resembling past favorites in one form or another. You'll commonly find the term associated with other clichés of the sport: hard-nosed, gritty, etc., because every hockey player of yore was exponentially tougher than any of the ninnies on the ice today, right?
Cody McLeod is "old-school" in a different way, in that the strengths of his game are quickly fading from the new, modern, skilled NHL. If broadcasters and pundits were more forthright in their analysis, his game wouldn't be described as "old-school," but something closer to "antiquated" or "antediluvian." But that's not the kind of language you use to describe a nine-year NHL veteran, longest tenured current Colorado Avalanche, and assistant captain -- and certainly no one is questioning his effort and tenacity.
So, we keep asking ourselves: Does a player who's good for a fight, a couple good forechecks, and sixty minutes of Grade-A smack talk still have a legitimate role on an NHL team? Even for fans firmly on the side of "old-school," this answer is increasingly becoming no.
MHH Survey Grade: 68.3%
Cody McLeod actually had one of his better seasons last year. Seven goals was his most since 2012-13 and his relative shot differential was only Minus-2.4 compared to the two previous years (Minus-4.9 and Minus-8.2). And he did that seeing the fewest offensive zone face-offs of his career, just 38.3%. At times, the fourth line was even pretty good last year. The triumvirate of Cody McLeod, John Mitchell, and Jack Skille was strong pinning the puck in the opponents' zone, creating turnovers with the forecheck, and even putting some scrappy goals in the net. But it wasn't consistent, and good opposing coaches -- especially with the final change -- could get this group in some uncomfortable positions defensively.
But the biggest problems came, just like with Mitchell, when the Avalanche depth necessitated McLeod moving up to a more prominent role, adding "toughness" to a scoring line. This happened less this past season than in previous years, but it was still a problem at times.
The role of designated fighter is going away in the NHL. Penalty minutes are way down throughout the league and that's mostly not due decreased hooks, slashes, or other infractions incurred during the course of play. It's because the goons aren't stopping play every three minutes to punch each other's faces anymore in some sort of honor ritual. The silly premeditated stuff just isn't happening with the same frequency anymore and fewer teams are starting players who specialize in this area.
Not the Avalanche.
After signing a three-year $4,000,000 extension before the 2014-15 season, McLeod will be under contract another two seasons. With an AAV of $1,333,333, that's not exactly money that will force him into the starting lineup every night, but can the team really stop itself from doing do? I'll believe it when I see it.
MHH Staff Grade: D
We agree with the plurality here. Even considering the intangibles McLeod brings, the performance is just not good -- and at 31-years old, he isn't going to suddenly transform his game. There are better fourth line wing options in the system, and if they can't punch faces, then so be it.