When I picture Rocco Grimaldi off the ice I imagine him wearing one of those newsy caps with a 3-piece wool suit straight out of the early 1900’s. Are you picturing it now?
See. It works.
When I see Rocco Grimaldi on the ice, I see a guy who’s hungry to play hockey. He’s constantly getting after the puck and fighting for position in the dirty areas. Even harder for a player listed at 5’6 180 lbs, and I think that’s being generous.
You can hear the whispers at the Pepsi Center when Rocco steps on the ice.
“Who’s that guy?”
“He’s so tiny!”
“Is Theo Fleury back?!”
But what Rocco lacks in size, he makes up for in effort and speed. Unfortunately, effort and speed aren’t always enough as he was sent down to SA in the latest round of cuts on Monday.
I was a little disappointed to hear that he’d be starting the year with the Rampage. Especially with guys like Colborne and Comeau taking up a bottom 6 spot on the Avalanche roster. I mean, Rocco is light years ahead of Comeau nowadays.
Last season, Rocco was one of the few bright spots on a rather desolate San Antonio team. He led the team in goals (31), assists (24), and points (55). 13 of his 31 goals came on the power-play, which was not great for the Rampage last year, ranking 18th out of 30 with the man advantage. Rocco also ended the season with the worst +/- on the team with -24. Ouch.
He was a late season call-up last year for the Avalanche playing in 4 games and registering only 1 assist. As most of the Avalanche veterans checked out for the year, Grimaldi really shined. His effort was relentless. It could be he would have felt deflated playing in the first 78 games of the season but I don’t think so. He was one of the hardest working players for the Rampage as well and they ended their season in the same position as the Avs did in theirs.
We also need to remember this was one of the 11 players the Avalanche protected from Vegas in the expansion draft. The Avs obviously see something in Rocco they like.
Playing fast is something Coach Bednar preaches daily. You’d think keeping Rocco on the 23-man roster would benefit that style of play.
The video below shows a little bit of everything that Grimaldi can bring to the team. He never gives up on the puck and keeps fighting for possession. Give him an open lane and he loses his man making his speed look effortless.
Smaller hockey players also need to bring a lot more than speed to make an impact for a team. Many of the best had some grit and nastiness to their game that was unmatched to those standing half a foot taller than them. Theo Fleury, Pat Verbeek, Brian Gionta, even Marty St. Louis had some scrappiness in him when it came down to it.
Rocco doesn’t have a catchy nickname like “The Little Ball of Hate” (Pat Verbeek) but he has a certain toughness and never-say-die attitude I like to see in smaller players. It also doesn’t hurt when they can put the puck in the net 30 times a season.
Ironically, one of Rocco’s recent fights was against current teammate Andrew Agozzino. Now Agozzino isn’t the tallest guy on the block but Rocco stuck up for a teammate after a big hit and wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves. Watch the video below. The commentary is also quite amusing.
It would not be surprising to see Grimaldi as one of the first to be called up barring any injury. His natural position is center but can play the wing as well which makes him a versatile call-up. He’ll get his opportunity in Colorado sometime this year, hopefully in some meaningful games. He’ll start the season down in San Antonio with the rest of the bulls. Now he may not have the size and stature of a typical NHL forward, but you know what they say, everything’s bigger in Texas.