Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You've Come A Long Way, Kid

Barry Macdonald (24 Hours via Slam Sports) had some nice things to say about Nolan Baumgartner:
It just may turn out to be one of those classic, better-late-than-never stories. First-round draft choices aren't supposed to linger around in their chosen profession, hoping for a chance to finally live up to that old nemesis - potential. They are supposed to smile and say all the right things as teenage, draft-day darlings, then get on with the business of earning their millions and making management look good.

That is the best-case scenario. But it isn't always the case.

Ask Nolan Baumgartner.

He played his junior hockey in Kamloops and in 1994 was the 10th player selected in the first round of the NHL Draft - just after Brett Lindros and just before Jeff Friesen. Of the 26 players chosen in that first round, 23 have played in the NHL. None of them had played fewer games in "The Show" than Nolan Baumgartner heading into the current season. He had all of 48 NHL games on his resume last fall, scattered over seven seasons and four different organizations. He has 43 already this season.

Talk about making up for lost time.
Baumgartner's impact to the Canucks is hard to ignore. He surprised most by making the team out of training camp. And even then, not many people expected him to make any sort of significant contribution. Certainly not the sort of contribution he is making now.

For $450,000 this season, Baumgartner has provided a solid 16:13 minutes of ice-time per game. He has been one of the Canucks' more consistent defensemen during the season, and when Jovanovski was out, Baumer's been able to step it up (he averaged 19:57 minutes per game over the ten games Jovanovski was injured).

And he's still getting better. After 45 games (as of Sunday night), he has 23 points (4G-19A) and a +8 rating - the 23 points tie him for 35th overall among all NHL defensemen - and eight of those points have come in the last 10 games.

Not that I'm anointing Baumgartner as an all-star, but look at what he's done compared with a couple of marquee free agent signings:

He's not making millions, but he's certainly chipped in as much as those who do.

11 years later. Like B-Mac says, it's better late than never.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:48 AM


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