Friday, January 06, 2006

SHELLEY ROLLS WITH PUNCHES IN NEW NHL

Originally signed as a free agent by the Calgary Flames on 1 September, 1998, but Shelley never played for them. Almost 2 years later, on 17 August, 2000, he was signed as a free agent by the Columbus Blue Jackets and played one game for them in the 2000-01 season. During that one game, he had ten minutes in penalties. Since then, he has played fairly regularly as the Blue Jackets' enforcer averaging well over 200 minutes in penalties a season.

The NHL lockout drove Jody Shelley crazy and the post-lockout era has him holding his punches. It's one of the unseen turns of the 2005-06 season. Shelley has one goal, three assists and 78 penalty minutes in 36 games with each number having a tell-tale of its own. The one goal and three assists aren't enough for a tough guy nowadays. Shelley knows it, as does coach Gerard Gallant. Shelley is on a pace for 170 penalty minutes, well below his average for the previous two seasons (238). He isn't fighting much because there are fewer opportunities. Shelley and Gallant are of the opinion that a good scrap is a part of the game, especially during a particularly heated contest. The key is to be on the ice when the opportunity is presented, and to get ice time a tough guy must have assets beyond his knuckles and Gallant sees players adjusting to the new rules and taking fewer penalties. Through five training camps and three-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets, Shelley's skating and stickhandling skills have greatly improved. He can be tough in front of the net. But he also has a psychological hurdle that stands between him and the goal. It's a hurdle he must clear to become a more complete player, one with an enhanced value in a new age.

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