Can Jonathan Cheechoo Produce?

Can Jonathan Cheechoo Produce?

'Cheeeeeeeeeech!' photo (c) 2008, Marlon E - license:

A recent article from the San Jose Mercury News poses the question: Can Jonathan Cheechoo recapture the magic he once had in the NHL? The Blues signed Cheechoo to a one-year, two-way contract which should see the forward start the year with the Peoria Rivermen, barring some fluke injuries to the rest of the NHL roster.

As I mentioned in a post back when the news first broke (Cheechoo signs with Blues), Cheechoo brings minimal risk with a potentially massive reward to St. Louis. As we all know, the 2005-06 season saw Cheechoo light the lamp 56 times with San Jose while ending the year with 93 points. Upon setting such a high bar for himself, Cheechoo saw his stats take a tumble in each of the seasons that followed, all the way down to the disappointing five goals and 14 points he contributed in 2009-10 with the Ottawa Senators. Following a 2010-11 season where Cheechoo failed to see any action at the NHL level, he now comes to St. Louis looking to finally get his career back on track.

The Mercury News piece gives us some nice insight on what Cheechoo has been doing to try and return to an NHL roster. Cheechoo believes that one of the reasons his numbers have dropped is due to skating, so he has made it a major focus this summer to add some speed and fluidity to his skating. He’s been working with Devan McConnell, a sports-performance coach with Stanford.

Mercury News quote from Cheechoo:

“I look back at when I was younger, and I can see where I would get to spaces that maybe I haven’t been getting to the last couple of years,” Cheechoo said. “He’s doing stuff with me that I haven’t done before in offseason training. I feel like I’m moving a lot quicker, and hopefully it will make a difference.”

Cheechoo’s personal assessment is right on the money. He hasn’t been able to make space for himself nor has he been able to get to areas on the ice where his teammates can find him. Lack of speed and agility could potentially be a major factor as to why his shots aren’t finding the net and why his numbers have steadily dropped. Instead of taking shots in the dangerous areas and high-scoring positions, he’s been taking shots with a pretty limited rate of success. However, will his efforts this summer be enough to make him a threat on the ice again? We’ll have to wait until training camp and the preseason to find out.

Honestly, it’s pretty tough not to root for Cheechoo. He went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the NHL in a five-year span. No one is expecting anything major from him at this point which makes it the perfect time for him to step up and prove everyone wrong. We aren’t expecting a 50-goal season by any means, but it’s pretty easy to envision him back in the NHL contributing to an offense.  He’ll likely start the year with the Peoria Rivermen, but don’t be surprised to see this former 50-goal scorer with the Blues at some stage this season.