I had an on going argument over the value of Dennis Wideman to the Boston Bruins for nearly his entire tenure. One of us was of the opinion that his the offense and ability to dig the puck out of the defensive zone more than compensated for my opinion that he was a misplaced winger with no skating ability, the defensive tools of a three legged sheep, and all the hockey instincts that can be put into an eye dropper. It was a fun discussion, usually expressed in unprintable words with cheerful slander of each others wit, sanity, lineage and hockey knowledge. I miss the discussion more than I miss having number six consistently failing to contain passes on the blueline during a powerplay.
So what the hell does the title have to do with my mental meanderings up and down this page? Everything. I could forgive Wideman his scant defensive skills, and the fact he’s the worst skater I’ve ever seen making more than a million dollars a season. And yes, that most certainly includes Glen Murray (pre and post hip & ankle injuries), Aaron Ward and any goalie you care to name. What I can’t forgive is his work ethic.
Like Brad Boyes, whom the Bruins shipped out to get him, Wideman is the epitome of a “maybe, sometime” guy. These two are guys who put in a real effort maybe, sometimes and loaf the rest of the time. Boyes is a talented goal scorer who can bury the puck with the best of them, when he wants, which is –maybe, sometime. Wideman can make solid passes, has a more than respectable half-slapper, and is willing to block shots, but only maybe, sometimes. Neither player, exhibits a consistent work ethic.
Now compare these two to say, Alex Ovechkin. This is one of the fiercest competitors not just in the NHL but all of sports. When faced with blueline badass Zdeno Chara he doesn’t hesitate even half a step to go straight at the six foot nine monster. Even on night when Ovechkin is kept off the score board, he doesn’t stop trying to win the game. He hits, he clogs up passing lanes, he shoots, he passes, goes full tilt start to stop. Dennis Wideman, not so much.
Some might say that Ovechkin who has not just the fierce drive that others lack, but a double fistful of talent and athletic ability to with it is an unfair comparison. In some ways I agree, but not most. So how about former. Detroit Red Wing, Boston Bruin and Carolina Hurricane Aaron Ward. Strong skating, great offense, tremendous shot are not things you’ll find in any credible scouting report of the now former player. But positional soundness he possessed at the sports pinnacle, willingness to hit or be hit, and the ability to block hundreds of shots. Injured or healthy, home, road, preseason, regular season or post you knew when Ward stepped onto the ice every minute was a flatout effort to give his team the best possible chance to win. I don’t recall a single game during his tenure in Boston, or even a shift where I thought Ward was capable of giving more. Were there times he was beaten by a great pass or agile opponent, of course those happened to Bourque, and Orr to.
Wideman clearly, and manifestly lacks the willingness to compete shift by shift, night by night all season long. He’s so into the game he’s paid to play that he was caught absent-mindedly picking his nose on the bench instead of trying to keep track of the play like the number 2 defenseman he was (over)paid to be. He spent almost the entirety of last season loafing through shifts and rebuilding many of the bad habits he’d dropped the season before. When the playoffs came he turned on the jets and started to compete, but aside from allowing the Bruins to trade him out of town for well more than his worth, it accomplished little.
So from my seat tonight, I will not be cheering Wideman, not even once. Not because he’s no longer a Bruin, not because of his incomplete skill set but because I can’t stand maybe, sometimes guys.