Strudwick is Mr. Versatility

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

When they were short on tough, safe wingers, they called on Jason Strudwick.

When they were short on tough, reliable defencemen, they called on Strudwick.

Need muscle?

Call Strudwick.

Dependability?

Strudwick.

Right defence? Left defence? Right wing? Left wing?

Strudwick. Strudwick. Strudwick. Strudwick.

Good thing the Oilers had three goaltenders earlier in the season or they might have scratched their chins and pondered the need for a tough, reliable keeper.

It's hard to believe that Edmonton didn't have to give up anything to get the 33-year-old Edmonton-born veteran -- just a moderately priced free agent contract --but Craig MacTavish hates to think where they'd be if they hadn't.

"He's lived up to the billing," said MacTavish.

"Since we got him, I've heard nothing but good things and it's easy to see why.

"He plays the game the right way -- terrific energy in the room and a little offence the other night. He quickly ingratiated himself to everyone in the organization."

By doing everything they've asked, anywhere they've asked him to do it.

"The versatility," said MacTavish. "It's puzzling that a guy who brings that much in today's era, on 23-man rosters where you need the versatility of a guy who can play right defence, left defence, right wing and left wing, was available.

"He's a pretty valuable piece."

With Strudwick, what you see is what you get: an honest, easygoing, hard-working blue-collar dude. The kind of guy everybody wants on their team.

He's scored two goals this season, both of them among the most popular goals in the dressing room this year.

"It's nice of them to say that stuff,"he joked, when asked about the Mr. Nice Guy comments that seem to follow him around. "But you're better off asking my mom that question than me."

Ask him about shifting from forward to defence and back like he's changing sport coats and he defers to the Boy Scouts motto.

"For me it's all about preparation," he said of his multi-faceted role here.

"It's the first time I've been in a situation like this. I just want to be prepared for whatever opportunities come my way.

"The streak I had at forward was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it.

"That was the most fun I've had playing forward."

This whole season has been a blast for a guy who grew up in Edmonton, cheering for the Oilers with all his heart.

"The biggest thing was playing at home. I'd always wanted to, but I didn't know if I'd get the opportunity," he said, adding it's interesting to see the dynamic from the other side.

"I know as a fan growing up I had high expectations for the team. I wanted them to perform well.

"A lot of my friends are Oilers fans and they have the same expectations of me and the team.

"There's some pressure and responsibility that comes with that, but that's part of the enjoyment of playing in Edmonton."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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