February 24, 2012
The forecast for Jets' FloodReliable defenceman still wants to be an everyday guy
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - He was the last man on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate, still out there moving nets for the Zamboni driver when it was over.
He might have stayed out longer, but it was time to flood.
But when would it be time for Flood?
“That’s a good question,” Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Flood said. “I’m sure the coaches don’t want to let me sit too long, even if they can put me in for a game or two to let me get back on track. Hopefully not too much longer.”
Hours later, Flood got his wish, dressing and picking up an assist in the Jets 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Casual Jets fans could be forgiven for thinking, “Mark who?”
Maybe this will jog the memory: early this season, a defenceman got called up from the minors and scored three goals in his first seven games.
When veterans kept going down with injuries, the guy filled one hole after another and fit right in. Nothing too flashy — the three quick goals aside — but steady as a Vancouver drizzle.
Then everybody got healthy, and he was scratched more often than a Manitoba mosquito bite, out of the lineup since, uh... when, exactly?
“I don’t know,” Flood said, thinking hard. “It was a home game against Buffalo, I think. Which was about 13 or 14 games ago, something like that.”
Actually, he’d missed the last 15 going into Thursday night. Not exactly the textbook way to develop a defenceman.
At 27, but with just 35 big-league games under his belt, Flood should be gobbling up ice time in the AHL, if he’s not playing a regular shift with the Jets.
Instead, he’s doing a slow rot — if not a slow burn.
“That’s not me,” Flood said. “I’d never be bringing any of the guys down or anything like that. Especially it being my first year here and in the NHL. I am happy to be here. But at the same time, of course, you’re not human if you don’t want to be playing, right?”
His problem: he played too well when he was called up.
Ever since, the Jets have been scared to send him back to St. John’s, because he’d have to clear waivers and another NHL team might claim him.
“That would be my fear,” Claude Noel said. “His game has been really consistent, and usually you don’t see that. Usually you see a tail-off.”
So the head coach told him to keep working that tail off, keep his chin up — and wait.
“It is a unique situation,” Flood acknowledged. “I guess it’s a good thing for me. Hopefully they have a plan for me here, at some point, if they don’t want to lose me.”
About a month ago, the Jets told Flood to get his own place, and move his stuff in for the long haul.
But they’ve got to do more than that.
If there’s a reason to trade a veteran defenceman by next Monday’s deadline, it’s wearing No. 36.
Because there’s something you can’t get by practising, alone.
“It’s that real competitive intensity,” Flood said. “You can practise as much as you want, but you never want to hurt a guy or hit a guy in practice. Especially when you haven’t played in 15 games, you don’t want to be the guy to hurt one of our better players.”
So he holds back. Which holds up the progress he was making, maybe even sets it back, although you couldn’t tell Thursday night.
Flood’s sharp pass helped set up the Jets second goal against the Lightning and he finished plus-one, as Noel chose to dress seven defencemen for the first time.
Yet another argument to get the man regular playing time.
Even if it means getting little return for a veteran on the trade market.
Because as much as Flood says he loves simply being in the NHL after six years in the minors, and as professional as he’s been about it, he can’t just keep being the Zamboni driver’s best friend.