The Curious Case of Luke Glendening

After waxing lyrical over Gustav Nyquist, it feels strange to focus on a player on the opposite end of the points charts. You see, Luke Glendening will not be top of the Hart Trophy list, he won’t feature in any scoring charts, nor prove to be a big assist guy. He doesn’t even rack up that many penalty minutes.

In fact, if you were to look at his statistics, you’d be wondering why he is even a mainstay on the roster. Why? After around 50 games, in his debut season, he has managed to earn himself a new contract?

A Big Surprise

You need to go back a short while, but Luke Glendening was undrafted and at no point looked like making the NHL, but here he is; he is a big part of the Red Wings and why they are still fighting for that wildcard playoff spot. It has even surprised the man himself, who said that he was hoping to turn up to Grand Rapids, get a few pre-season games in, and maybe earn a spot on the AHL roster.

The Red Wings staff though saw something they liked, and unlike Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, he isn’t there because of injuries. Sure he has been up and down, taking spots when needed, but you get the feeling that was always the plan, to have him play 40-50 games in the season, used in the right moments.

Devilish Smile

Luke Glendening is a shut down guy; when he is on the ice you are unlikely to get much offence out of him, but at the same time the opposition are unlikely to get much reward either. He goes out and battles, battles and battles some more. But there is more to him than just battling.

He can get under the skin of the opposition, he can cause stars to lose focus, we’ve seen it with PK Subban and Jonathan Toews this season, he has royally pissed them off to the point they become less effective for their own team. Red Wings fans can appreciate more than most, his devilish smile as he skates away from a skirmish, knowing full well his opposite number is livid, wanting to get to him, wanting to tear someone apart.

Yep, Luke Glendening is a cockroach, he is a pest you simply cannot get rid of. A pest that drives you nuts as you fail time and time again to get rid of him. But how effective is a player like that? He isn’t a goon, you don’t send him on to fight and if he isn’t producing the number is he really worth a spot?

Well yes… This season he can often be seen on a line with the likes of Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Todd Betuzzi, etc. Often he is sent out with those guys to play against a top line for the opposition. He will go out and just ruin their shifts and by ruining their shifts, they become less effective as the game wears on. They get frustrated and take penalties, of just don’t have their mind in the game properly.

Unlikely Role Model

As previously noted, he isn’t the guy to get goals, nor the primary or secondary assist, but the work he does allows those sorts of players to go out and do their job and get points on the board. The fans love him, Mickey Redmond loves him and even the national TV coverage guys have noticed him. Most importantly, Mike Babcock loves him.

Most kids aspire to be the next Sidney Crosby, the next Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, Nik Lidstrom, PK Subban, Zdeno Chara Patrick Kane, because they get the goals and the glory they are the stars. However it is someone like Luke Glendening that can prove that you can be something other than the standout scorer to make it to the show.

My son plays in the UK, he is only seven years old and his hero is Nik Kronwall, because of how he hits (or used to, at least). However in watching games I get him to watch Glendening and he has taken notice, to the point where his own goal is now to be a player that can “hit like Kronwall and wind people up like Glendening” (hardly ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ – but hey, he is seven).

That is just it though, he hasn’t got the hands like some of the others in his team, this is clear at a young age already and even though those hands and skills can come, what he does have is a work ethic, he has seen how effective skating hard, grinding hard and being a pest can be and he is good at it.

Cog In The Machine

Luke Glendening shows that as long as you can put the effort in and specialise at something, then there can be a spot on the roster. If the entire team was made up of top skill players, the hockey may look nice, but they could be bullied off the puck, hounded out of their own game. Therefore a team needs balance, you need the scorers, the skills guys, the speedsters, the grinders, the energy guys. It is having that balance that keeps teams at the top.

A Luke Glendening isn’t going to be remembered by many, he isn’t going to have his number retired, no impressive highlight packages. He will however be remembered on occasion by fans, remembering back to an era when he played, recalling the night he made that certain star lose it for the night, that smile he gives when he knows he got under the skin of someone.

Dream Come True

We’ll finish off by mentioning what effect the right attitude can have. Luke Glendening played 51 games without scoring a goal, then on Saturday 5th April 2014 he earned a contract extension with the Red Wings and a well deserved one at that. He then scored his first career goal in part of the comeback to an eventual 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

It is a goal again that won’t be remembered in years to come, it wasn’t an important game winning goal that got Detroit to the post season, or won a Stanley Cup.  What it did do though, was complete a 24 hours that must have only been a dream for Luke in September. It was a 24 hours that showed what pure grit and determination can achieve.

The future is bright, the future is going to piss your stars off.

Follow Brad on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk!

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