There are three big improvements I see.
I think I agree more with him. I don't think his game has changed as much as everyone here seems to think and have said as much.
The first is his passing. He greatest skill is his ability to move the puck to the right spot at the right time. Sometimes it’s spectacular like the goalmouth one-touch set-up to Jack on the PP a few games ago. Sometimes it’s more subtle like in the first period last night on the rush where he paused for a split second just inside the blue line to open up the D, then slid it past him in a perfect spot to send one of our D (Nelson?) in alone on goal. In his first two years he’d make those plays in many games, but for some reason they dried up completely in the first half of this year. They’re back and they are happening more than ever.
The second is his pace. Freeman has mistakenly called Sam the slowest player on the team for a while now because Sam’s game has been built on waiting - creating space through pausing, and anticipating - slowing the game down while others race around, then pouncing while they panic and make mistakes. But NHL players are faster and make fewer mistakes and Sam has had to learn that he has to move and create and react more quickly to exploit the gaps he’s looking for. He is doing that.
And the final one - and this is where I think Housley has had the most influence - is that he is starting to take charge. He has enough skill to be a driver but in the NHL he has been cast as a lurker and a complementary player. Over the past month or two, he’s been aggressive on pucks in the corner, winning battles, shielding the puck with his body and hanging on to it every once in awhile to open ice for his linemates. He has gone from passively only taking what the game gives him to trying to impose himself on the game and be a difference maker.
He might not see the difference because in his pre-NHL career he always was this player, but to me he finally looks like the player I hoped we were drafting.
I knew he was better than what we were getting in November.
The question is will he settle in to the 20/25/45 player he was in his first two years?
Or does he have it in him to make February his new norm?
Edited by Mick O’Manly, 14 February 2018 - 11:05 AM.