In defense of Mathieu Schneider

If you have followed my commentary on the Unofficial Mathieu Schneider Homepage for awhile, you will see that I've called Mathieu out on occasion. I don't blindly support everything (or anyone), and if he stinks, I say it. If he makes a bad play, I'll mention it. If he plays dirty, I call it. Sometimes other folks criticize him, and I agree with them.

All that said, two things I've read recently really stuck in my craw as being mischaracterizations at best, or just flat out wrong at worst.

"Thrashers coach John Anderson routinely offered his oldest players the option of skipping a morning skate. Former Thrasher Mathieu Schneider, 39, frequently took him up on it. Kozlov didn’t." --Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ok, so that isn't wrong. I'm sure he did sit out practices when given the opportunity. But from the tone of the rest of the article, it was almost accusatory. Like, Kozlov was dedicated and practiced even though he didn't have to. Kozlov was in Atlanta all summer dedicating himself to fitness. Well, so what? Mathieu is known around the league for his ridiculously extreme summer workout habits. Are these suggestions that Mathieu didn't provide much on the ice for Atlanta because he wasn't dedicated? If so, that is a bunch of total and complete BS. That team and that coach sucked at using him. They brought him in to mentor, not to play. So that is what he did; and Zach Bogosian has had nothing but kind things to say about what Mathieu did for him on and off the ice. They also brought him in, via trade rather than waivers, not because they wanted him, but because they needed a big contract to be at the league minimum and wanted to keep him only long enough to meet that need before moving him elsewhere for cheap prospects. So no wonder his dedication to optional practices wasn't on par with a guy who is one of the long established team leaders. Now he is on a team that wanted his services and has let him play, and play to his strengths, and he is performing just fine, thank you. In half the number of games, he has almost equal number of points in Montreal (14 points in 19 games) as he had in Atlanta (15 points in 44 games). And you know what? He skips optional practices in Montreal, too.

"But assorted player acquisitions - Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison, Ken Klee, Mathieu Schneider - worked out badly." -- Jaime's Hockey Blog, via About.com
Um, no it didn't. Mathieu Schneider was just fine for Anaheim. Mathieu's numbers were very decent considering the turmoil the team was under (he had 13 fewer points-- but +10 higher +/- rating-- in 3 fewer games compared to the previous season with a strong Detroit team). What worked out badly was Scott Niedermayer's indecision and Brain Burke's gamble. The team was in a salary cap crunch because they attempted to replace a presumably retiring star veteran defenseman with another star veteran defenseman while in a "sellers market" for offensive defenseman. Many players have already come out and said that the Niedermayer drama caused a lot of tension. Due to the salary constraints caused by Burke planning for a team sans Niedermayer and Selanne only to have to find a way to accomodate those two when they decided mid-season to comeback, the team had to lose a great back-up goalie and a popular young talent and there was a constant "who's next?" feeing in the locker room until the trade deadline. That has nothing to do with Mathieu. He worked out just fine.

I don't doubt I'm reading too much into both of these. I've had a long week, I've got a wicked bad headache (too much chocolate), my family is driving me totally insane, and I'm kind of grumpy. But for all the heat I've given Mathieu in the past, I figured he's due for a little defense from me.

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