Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hard to Watch

When you are struggling everyone wants to help, everyone has a ton of advice and you have tons of coaches sitting in the stands second guessing how to end your slump.

Ryan Hillier is having maybe the mother of all slumps right now as he has not scored a goal since a February 6th game against the Lewiston MAINEaics. After Tuesday's game against the same MAINEaics the slump has not reached 9 games along with being just 1-4-5 in his last 15 games.

Hillier's Halifax Mooseheads defeated the MAINEaics 3-1 on Tuesday night and on the surface Hillier we are sure that they got the win. However it is frustrating to have to see a good kid struggle.

Any other prospect we might not be feeling so bad but Ryan is one of the good kids that we have met on our journeys. We first met him minutes after the Rangers had selected him with their 3rd round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan is going to always hold special place for us as this was our first NHL Entry Draft and Ryan was the first prospect we were able to talk to on our own with no group around us.

As rookies ourselves we were stumbling our way around dealing with the NHL for the first time and Ryan was the perfect medicine for us. Talking to Ryan about all that was happening put things into perspective and if anything helped to let us know we deserved to be there with the TSNs and other big name folks.

He was as much in awe of being drafted by the Rangers as we were in being there. Instead of being nervous, we enjoyed how Hillier was simply enjoying the moment and realizing how special it was. Any kid who laces up a pair of skates dreams of what was happening to Hillier and he shared that feeling with us.

What Hillier did not know was that he also was giving us confidence in ourselves as we had been feeling out of placed surrounded by all those bigger named folks in the media. It was as big a thrill for him to be interviewed by the Blueshirt Bulletin as it was for us to be there talking to him.

For that we have always been a tad biased when it came to Hillier. We always wanted to see him do well and we admit it. As Hillier comes to the end of his 2 years as a Ranger draft pick this slump is the last thing anyone who cares about Hillier wants to see.

The Rangers are going to have to decide whether or not to offer Hillier a contract before June 20 which is the date of the next draft. Hillier will either get an entry level contract from the Rangers, a contract from the Wolfpack or see the Rangers decline to keep him.

We believe that Hillier is a work in progress and deserves a shot at the next level but it is up to him to reach out and grab that chance. Ryan Hillier is going though a personal hell right now and nothing anyone can say is going to help him out.

For many a 28-31-59 season would be an acceptable one but Hillier was having the kind of season where he should have scored at the very least 40 goals and maybe 80 points total. That is not going to happen but now he has to turn his quest into showing that he still is worthy of a pro contract from the Rangers.

See nothing right now is going to help him as we bet Hillier is getting perhaps too much advice, when you are in that dreaded slump everything is harder, the shots do not come as often, the goalies seem to be in the position to stop everything you throw at them and you are squeezing the stick that much tighter.

If Hillier was to ask us for some advice, we would tell him to close his eyes and remember the first time he scored a goal as a little kid of 5 or 6 years old. Odds are it was an ugly dribbler of a shot that simply wobbled past the goalie.

We would tell him to go out and have some fun that is right go out and have a laugh on the ice. The tension, the frustration, the pressure and those several hundred coaches he is dealing with are putting a couple of tons on his shoulders.

Right now every time you step on the ice for a shift you are wondering what else will go wrong for you. Control the things that you can and stop worrying about those you can not.

Go out on the ice and try to have some fun and look for a laugh, just do your job whether it is being the 3rd line winger or on the penalty kill. Stop trying to score and instead look to set up your linemates as odds are good that your slump breaker of a goal will be an intended pass that will deflect in.

Try to remember the days when you and your childhood friends would just play around and dreamed about the future. You shared a lot of laughs with them so instead of dreading the moment, look for to it.

When you finally score that goal, others will follow and we will all laugh about this.

(Hillier picture courtesy of the Halifax Mooseheads)

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