Saturday, June 4, 2011

Soup Is On The Whale Menu

Covering New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects has there rewards at times that are not measured by words but by actions.

Seeing that 2007 5th round pick Max Campbell signed a contract with the CT Whale is one of the nice rewards as quite honestly it was not an expected move.

Actually it was more out of left field to see Campbell earn the contract as when the Rangers did not bring Campbell to the Whale on an ATO that spelled the end of his chances. In several posts we advocated that bringing Campbell in for a look was more than worth some expense money as well as a couple of airplane tickets.

The image of Campbell that we are showing was from the biggest goal of Campbell's career when he scored at 2:23 of overtime to knock off Ferris State 5-4 in overtime and send Western Michigan on to the CCHA semifinals for the first time in 17 years.

If there ever was a prospect worthy of being awarded "Comeback Of the Year" then it is Max Campbell. Last year when Campbell fell to 6-13-19 with 43 PIMS we said his prospect hopes were DOA.

Demoted to the 4th line, a healthy scratch, a total liability on defense and in conflict with his then coach. Campbell at that point in time was a giant disappointment to us because here was talent wasted.

Campbell was someone who last year we were expecting to have the kind of season that Hagelin and Stepan had as of this trio; Campbell is the more natural goal scorer. Despite being way too skinny when Campbell set up in the slot area he was impossible to beat.

Hard not to like someone who paid his way to the Ranger prospect camps for 2 straight years to remain NCAA eligible. When he did not show up for last year's camp, it really looked like the end for his hopes.

Enter Jeff Blashill as the new coach of Western Michigan as Max Campbell's hockey career was reborn. The 2010-11 version of Max Campbell was nothing at all like the one from the 2009-10.

Credit Campbell for busting his own butt to transform himself as a player, no longer a liability on defense and someone who was seen as a leader on his team. Max was named as one of the Bronco assistant captains and the faith shown in him by Blashill was rewarded.

Campbell was back up on the top line, there he was out killing penalties, taking face offs but most importantly he was doing what he does best he was scoring goals. Campbell scored 18 goals (career high), added 17 assists (career high) as he led Western Michigan in goals as well as overall points.

The new version of Max Campbell was playing a smarter much more discipline brand of hockey as he cut his PIMs from 43 to just 16 for the season. Campbell was part of a rebirth of the Western Michigan hockey program as for the team was the Cinderella story of the season.

An unbeaten streak of 14 games set a school record, a 4th place finish in the CCHA standings which was the highest finish since the 1994-95 season, the come from behind overtime win against Ferris State to earn a trip to the CCHA Final Four.

The shocking upset of Carl Hagelin and Michigan in the CCHA semi-finals, the first invite to the NCAA tournament for WMU since 1995-96 and despite losing to Denver in a double overtime thriller, the highest ranking in the national polls (13th).

And for Campbell perhaps the best acknowledgment of his "Rebirth" came when his own teammates voted him to be the Rob Hodge Most Valuable Player for the season. For Campbell it was the first time in his 4 seasons with Western Michigan that he had earned a post-season honor.

Think that there is no higher compliment than when your own teammates choose you as the team MVP. And some credit should go to the Rangers as like was said earlier it looked as if Campbell's hopes for a contract were gone but they did not give up on Campbell.

Is Campbell NHL material now is up to the work that he puts in but what he does have is that chance to make it happen. Yes I am going to be rooting for him to make it because of the effort he has put into turning his career around.

Nothing would sound sweeter than hearing the Ranger faithful calling for "Soup".

(Campbell courtesy of GS Photo/Western Michigan University)

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