2010/11 was a good season for Jason Strudwick as it was the first time in his three seasons with the Oilers that he was able to do what he should have been doing all along - spending most of his time in the press box watching the game. This season he saw game action with the club just 43 times which left him with a lot of time watching. As Bruce McCurdy pointed out at the Cult of Hockey, when he did play Strudwick tended to get killed but I'd still consider the season to be a success because he was able to be what he actually is, the Oilers seventh defenceman.
As a result of injuries the Oilers were forced to dress Strudwick on a regular basis during his first two seasons with the club. He set a new personal high in games played with 71 in his first season in Edmonton; in his second season with the Oilers he bettered that total by playing in 72 games. There is a very good reason why Strudwick hadn't played this many games in a season during his first 10 years in the NHL, he's not good enough to play that much. That he did play those many games with the Oilers says a lot about just how
good bad those teams really were.
But I'm not going to pile on Strudwick with endless numbers confirming that he's isn't an NHL calibre player because there wouldn't be any point to that. In fact, Derek's look at the Oilers scoring chances as they relate to Strudwick interestingly show that the team didn't fare too bad when he was on the ice. Maybe he was a little better than we all thought.
Fans in Edmonton knew what to expect from Strudwick before the season started and I would expect that Steve Tambellini did as well. So why then did the Oilers re-sign him last summer? They wanted a veteran player who could handle limited playing time and could help show the Oilers next generation of stars a thing or two about playing pro hockey. And by that measure I think Strudwick's season was a success.
By all accounts Strudwick is "good in the room". That is not a term I tend to like because it gets tossed around too frequently, often as justification for something that doesn't make a lot of sense based on the numbers alone. In the case of Strudwick though I'll give it a pass because he's the type of guy the term is meant for.
Think about the list of young defencemen who played for the Oilers this season while Strudwick watched. Shawn Belle, Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Richard Petiot, Jeff Petry, and Alex Plante all saw ice time while Strudwick ate popcorn. Combined those players had played 103 games before the season started and yet they all slotted in ahead of the veteran with well over 600 NHL games to his credit. Not an easy situation to be in but there was never a word of complaint heard about the situation. I never saw him think twice about stepping up for a teammate when the situation called for it. And not once did it appear that he gave any less than he could. The results may not have been what we would have wanted but I certainly can't question the effort.
Strudwick's season wasn't about goals, assists, plus/minus, or anything else; it was about showing the next generation of NHL players what it takes to play and make a living in the NHL. I highly doubt that Strudwick will be back again next season so I hope they were paying attention.
Prediction: Having been the good soldier for a season I can't imagine Strudwick will want to do it again next year. There isn't a lot of upside in that role for a guy who turns 36 in a couple of months. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Oilers found him a job somewhere in the organization starting next fall.