Monday, January 23, 2006

Danger Jake and the Demise of Nordgren

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Drop back, Riverdance, Back-Pedal a Little More, Eyes Closed, THROW!
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a Carolina Panthers broadcast on the Sirius radio coming home from Phoenix. Panthers color commentator, Eugene Robinson, coined the term "Safety Jake" to describe the Jake Delhomme that shows up most Sundays. Safety Jake plays within himself, sets up in the pocket, sees the field and makes smart plays. Yesterday, Panthers fans endured the untimely return of "Danger Jake." Danger Jake danced around in the pocket, was prone to panic, and had a nasty habit of lobbing wobbly passes into packs of enemy defenders. The Panthers are too good a team to rise and fall with the fragile mental state of this mercurial QB. I wish the Panthers brass would find a way to bring Philip Rivers back to North Carolina. Give the Chargers the first round draft pick-whatever it takes.
End of NFL rant.

Nordgren to Lowell
Back at the beginning of traing camp, Niklas Nordgren was a guy few knew anything about. I did a little blogger due diligence in preparing an October 4 post titled, "Flying Under the Radar." I sent an email to Joachim Sandstrom, the webmaster for the Timra Red Eagles, his old Swedish elite league team, and in his response he told me Nordgren would surprise some folks with his speed and skill as a finisher-especially on the PP. So even though he was coming in "under the radar," I expected some great things this season from a guy who spent last season on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Frederick Modin.

Norgdgren started the year without a clear role on the squad, and has been bouncing around the fourth line. His minutes have steadily waned, and with the departure of Radim Vrbata, he has become the healthy scratch of first choice. Sunday night in Lowell, Nik tallied a shorthanded goal late in the third period to break a tie and win the game for the Lock Monsters. I hope Nordgren continues to tear it up in the AHL and ultimately finds his way back to the big club in time for the stretch run.

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