Sarah Vital has been a big Mathieu Schneider fan for 16 years, and even has a blog – The Unofficial Mathieu Schneider Homepage – dedicated entirely to the new Canucks defenseman. In the following guest post, Sarah tells us more about the man they call “Schnieds” and what we should expect from him.
Any unmarried person over the age of 30 has experienced the “if he/she is so great, why is he/she still single” conundrum. The same unease comes with “journeymen” in the sports world. If he’s so great, why has he bounced around so much? But much like the totally awesome over-30 single person, there isn’t really an answer why Mathieu Schneider has bounced around so much. Is it that people just don’t “get” him? Does he just have bad luck? I wish I knew. But after following his career for going on 16 years, what I do know is that he has always had, and still has, loads to offer.
First, the shortcomings. Never the fastest or the strongest, defensive play has never been his strong point. Mathieu plays best when paired with a defensive-minded defenseman, or at least a quick skater who can get back into position. He can be prone to giveaways, and doesn’t always make the best defensive positional decisions. He will take loads of risks and pinch in on plays, sometimes when it is best to have a defender stay back. He’s been known to take some ill-timed penalties, but mostly interference-related calls when he tries to get back into a play he’s been beaten on.
Statistically, after reaching career highs with Detroit in 2005-06, his offensive production has fallen a tad. The game has changed a lot, and his role on teams has been changing. Last year in Atlanta, he had one of the worst few months of his career. He was brought in to be a mentor for young Zach Bogosian (which, judging by the comments Bogosian has made, he did exceedingly well), but beyond that, his role was never defined. And his unsettled role was reflected in a terrible season.
Then came the trade to Montreal, where he was brought in to help the team’s weak powerplay. He had an immediate offensive impact on the team’s powerplay, and in only 20 games, matched his offensive numbers in Atlanta. Most notably, in fewer than half the games, he had more than twice the powerplay points. In fact, if he maintained the pace he had with Montreal for an entire season, he would match the production of his Detroit years, and possibly have a career year.
His utilization in Montreal was about as perfect as his utilization in Atlanta was awful, and Vancouver would be better for following Montreal’s lead and save him for powerplay duty. The man advantage has always been his specialty, and as the game gets bigger and faster (and he doesn’t), powerplay quarterbacking is where he continues to excel. In his career, 53% of all of his points have come on the powerplay. The majority of those points are assists, but the goals he scores from the point are something. Mathieu likes to shoot and he still has a rock of a shot. He probably misses the net a lot more than he actually hits it, but even those shots provide key rebounds his teammates can bang home.
Finally, at this point, you’ve noticed that he’s old. Not an article has gone by this year where he hasn’t been referred to as “40 year old Mathieu Schneider”. Yes, he’s 40, the 3rd oldest player on an NHL roster. He was drafted 2 months before Sidney Crosby was born. He played his first NHL game over a year before Steve Stamkos was born. And he has been a bit injury prone throughout his career, usually missing 15 games or so a season do to injury. But he’s had a serious year-round commitment to conditioning and fitness for most of his career. He spends the summer working out with famed training T.R. Goodman (best known as Chris Chelios’ trainer). The man is in amazing shape. He logged an average of just under 21 minutes per game last season, and has been known to play upwards of 25 minutes. If he’s kept to fewer minutes (mostly on the power play, or short even-strength shifts), there is no reason to expect him to perform any different than a player 10 years younger.
So have fun with Mathieu. Don’t look to him to be a magical cure or “missing piece”. Keep expectations reasonable and just enjoy what he brings – powerplay numbers, years of experience, veteran leadership, a good quote or two, and a quick and easy smile.