August 19, 2013

Andy Delmore: Back To The Beginning

Former NHL defenseman Andy Delmore announced his retirement earlier in the summer of 2013. The adventurous defenseman last appeared in the NHL in 2005-06 but has spent most of his time in Europe since then.

For Delmore retirement is not just a new beginning. It is a chance to go back to the beginning.

Delmore will be an assistant coach with the Sarnia Sting for the 2013-14 season. After starting his junior career in North Bay he starred in Sarnia from 1995 through 1997. Delmore will join head coach Trevor Letowski, who played with Delmore with the Sting.

“Going back to a city and an organization that I'm familiar with and working with Trevor … it'll be great,” he told The Observer. “It was just the opportunity to come to Sarnia just (made) my mind up to play or not to play.”

Letowski is happy to have his old teammate join him behind the bench.

“A priority for me was finding a defenceman, somebody who had played the game as a defenceman. For me, I'd always seen the game through a forward's eyes, and I wanted someone that brings that different element. Delly has that. The game comes naturally to him that way.”

Delmore was known as risk taking, offensive defenseman in the NHL. He was a swift skater and was a strong puck handler and breakout passer, though he was guilty of ignoring the easy, safe play at times. He had a nasty penchant for coughing up the puck at in opportune times. He was had trouble reading plays in the defensive zone and, as one scout put it, was too polite in his own end, too. Ultimately he was too much of a hazard defensively to stick in the NHL.

Though he has never coached before, years of being the veteran in Europe has prepared him for the transition.

“The last couple years of my career I've taken an interest in helping a lot of the younger players out, doing some stuff after practice with them,” he said. “I got some great feedback with a lot of the players that I worked with, and I think it just solidified in my head that I could do it.”

Though he had some strong campaigns as a player in Sarnia, the Lasalle, Ontario born Delmore went undrafted in 1997. He signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, making his NHL debut during the 1998–99 season. By 2000-01 he was a NHL regular, as his talent made him too good to keep on the farm team, though his weaknesses did not always afford him the trust of his coaches.

The Flyers traded Delmore to Nashville in the summer of 2001. Delmore instantly gave the Predators a little more bite, quarterbacking the power play with his sizzling shot and putting up some big numbers. In two seasons the right shooting rearguard scored 34 goals including 25 on the power play. He also totalled 72 points.

Interestingly, Delmore did not always rely on his potent slap shot.

"A lot of goalies prepare for the big slapper (from the point), but he's got a really quick snapper," said teammate Jason York. "I've never seen a guy score so many goals from that position with a wrist shot."

Many were also to see a virtually straight stick with just a tiny curve at the tip - a commonly used twig by forwards with quick wrist shots.

"A lot of defencemen use a heel curve, almost like a wedge," Delmore said. "You can toe drag it and get a little better snap shot with the curve at the end."

Delmore's back to back campaigns in Nashville certainly were impressive, though it was a bit of take-the-good-with-the-bad for head coach Barry Trotz. Trotz, a noted defensive coach, could not trust Delmore late in games when defending the lead. He even used him as a forward at times, just to keep his legs in the games. Delmore was increasingly used as a power play point specialist. And he was a very good one, at that.

The Preds traded Delmore to Buffalo in 2003-04 but he could not duplicate his offense there under coach Lindy Ruff in an injury plagued year.

After spending the lockout season of 2004-05 in Europe, Delmore joined the Columbus Blue Jackets for 2005-06. The Jackets seemed like a good fit for Delmore, as that team was starved for offense. Somehow the Jackets essentially ignored him. For all but seven games he was buried in the minor leagues. He absolutely starred with Syracuse that season, winning the Eddie Shore trophy as the AHL's top defenseman. Somehow the Blue Jackets could not find space for the best dman in the AHL on their weak line-up.

I guess I shouldn't be too critical of the Blue Jackets. After all, no other team seemed to want Delmore either. Those seven games with the Jackets where his last in the NHL. He would go on to play many years in Europe.

All told Andy Delmore played in 283 NHL games, scoring 43 goals, 58 assists and 101 points.

In addition to taking the coaching job, Delmore has his own clothing line at DellyLlamaClothing.com

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