The curious case of Joe Whitney
Joe Whitney led the Albany Devils in assists and points as a rookie last season with 15 goals and 29 assists in 72 games.
With the NHL lockout adding depth to the talent pool in Albany this season, the lineup has been a little harder to crack.
Through the first eight games, the left wing suited up just twice.
“In the beginning of the year, I wasn’t playing much, but I never doubted myself or my abilities,” Whitney said. “I always believed in myself, and I knew when I got my chance, I’d try to make the most of it.”
It was about that time of the season when coach Rick Kowalsky started looking for guys who were more willing to go into the corners, get in front of the goal, pay the price for creating scoring chances.
Whitney may stand just 5-foot-6, but he’s never let that stop him from getting his nose dirty. That may be part of the reason he’s played the last five games.
“Whenever you’re not playing or you’re not producing, it can get frustrating. You’ve just got to stick with it. It’s not only a matter of work ethic, it’s encouraging other guys, staying positive, not sulking or any of that type of stuff. I think that makes you feel good about being part of the team, and that can go a long way. You’ll eventually get your shot, and thankfully, mine came sooner rather than later. I’m trying to make the most of it.”
He is still searching for his first goal of the season, but Whitney has an assist in four of those last five games. He has five assists in his seven games this season, along with a plus-five rating. He has not, in any of those seven games, had a rating below zero.
Coincidentally, since Whitney has been back in the lineup consistently, the Devils have taken at least one point each night (2-0-0-3).
In fact, Albany has at least a point in every game Whitney has played this season (3-0-0-4). Without him, the Devils are 1-5-0-0.
Now, that is probably a bit of coincidence. But hey, most people would rather coincidentally win than lose for any reason.
They have 15 goals in the last five games and 12 in the last three, an improvement from the 15 they had in their first eight of the season.
Whitney attributes the increase in productivity to the character of the team.
“We’ve got a lot of good guys in the room. There’s a lot of good hockey players, but there’s also good people,” he said. “A lot of guys who will stick with it when things aren’t going right, and eventually you’re going to start scoring goals. There’s too much talent in the room to not. But we’re getting more comfortable with each other, and that’s translating on the ice.”