A couple of months ago, a fantastic hookup was made. It was a subtle match made in heaven. And it was all facilitated by the new guy in town playing wingman.
That wingman was Scott Arniel. While it was one of the quieter introductions he’s made upon his arrival to Columbus, it was one that has paid dividends. Until Derick Brassard hit the IR, it was barely noticeable, though it had been transforming a team, and city, since that night when Coach said, in not so many words…
"Derek MacKenzie, I’d like you to meet my friend, Chance. She’s looking for more than just a few dates."
While now hidden beneath the shadow of line-mate Matt Calvert’s hat-trick, Derek MacKenzie continues to thrive. Even late in Calvert’s big game, MacKenzie could be seen flying into the corners like a cannon ball and moving the puck around. Derek MacKenzie’s boosters seem to never run out of juice.
After a great Junior career, D-Mac spent a lot of time in the minors, with occasional stints in the big boy league. Only last season, in Syracuse, did he post a point per game. Granted that was in 47 games dues to his call-ups to C-bus.
The one thing that has always stood out about Derek MacKenzie: Passion.
The guy plays each shift as if his team was down a goal in the waning seconds. He jets from one end of the ice to the other like the world would end if he were to lose the race to the puck.
The man loves hockey. The guy wants, nay, needs to win.
While giving it all on the fourth line, he was underappreciated by many a fan. Let’s be honest, what we want most from the fourth line is to see Jared Boll bare his knuckles and give the team an adrenaline boost. Crazy thing though, Jackets fans… some fourth lines provide more than blood.
Thanks to MacKenzie, Boll, Calvert, and Murray, the Columbus fourth line has become less about spilling blood, and more about pumping it. The fourth line has lately been acting as the heart of the team.
A big hit can engage the crowd. A fight can bring everyone in the arena (and on the benches) to their feet. Doing all of that and also providing an offensive threat is something that great teams have.
Please… Please forgive me for drawing this comparison, but I have to. When the Detroit ****-wings were running their dynasty through the late ninety’s and early ought’s they had an "energy" line featuring Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Darren McCarty. That line could easily pick a team up with their intensity, smart play, and offensive contributions.
This year, Derek MacKenzie has centered such a line for the Blue Jackets. While his wingers have varied due to injury or production, he has kept the spirit of the line. He’s helped them use their limited ice time to make a positive impact on the game.
So, everyone, raise a glass to the happy couple. Now that Derek MacKenzie has met his chance, and they look like they’re in it for the long haul, we can all have a Molson.
Thank you, Scott Arniel. Or, as I’d now like to refer to you, thank you, Iceman; you’re the best wingman ever.