Eleven-year NHL veteran Steve Begin’s return to the league with the Nashville Predators was something that he had been dreaming of since he was signed to a one year, two-way contract on October 21.
Since being drafted in the second round (40th overall) by the Flames in the 1996 Entry Draft, Begin had played 486 NHL games and had 100 points (52g-48a) and amassed 525 penalty minutes. Last season, he played 77 games with Boston where he had five goals and nine assists in a gritty role on a successful team. He also played 13 playoff games before the Bruins were ousted in the second round.
During the off season, Begin was caught in a numbers game where many older established veteran NHLers are starting to find themselves where some teams, like Boston, have no cap room, and other teams, like the Predators, spend money within a strict budget.
His best choice at the time was to go to Milwaukee, work hard, and wait to get the call, which finally came on Thursday. In two games with the Predators, he played 25 shifts, had two shots, and was a minus two in a fourth line role. He also had two penalties, one of which was a questionable boarding call that went the wrong way on Saturday.
After Saturday’s game, Begin was excited to be back at the top level.
“It feels pretty good. This one was a tough one but we won yesterday,” he said. “It was a long road, but I’m glad that I’m here now. I plan to make the most out of it and do my best and try to stick around as long as I can.”
As far as added pressure in trying to stick in the NHL after having not been in the minors since 2001, other than the lockout season, he said, “I’ve got to come here and play my game. There’s no reason to put extra pressure on my shoulders. I’m here to do a job and I’ve got to do it the best I can. I’ve got things to work on. All I want to do is stay here and win.”
After the game, Barry Trotz commented on Begin.
“He comes as advertised. He’s a very hard worker, a physical guy. He gives you what he has.” After a pause, Trotz added, ” He a guy that has some value to an organization for sure. He’s hard, he comes and competes and he’s a real good pro.”
Minutes after speaking with the player and the coach, Begin got the word from the Predators that he was headed back to the bus rides of the AHL in Milwaukee.
I can’t imagine that Begin had the same twinkle in his eyes after getting the bad news that he did moments before when he was pleased with his return to the NHL. We wish him the best and hope to see him back in the league again.