Steve Downie picked right up where he left off last year with a goal and assist in a 5-3 win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night, as coach Guy Boucher awarded Downie with his first star after the game.
Downie scored a career high in goals and points last year; with 22 goals and 46 points as he played on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis. So you would think he might feel more comfortable about his position on the hockey club, but that is not true. He still feels he must go out there and battle for his roster spot again this year.
If you talked to Downie he would tell you that he doesn’t worry about the stats, it’s more important going out there and helping his team win.
Downie plays the game with an edge, almost borderline angry on the ice; but that’s what endures him to his teammates. He is the kind of player that you want to go into battle with as a teammate night after night; he goes into the hard areas to dig the puck out of the corners or in front of the net. Downie will battle for his guys, it showed in his 200-plus PIMs last year.
But it is time for Downie to realize that his value is more than just sticking up for his teammates, though if someone takes liberties on the stars of this team Downie will not hesitate in dropping the gloves.
It’s self-control that Downie needs to practice, knowing that it is better to skate to the other end of the ice instead of taking a penalty that stems from being out of control. It was his lack of self-control that almost ran Downie out of the league. Downie was suspended on numerous occasions by the NHL when he lost his cool.
In the home opener Downie proved that all of his work is paying off, when he was challenged by Chris Thornburn of Atlanta. Downie just smiled and did not drop the gloves. He did received two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct but that is better than five for fighting, so Downie is realizing that his value is higher on the ice than in the penalty box.
Downie credits former coach Rick Tocchet with helping him with his mental game last year. If Downie is able to continue to keep his cool under pressure then he will be a very valuable part of this franchise not just in 2010-11, but for many years in the future.
Rick Tocchet scored a lot of goals in this league playing a similar game as Downie, so if he can remain in control of his emotions Downie has all the talent in the world to be just as successful in the NHL.