Before I begin, I would like to thank Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park for answering my questions regarding Wade Redden in the AHL.
When the Rangers demoted Wade Redden to the AHL, most fans celebrated, however a few were curious about how he would accept his demotion. After his decision to report to the Whale, the curiousness spread throughout the fan base. There were two basic questions here: Would Redden treat the demotion the way other veterans, such as Patrick Rissmiller and Donald Brashear, had treated their demotions, by complaining and being a locker room cancer? Or would Redden be a gentleman and a mentor to the young kids that seem have so much potential? Given Redden’s personality and generally benevolent nature, few should be surprised that he has been a gentleman while in the AHL, and an extremely good mentor to the young defensemen.
For the first few weeks of the season, many raved about how Tomas Kundratek (third round, 2008) was adjusting to the pace of the professional game, and how he was becoming the Whale’s best defenseman. What many overlook is that he was paired with Redden for the opening couple of weeks. As per Jess, Redden helped him adjust to the rigors of the increased competition (Kundratek played in Canadian Juniors prior). Redden also educated the young defenseman in how to move up in the Rangers organization. Kundratek is often passed over by fans in the prospect depth chart, but he really shouldn’t be. His progress this year has been incredible, and Redden is one of the biggest contributors towards this.
After working with Kundratek, Redden was paired with Jyri Niemi, who was acquired from the Islanders over the summer in exchange for a sixth round draft pick. Niemi was a third round pick in 2008 himself, and has some great talent. However, he was never really able to put it all together on a consistent basis until recently. Naturally, Redden has been a positive influence on Niemi, who has finally been able to showcase his talent on a more consistent basis, which has led to more ice time and less healthy scratch time.
Depth on defense is tough to come by, so it is important to develop that talent in the AHL. This is something that Redden has been a big part of this season. For a defenseman making $6.5 million per year, he coul dhave taken his demotion as an insult, the way Rissmiller and Brashear did, and sulked his way through the remainder of his deal. However, the consummate professional that Redden is, he has been a role model for the kids to follow. Rubenstein says that the most important thing is that the kids are listening to Redden, and it is beginning to show on the ice. Redden’s play in New York may have been underwhelming, but he is showing that he can contribute in other ways. With so much negativity towards Redden, it is time Redden got his due for what he is doing in Connecticut.