Sydor's game matures with age

Penguins eager to see if veteran defenseman fits with Letang

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Darryl Sydor has been around the NHL for many years, so he knows all about defensemen like Kris Letang.

Kids whose game is built on skating and scoring, who command attention and respect largely because of their ability to handle the puck and produce points.

And Sydor should be familiar with guys like that, because he used to see one on a regular basis.

In the mirror.

Sydor, who accepted a two-year contract from the Penguins earlier this week, was the seventh player chosen in the 1990 NHL entry draft, and Los Angeles claimed him then mostly because of the numbers he put up while playing for Kamloops in the Western Hockey League.

The Kings' faith in Sydor proved to be well-founded, but his game has evolved over the years.

The Sydor file

Name

Darryl Marion Sydor

Born

May 13, 1972

Height

6-1

Weight

211 lbs.

Age

35

Shoots

Left

Position

Defenseman

Experience

14 years.

CAREER STATISTICS

Games played

1,097

Goals

94

Assists

377

Points

471

+/-

plus-23

Penaties in minutes

696

Shots on goal

1,808

These days, he is steady, not spectacular. Reliable, not reckless. It doesn't make for as many highlights, but Sydor's solid work in his own zone is part of the reason his teams -- most recently, Dallas -- seem to win a lot.

"He's a mature player now," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "He's played with a real good team in Dallas, he played with a good team in Tampa. I think he'll be a good fit for us."

And perhaps a good partner for Letang, although that decision won't be made until training camp, when the coaching staff gets to see how those two mesh and whether they develop any chemistry.

"I don't know whether it's [Mark] Eaton or Darryl," Shero said. "We might try [Sydor with Letang] early in camp and find out, 'Boy, that's not a good fit.' "

Sydor doesn't object to the idea of mentoring a gifted young defenseman, noting that he benefited from the guidance of accomplished veterans when he broke into the NHL.

"That's what it's all about," he said. "I came into the league and played with Larry Robinson for a little bit, and my other partner was Charlie Huddy. Those guys helped me."

That isn't the only aspect of Sydor's career that is coming full circle. He belongs to a group of Kamloops alums -- as does Penguins right winger Mark Recchi -- that has expressed interest in purchasing the franchise.

"I'd just like to get into that a little bit, on the business side of it, and see if it would interest me for life after hockey," Sydor said. "But I think I still have a lot of years left [as a player]."

Coincidentally, Recchi likely had something to do with him spending at least the next two of those with the Penguins. They speak fairly often, but a while back Sydor noticed that Recchi was asking about his future plans, like whether he thought the Stars would try to retain him and how he planned to approach free agency.

Although the Penguins weren't the only team to inquire about Sydor when free agency began at noon Sunday -- "We got some good calls from some teams out West," he said -- they were more aggressive than most.

And while Scott Hannan, who ultimately opted to sign with Colorado, would have provided a physical presence that Sydor will not, he also would have cost nearly twice as much as the $2.5 million the Penguins will give Sydor each of the next two seasons.

Shero said Sydor "can give us some quality minutes," and noted that, in addition to taking a regular shift, the Penguins expect to use him on the No. 2 power-play unit and to kill penalties.

They included a no-trade clause in his contract, evidence that they agree that not everything about Sydor has changed as much his profile and offensive impact have.

"I'm still a player who's going to go through the wall," he said. "I have that drive, that commitment to the game."

No matter how different his game is now.

NOTES -- Goalie Nolan Schaefer, who played for the Penguins' minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre after being acquired from San Jose at the trade deadline, signed with Minnesota as a free agent. ... The Penguins signed Notre Dame goalie David Brown, an eighth-round draft choice in 2004, to an entry-level contract. Brown, 22, is expected to compete for a job with Wilkes-Barre after going 30-6-3 last season, when he led the NCAA with a goals-against average of 1.58. ... Recently re-signed defenseman Rob Scuderi's assessment of his place with the Penguins: "I'm not going to win a Norris Trophy anytime soon, but I think I fill a role that every team needs."


Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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