|The Oilers' Sheldon Souray only played in 26 games this season before underoing should surgery. Highlights|
It was just last season, in fact, when Souray established an NHL single-season record for most power-play goals by a defenseman when he recorded his 19th in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on April 5. The previous mark had of 18 had been shared by Denis Potvin (1974-75) of the Islanders and Adrian Aucoin (1998-99) of Vancouver.
"I can look back on it now and say that it was pretty cool to get the record," Souray told NHL.com. "But I never really thought about it when it was happening. The team was doing well and our power play was contributing quite a bit. My name showed up on the score sheet, but those were just gifts from other guys. In today's game, special teams are such a huge part, so it was nice to be able to contribute on that end of the ice. But I would have traded in those individual stats if I knew it would allow us to make the playoffs, that's for sure."
Souray, who played seven seasons with Montreal before signing a five-year contract with Edmonton last summer, visited The NHL Powered by Reebok Store in New York City Friday to discuss his hockey career.
The veteran of 10 NHL seasons also was more than willing to offer a little insight into the Eastern Conference Semifinal playoff series pitting his former team, the Canadiens, against the Philadelphia Flyers. Montreal (24.1) and Philadelphia (21.8) finished the regular season with the two most successful power plays.
"Getting momentum on the power play is critical, but you could also give that up with a couple of bad shifts," Souray said. "I think it's important that you get shots and create opportunities, which Montreal and Philadelphia have done all year. Everyone must be on the same page; you can't try and improvise and be fancy just because you have a man advantage. Players must know where they are supposed to be and know their job. That's when a power play is most successful."
Souray, who played in only 26 games this season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in January, is looking forward to getting back on the ice next season.
"The shoulder feels real good," Souray said. "I'm looking forward to starting the season healthy next year. It's a tough situation, going to a new team with a new contract and getting hurt, but now I have a little something to prove next year."
It's not the first time Souray has to deal with a serious injury. He missed the entire 2002-03 campaign after needing four surgeries to repair a broken bone in his right wrist.
"Actually, that wrist injury was probably the best thing that happened to my career, in a funny way," Souray said. "I think it allowed me to take a step back and refocus and prioritize things that were important in my life. I was at a point where I was just having fun living the life of a hockey player and wasn't paying as much attention to the game as I should have. So while I needed a year to heal, I also was determined to put a lot more energy and focus into being a better hockey player, rather than just existing and taking up a roster spot."
I could never be like a Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque because I couldn't skate like those guys, but I felt I could aspire to be a poor man's Chris Chelios, Scott Stevens or (Marty) McSorley. So they became my role models. - Sheldon SouraySouray did just that the following season, when he returned to the Canadiens and posted 20 assists and 35 points in 63 games. Two seasons later he had his breakout campaign, with 26 goals, 38 assists and 64 points in 81 games.
The 6-foot-4, 227-pound native of Elk Point, Alberta, admitted he always looked to mold his game after more physical defensemen.
"I could never be like a Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque because I couldn't skate like those guys, but I felt I could aspire to be a poor man's Chris Chelios, Scott Stevens or (Marty) McSorley," Souray said. "So they became my role models."
One thing is certain – Chelios, Stevens and McSorley never had the rocket shot from the point that Souray loads up with each time he tees it up from the blue line.
In 2004, Souray posted the hardest slap shot (102.2 mph) in the SuperSkills competition at the All-Star Game. In the 2007 event, he recorded the second-hardest shot behind Zdeno Chara.
"Shooting was something that came more natural to me," Souray said. "I learned early from great coaches, and even goalie Marty Brodeur, that you can shoot as hard as you want, but if you don't get it through or miss the net, it doesn't really matter. I've always taken a little bit off of my shot to make sure I had that confidence to hit the net every time. It's made a difference."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.