That might not seem feasible for a player who had his position nailed down going into the regular season, then endured being scratched for the opening 11 games of the campaign.
When White came back he was shifted to forward. He hadn’t played up since he was 10 years old.
Yet, there was White scoring the game-winner in Buffalo on Friday night and the Manitoba native may be the poster boy for a Leafs’ season chock full of ups and downs.
White moved back when Mike Van Ryn was lost because of injury. He stayed on the blue line through an arm injury to Jonas Frogren. But White stayed in the NHL while heralded defenceman Anton Stralman was sent to the Marlies.
“I don’t know moving forward what we’re going to do,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, “but he’s worked on his game as a defenceman and he’s looked pretty good.”
“I’m sure in that too distant future he’ll be playing more up front.”
Here’s the thing. You can bet upper management did not entice Brian Burke here just to admire the wallpaper. The Leafs are in the midst of a multi-year plan that will see some prominent players come and go.
And then you have White, a five-goal scorer who is not so prominent that he will draw an offer that can’t be refused. He didn’t mope when his ice time evaporated so he’s mentally tough. He is a relatively inexpensive player who can play effectively up front or on the blue line. At 24, he has 187 NHL games under his belt.
In short, he is a nice asset and nice assets have a way of staying put. That’s all White wants to do.
“I take the ice time as I can get it,” White said. “Forward or defence doesn’t matter to me. I don’t worry about what position. My motto is: just play hard. You never know what the future will hold but when you get your chance, make the best of it.”
“I played in Florida with Steve Montador and he played forward and back,” said Van Ryn. “Monty and Whitey are similar. Both have offensive skill, both play hard. Both are confident and headstrong. I think that’s the thing. A lot of times even when you go from right defence to left defence or right wing to left wing that can mess with your head a little bit. Those two guys would just go out and play.”
The Leafs host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
Even without all-world goalie Martin Brodeur the Devils have thrived. New Jersey is 16-9-2 and a prime contributor has been former Marlie Scott Clemmensen.
Leafs forward Nik Antropov says the faces may change but you have to give the Devils their due.
“Against New Jersey you have to make it a simple game. Everybody knows they can trap pretty good. They are waiting for two or three mistakes. It can be 0-0 until last minute and they are still patient. They don’t score a lot but they keep winning.”
Niklas Hagman will not be in the lineup against New Jersey. He is suffering post-concussion symptoms. Wilson hopes to have him ready for Saturday’s road game against Pittsburgh.
Expect to see Nikolai Kulemin working the first line with Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan.
Alexei Ponikarovsky will work with Mikhail Grabovski and Lee Stempniak on the second unit. That leaves Dominic Moore with Jeremy Williams and Jason Blake and John Mitchell between Kyle Hollweg and Andre Deveaux.