Boyd Gordon is everything the Oilers wanted and more after they signed him to a three-year deal this off-season in free agency.
He's the team's swiss army knife. A guy who can play on the power play or penalty kill while winning key face-offs, blocking shots or generating offensive opportunity. He's their 'Mr. Right' and has done everything the team has asked of him, exceeding expectations and sliding into a top-six role well given the Oilers injury situation with centre Sam Gagner.
Where he has really excelled is in his selfless play when it comes to blocking shots. The 29-year-old has nine blocked shots in three games this season, six behind the league leader, Philadelphia Flyers defenceman, Nicklas Grossman and the most of any forward in the NHL. The next offensive player on the list is Winnipeg's Evander Kane with seven.
"He's a courageous guy in our own zone even in the exhibition," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "Sticking his feet out to block shots, you don't see a lot of veterans do that in exhibition games and he's continued to do it through the regular season. He's doing everything right for me and that was a real good pick up by (Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish)."
"He's very courageous," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth. "He's for sure a team-guy who will put the team in front of him. He does the little things that make the difference as far as blocking shots or winning key face-offs and he's great at the penalty-kill too."
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Blocking shots is something that Gordon prides himself on.
"I think you've got to be in the right spot and if you're killing penalties, obviously you're going to get more blocked shots," said Gordon. "I just try to be in good position and if you can block the shot and not let the puck go through, your chances of something bad happening are obviously a lot better if you can get that block."
Gordon has also succeeded in the face-off dot, winning 61.5% of his draws through three games including 42 wins. He was victorious on 18 draws in Monday night's win over New Jersey.
Not only has the former Washington Capital and Phoenix Coyote played well on the penalty-kill but he has shown some offensive ability as well, scoring two goals and an assist in three games wearing the blue and orange. His first goal as an Oiler was by being in the right place at the right time, deflecting in a shot from in front of the goal.
"He does the right things all the time," said Smyth. "Not only is he good at draws but he's in great position in his own zone, works hard and he's getting the chance on the power play which is great. He got a nice tip on the first game with a nice goal. He's in great position, he works hard and he's great example."
Gordon has been given more of opportunities to jump into offensive situations this season than in years past due to the skill level of the forwards he plays with.
"It's been a good opportunity for me so far," said Gordon." I'm getting quality minutes and playing with skilled players. When you've got injuries and you get that chance, you want to make the most of it.
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"I think it's a good fit for me. I think I bring something different to the table. Obviously, we've got a lot of highly skilled guys here so everyone has got a different role and everyone plays their role. We've got a better chance at winning hockey games."
"The thing that we have here is we have some offence from the wings and, off the top of my head, we have seven of them that can provide some really real offence," said Eakins. "I think he benefits from that but he also compliments that really well. It's a misconception out there that you just throw three offensive guys out on a forward line and they're going to be great because they're not. They're all in the mindset that they're more willing to take a chance and usually taking the chance rarely works out. You need some glue on the line. Somebody that really reads the game correctly and knows how to play the game correctly. Hopefully that guy rubs off on the others."
That's what Gordon is; the glue. He is the piece that compliments the more skilled forwards the Oilers have in stock. He completes the picture.
"When you're a kid you're not thinking when you grow up you're going to be a face-off, shot blocking guy," said Gordon. "It's just one of those things you grow into. To stay in this league you've got to find something you're good at. It's one of those things I put a lot of importance on.
"I want to be a reliable centreman and do the little things right, work hard, being in the right position and try to play the systems the best I can and just be a solid player."