| (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
Alright I was wrong. Very wrong. It happens to me at home all the time and I'm going to admit in my weekly blog on edmontonoilers.com that I was dead wrong about Benoit Pouliot. I thought I knew exactly what the Oilers were getting when they signed Pouliot. However looks, or in this case, penalty minutes can be deceiving. They certainly are in the case of the Edmonton winger. What you see in the PIM column doesn't come anywhere close to telling the story on how Benoit Pouliot plays the game.
If you look at Benoit Pouliot's penalty minute totals coming into the season of 257 in 371 games you might stereotype the kind of player he is. Mixes it up a little, gets involved to a certain extent and will play in traffic but also doesn't mind avoiding it. However, that's why you can't always judge a book by it's cover or a player by his stats. All those things that Pouliot looked like he might be because of penalty minute totals are false. Not true whatsoever now that I, and Oiler fans, have seen him up close and personal. That's not at all the way he plays in fact it's quite the opposite.
It was on display Tuesday night versus St. Louis. The Blues are a team that's not very fun to play against. They're big, they're strong and they can be rink bullies. That brings me to David Backes who I would take on my team even if I don't like everything he does. He's a monster on blades and doesn't mind going after the smaller Oilers and even some of the bigger ones like Pouliot. The end-of-game kerfuffle had the Blues captain in the Oilers face trying to manhandle him with a few gloved punches. Yet it was Pouliot who wouldn't 'Backes' down. There's a real fire to his game and yes his temper.
No better example of that than what happened against Detroit. Pouliot was distraught post-game and owned up to his spearing miscue. He took it like a man and didn't hide. A mistake made out of passion but I'll take that from a player who cares too much then one who doesn't care enough. Reports from many of his teammates is that he is mostly quiet and reserved but that he's a great guy. After three teams in three years and now Edmonton being his sixth NHL stop you wonder what happened elsewhere. I don't have the answer because what I see doesn't add up.
The 28 year old did have 141 penalty minutes his final year of junior. Throw in 35 goals/65 points in 51 games, fluid skating, an edge to his game and a 6'3"-193 pound frame and maybe that's why Pouliot was chosen fourth overall in 2005. Time is something Pouliot needed to get to this point in his career. In the end, he'll be judged by the G and A column and not the PIM one. Imagine if he hadn't missed 18 games with a broken foot. His goal pace, after two against the Blues, would be 25 for the season. It's one of the reasons he was the Oilers most coveted UFA this summer but I'm finding out that it wasn't the only one. I don't like to be wrong but I'm happy to say I was when it comes to Benoit Pouliot.