EDMONTON, AB - As he began his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland made a bunch of lesser-known depth signings. Not big news or flashy news but important additions to the team.
During Holland's three Stanley Cup wins as GM with Detroit, the Wings had stars. Names like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom. Along with those Hockey Hall of Famers, there were names like ex-Oilers Brent Gilchrist, Kirk Maltby and others named Jamie Pushor and Mathieu Dandenault. It takes a team to win a Cup and nobody knows that better than Edmonton's hockey boss.
Last season, one player Holland inked to a deal was Gaetan Haas. It was one of those signings where you needed to dig a little deeper to find out what the player was bringing to the team. Haas is a smooth-skating, nifty forward who had spent his entire career in Europe. An older, mature player who wanted to give it a shot in the NHL and Holland was willing to give him that chance on a one-year deal.
By the time it was all done or at least when the NHL pause had arrived, the Swiss centreman had played 58 games and put up a modest total of 10 points with five goals and five assists. Not eye-popping numbers but enough for another one-year deal.
The forward's transition didn't always go in an upward trajectory but he also didn't experience many pitfalls or big drop-offs. Early in the season, he had a trip to Bakersfield, but other than that he became an almost nightly Oiler who became more and more comfortable and understanding of his role as the season stretched on.
Video: EDM@CGY: Haas sends puck through Rittich's five-hole
Head Coach Dave Tippett also took a liking to Haas but, more importantly, felt like he could rely on the NHL rookie. That's not always an easy thing for a veteran coach to put someone new into situations with points and playoff implications on the line. The coach's confidence led to Haas feeling like he was fitting in with a team, just waiting for a spot in the postseason.
The then 27-year-old could have easily stayed home and continued to play for many more years in the Swiss League or another European country, but he didn't want any regrets professionally. He had only been to Canada and the U.S. on three occasions before originally signing with Edmonton. Once in Miami for holidays and twice in Calgary along with Buffalo for the World Junior Championship.
He wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination but certainly on the mature side of things when you consider by that age some players have spent as many as eight or nine years in the NHL.
Along with a hockey experience, it was also a life experience. He was amazed at the amount of travel, the hotels he stayed in and even the food on the Oilers charter plane. It's all part of being in the NHL. He was wowed by New York City, but what got his attention the most was being an Edmonton Oiler.
Now he stays an Oiler after being signed by Holland in what can be considered 'Haas keeping'.