NHL.com: Geoffrion starting to get a good read on AHL
/ Nashville Predators
Milwaukee Admirals rookie center Blake Geoffrion is as much an entertainer as he is a hockey player.
So when he recently read the book "The Happy Day" to a local first-grade class, he meant it.
"It's about bears and squirrels and whatnot, having a great day," he said. "They (the students) were a little antsy, a little hyper at first. But they were pretty well-behaved."
With the type of roll that Geoffrion is on, it only follows that he'd have the right touch in every type performance. The Happy Day? Geoffrion doesn't have to read about it. He's living it, one of them right after another.
Last week, Geoffrion became the first AHL player to earn back-to-back player of the week awards since fellow Wisconsin alum Jim Carey in 1994. He's registered 17 points in his last seven contests after posting 16 in his first 31 games this season.
If that wasn't enough glory, he had a goal and 3 assists in a win against Rockford on Feb. 4, a night that also happened to be his bobblehead giveaway. ("I think I'm a little better-looking, actually," he said of the figurine.) The Badgers band also made a guest appearance that game, and Milwaukee wore special jerseys with Wisconsin-type lettering.
It's almost bordering on sensory overload, even for someone with the last name of hockey royalty. Geoffrion admitted the first period of that contest was the first time he can remember feeling nerves on the ice.
"I've always been a person that's handled pressure well. Play hard, have fun, and usually things work out for the best," said Geoffrion, grandson of "Boom Boom" Geoffrion. "That was the first time the pressure got to me in a long time. That's something I'm going to have to handle, hopefully if I get to Nashville someday."
The exact ETA of Geoffrion's relocation to the city where he grew up has fluctuated wildly in the past several months. He burst out of Wisconsin just in time for the Admirals' playoffs last year, and scored two goals in his second postseason contest. But in the third game, a longer-than-expected offseason was forced upon him when he suffered a broken ankle.
"The pro game seemed a lot easier on the ice. I came in with the attitude it would be easier. Obviously, it wasn't," said Geoffrion, a second-round pick by Nashville in 2006. "There was definitely a learning curve coming from college hockey to pro hockey. Where to weight train. How much to lift." It was a sharp bend that Geoffrion didn't navigate very well, leaving Nashville coach Barry Trotz underwhelmed during the preseason.
"The one thing I didn't see in Blake in training camp was a lot of that consistent secondary effort," Trotz said. "There was good effort, but the effort that separates the good players from the really good players, I didn't see a lot of that. His pace was still at the college level, not the American League level or the NHL level."
Geoffrion started the season as an Admirals third-liner, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound mass expected to build his career from the ground up by doing the dirty work around the net. Even that basic role felt like advanced calculus. Through his first 24 games he unearthed just 3 goals and 9 assists.
"There was a few conversations with him from a couple different people in management, and myself," Admirals coach Lane Lambert said of his early season message.
Geoffrion spent the holiday break with his girlfriend in Chicago a torn man. He tried to distance himself as much as he could from the game, giving himself a mental vacation. At the same time he dwelled on what he needed to do to start looking like the player everyone thought he could be.
"I had to regroup," he said. "I came back full of confidence. I just came back as the start of a new year. It's been going great lately. I feel more comfortable every time I come to the rink. (In) pro hockey, the mental part of the game is so huge now. The people who can get out of those ruts the fastest (succeed)."
Geoffrion has been so much more action than talk that he glided into top-six openings when injuries and call-ups created them. Geoffrion had the sense he could make the chances more than an audition; his numbers during the prime-time stretches support that assuredness.
"Give him credit for being an inquisitive player and understanding what he has to do to have success. His effort and his compete level have increased since the beginning of the year," Lambert said.
"Another thing I've learned in pro hockey is things change all the time," Geoffrion said. "It's just taking advantage of the opportunities you are given. I think it's just the mentality of, 'Man, I'm going to score tonight.' Having that really helps you. You don't think about things. You go out there and have fun."
And you keep pushing the boundaries of that enjoyment. Maybe the next time Geoffrion reads to a class, he can do so in French.
Geoffrion has started studying that language, which his father's side of the family uses at gatherings. Geoffrion is keeping his work hush-hush, because he's certain they are trash-talking him a bit and when he springs back at them he wants the element of surprise on his side.
"Hopefully, that day will come," he said. "I'm always jealous in trying to figure out what they are saying to each other. I just figured I should try to do something more educational (with his free time). I'm just in the first steps. It's been good."
Of course it has. Considering the way everything else has been going for Geoffrion lately, how else could it be?