It is, depending on who you ask, both a blessing and a curse.
But Christoph Schubert, who makes no secret of the fact that he’d dearly like to find a permanent home on the Ottawa Senators blue line, finds a way to take it all in stride. To live with the thought that, as a full-time forward and sometimes defenceman, he is giving his masters twice the bang for their buck.
“As long as the team is happy to have a guy like me who is able to do it,” said Schubert, a 26-year-old native of Munich, Germany. “But I know they (must have) trust in me to put me back on D in certain situations, like the penalty kill and (power play). That’s the biggest plus for me.
“It means they trust in me and believe in me to do it.”
But everyone, from general manager/head coach Bryan Murray on down, knows Schubert harbours a not-so-secret desire to spend all of his time at his “natural position.”
“(Defence is) just a natural position you play your whole life and your whole career,” he said. “That’s just what it is.”
Schubert had never played anything but defence in his life until last season when Murray, caught in a bind because of injuries, asked him to line up at forward.
“It (was) a funny position to be in because you’d never done it,” said Schubert. “I guess it worked it better than anybody thought.”
So well, in fact, that by season’s end Schubert’s hard-hitting style made him a valuable contributor to a fourth line that was a key to the Senators’ advancement through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Adjustment, though, has been a regular part of Schubert’s life since he came to North America as a 20-year-old to play for the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y.
“I have to admit my first year was pretty tough,” said Schubert, a fourth-round pick in the 2001 NHL entry draft. “New teammates, new country, new language, everything is new and you’re all by yourself … But it was a good learning experience for me, helped me mature at 20. It helped me grow up and make me who I am now.”
There was the matter, too, of adapting to the smaller ice surfaces in North America.
“You think the ice doesn’t sound that smaller, but it is,” said Schubert. “It makes a big difference when you come from (Europe). You play a whole different style system wise because the ice is just bigger. That was a big adjustment.”
Today, he savours each and every opportunity he gets to play in front of a full house at Scotiabank Place.
“It’s just fun,” said Schubert. “You know every time you come to the rink and hockey is on, the town is going crazy and everybody is really happy.
“I don’t know how anybody can’t like it,” he said of the atmosphere in the Senators’ home rink. “If somebody is not liking it, then there must be something wrong.”