John MacKinnon: Edmonton Oil Kings captain truly ‘a gamer’
Griffin Reinhart proves unflappable in face of adversity as he capably leads WHL champs at Memorial Cup
Edmonton Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart fires a shot against the Guelph Storm during their Memorial Cup game Saturday, May 17, 2014, in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Claus Andersen, Getty Images
LONDON, Ont. — Griffin Reinhart was feeling the love on Twitter on Tuesday night.
And by ‘love,’ I don’t mean unrelenting support and encouragement from adoring Oil Kings fans temporarily heartbroken following the club’s 4-3 double overtime loss to the Val-d’Or Foreurs at the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Tournament.
There was some support sprinkled in among the plentiful abuse directed at the 20-year-old wheelhorse defenceman who was victimized, along with his teammates, by a cluster of bad bounces that teammate Mitch Moroz termed “cruel.”
Perhaps the cruellest was the game-winner by Val-d’Or’s Anthony Richard, who sped away on a breakaway after Henrik Samuelsson’s hard pass back to Reinhart hopped over the defenceman’s stick at the last second, leaving the 6-foot-4, 202-pound defenceman chasing the speedy opposing forward.
“On some of these goals, everything that could have gone wrong has, so far,” Moroz said. “Hopefully, we got all those gross ones out of the way early, and now, we’re going to have some luck.”
Moroz took note of the gross comments directed at Reinhart and fired off a Tweet of his own, one that included a link to a clip from Happy Gilmore in which a character played by Joe Flaherty tells Gilmore, played by Adam Sandler: “You suck, ya jackass!”
Just being a good teammate.
“I just wanted to lighten the mood up, I guess,” Moroz said. “He’s probably got a lot of pressure on him.
“Everybody thinks they’re an expert behind the screen and the keyboard. You’ve got to keep it light and give the kid a break, a little bit.”
Look, Reinhart is Edmonton’s best player, a calm, multi-faceted shutdown defenceman who plays nearly 30 minutes a game, every game. Well, every game except the double overtime thriller, in which he may well have logged closer to 40 minutes of ice time.
The Oil Kings would not have won the WHL championship without Reinhart, and their Memorial Cup hopes rest heavily on his shoulders, along with those of Curtis Lazar, Henrik Samuelsson, goalie Tristan Jarry, and Moroz, who is acutely aware of Reinhart’s value to the cause.
“He’s the backbone of our back end, and he’s a tower of, just, poise and strength back there that give us a lot of confidence,” Moroz said. “We know in crunch time, he just bears down and makes plays under pressure.
“He’s got that calm demeanour, Chris Pronger-like. He’s just a gamer.”
If the gamer was even the slightest rattled by the undeserved cheapshots directed his way on Twitter, Reinhart certainly didn’t show it on Wednesday.
His sensibility was not bruised from the Twitter mudslinging.
“It was funny,” Reinhart said. “You get all these fans and stuff who think they know the game so well.
“All of a sudden, they see a mistake, or maybe don’t see something on TV, a puck that bounces over your stick at the blue-line. All of a sudden, it’s all your fault.
“It doesn’t bother me. it’s a fan’s perspective. It’s interesting to see what people think and all that. Reading some of the things is pretty funny, but it doesn’t get to me.”
Indeed, at one point, Reinhart sent out this Tweet: “Fans opinions can be hilarious — keep it going.”
The opinions that matter, those of his teammates and head coach, Derek Laxdal, are unwavering.
“He’s our leader,” Laxdal said. “He’s our guy that, as Grif goes, we go.
“We ran four (defenceman) pretty hard last night. We’re trying to get that matchup against (Val-d’Or superstar Anthony) Mantha and they (his line) are playing every second shift.
“And last night, he had a couple of tough bounces, but I still thought he played a solid game. It was interesting, I was chatting with him after the game and he said, “I felt pretty energized going into the overtime.
“It says a lot about how he can manage his minutes, how he manages his energy. He knows when to take off, he knows when to increase the intensity and the energy in his game.
“I think that’s going to make him one of those longtime — 10-15 year defencemen in the NHL.”
Reinhart was selected fourth overall by the New York Islanders in the 2012 NHL Draft, when he might well have been undervalued, not because of what he is — an unflappable, shutdown defenceman — but for what he was not, a swift-skating, offensive dynamo from the back end, such as Morgan Rielly, Derrick Pouliot and Mathew Dumba, some of the other defenceman drafted that June.
They’re great players, but Reinhart is a different animal.
“You’ve just watched him in our playoffs against (Prince Albert Raider sniper Leon) Draisaitl, against the Brandon forwards ... against the Portland forwards, and now against some of the bigger players in this tournament, you’re seeing that shutdown type defenceman that he will be in the NHL.
“Obviously, he doesn’t have a panic point. If he makes a mistake, it’s water off a duck’s back. Give him credit. I think he’s very well grounded in that aspect.”
Sure. Like his response to a flurry of Twitter hate. Keep it coming.
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