Mark Scheifele would not be the first National Hockey League player to benefit from a coaching change. Far from it, in fact, but he might be the latest.
Through the first 21 games of the season, what we’ve witnessed from the team’s number-one centre has literally been a game-changer — both in reference to his game, and by extension, his team’s.
For Scheifele, what is immediately noticeable about his play is the level of engagement this season and his improved 200-foot game, especially on the defensive side.
Sure, he leads the team in goals with 12, has re-invigorated Blake Wheeler — a familiar face on his right-wing side — and even helped bring along rookie Cole Perfetti into a very complementary top-six piece.
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But it’s the nuances in his game that Scheifele has displayed the most improvement, as the 29-year-old’s battle level has been fierce, his board work excellent, and his tenacity in taking the puck to the net in straight lines applaudable.
He leads the team in takeaways, and ice time by a forward, and is now back to being a plus player after a career-worst -17 last season. And it seems the turnaround has come overnight under Rick Bowness.
Now, is there still room for improvement? Of course. But make no mistake, the rumours of a trouble-filled relationship between Scheifele and the previous coaching administration are now proving to be substantiated by the player himself.
Prior to last night’s win over Colorado, Scheifele said this about his game: “I feel like I’m playing some of the best hockey of my career; certainly some of the best in the last four years.”
That’s a sentiment shared by many.
And while Scheifele is not the first player to benefit from a different coach, the new staff has helped change his game, and so far that has been a game-changer for the player and his team.
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