Remember Jason King? The unheralded 7th round pick from Corner Brook, Newfoundland was a pleasant surprise for the Vancouver Canucks in the early 2000s. After one and a half impressive seasons with the Manitoba Moose, King was solidifying a role in the NHL during the 2003-04 season. At age 22, he played 47 games for the Canucks, playing mostly alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin. King made the most of his time in the NHL during that season, scoring 12 goals and looking like the best fit with the Sedins since Trent Klatt (Anson Carter and Alex Burrows had not arrived on the scene at this point in time). The line even got catchy nickname, the mattress line (two twins and a king).
Then the lockout happened.
Instead of starting the 2004-05 season in Vancouver, King started the season in Manitoba in the AHL. He played well, picking up 53 points in 59 games, but he also suffered a serious concussion. That concussion didn’t allow him to come to training camp at the start of the 2005-06 season, allowing Anson Carter to waltz into town and getting the plum spot beside the Sedins. In 2006-07, the Canucks decided to cut King loose, perhaps because of his concussion history, perhaps because of his age. He was no longer 22 years old, and consequently he wasn’t perceived to have as much potential.
Since 2006, King has played four seasons in Europe and three in the AHL. Since the lockout he has played in only four NHL games, for the Anaheim Ducks.
Jason King’s time to strike it rich was in 2004-05 and he missed his chance. Steve Pinizzotto could suffer the same fate.
In case you’ve forgotten, Steve Pinizzotto impressed many during the 2011-12 preseason. The 27 year old career AHL player had essentially earned a spot on the Canucks opening day roster but suffered a season ending injury in the final preseason game. He would have been a fixture on the Canucks fourth line, and likely would have been able to keep that spot given the lack of candidates for the role.
Instead, Pinizzotto is still waiting to play his first NHL game. He’s in the AHL once again with the Chicago Wolves this season, and once again he’s injured. He hasn’t played since November due to groin injury. If the season starts in a couple of weeks, he may not be ready to play.
If this season started when it was supposed to in October, Pinizzotto would have had an excellent chance to make the Canucks. If this season is lost, he might have missed his chance. Instead of being 27, he’ll be 29, and that’s a big deal when it comes to perceived potential.
This season might be the only season where Pinizzotto is good enough to play in the NHL. Then again, playing this season might be the break he needs to launch a longer NHL career. If this season is lost, we may never know.
The tale of Jason King should be a lesson to all of the many fringe NHL players that are locked out right now. Trying to get every last dollar in CBA negotiations may make business sense for players that are likely to have long careers like Jonathan Toews or Claude Giroux, but it doesn’t for a guy like Steve Pinizzotto. And there are a lot more Pinizzotto-type players in the league than Toews or Giroux types.
Fun fact: Pinizzotto was an extra in this Nike commercial as a teenager.