Christopher Ralph is THW’s prospect and draft analyst.
In the offseason and heading into this season, not too many hockey fans or writers would have pegged Stefan Meyer as an integral member of the Calgary Flames; Especially not for this season.
Fourth line players could easily be referred to as the so called working class of the NHL. They toil on the last forward line of the team, often exuberant about eating up whatever ice time the coach may grant them – often very limited and almost assuredly less than 10 minutes per contest.
The Calgary Flames, however, use the fourth line more so than many teams. Early into this season, an unlikely trio have emerged as perhaps the Flames most consistent line thus far. That is, the fourth line – Craig Conroy, he now of 1000 NHL games played as of last week; Tim Jackman, big, tough forward signed as free agent in offseason; and Stefan Meyer – the 2003 Florida Panthers 2nd rounder was also signed this past offseason as a free agent.
Meyer wasn’t expected to make the big club out of training camp. Multiple injuries helped his cause, but Meyer’s resolute and consistent effort simply made it extremely difficult to send him to Abbotsford to play for the Heat to start the season. While sheer numbers and the cap game will possibly see him suiting up for the Heat at some point this season, Meyer has shown he truly belongs.
The stat lines don’t tell anywhere near the whole story with respect to working class players. Nor do the stats show their vital contributions on and off the ice. No goals and 1 assist in 11 games with a minus 1 rating are Stefan’s modest totals thus far into the season. He has 12 PIM, 9 SOG and averages just a shade 8 minutes per game.
Plumber. Role player. Plugger. Sparksplug. Energy player. Grinder. Menace. Pest.
All of these are worthy descriptors of the 25 year old Meyer.
He, in fact, takes pride in his developing role as league menace. As Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reported:
[Meyer] focused on doing everything — every single thing — he could to remain in the NHL.
Which includes fighting. (He’d flailed away at Edmonton’s Ryan Jones in the season opener.)
Which includes not fighting.
Meyer’s philosophy on the subject: “It’s your choice — I’ll fight you if I want; if not, hate me.”
Sunday, he’d incensed Los Angeles grinder Kyle Clifford by refusing to shuck his mittens.
“I came to the bench and they made me feel good,” says Meyer. “(The Flames coaches) said, ‘We need you, as a player, to play.’ And when I went by the (Los Angeles) bench, half the bench . . . they wanted me, they hated me. I absolutely cannot repeat what they were saying to me.”
“But it made me feel good,” he says. “I’m doing something to let them know that they’re playing against me. That’s the warrior mentality. I fall in to that . . . by playing hard.”
Invaluable, these days, is his knack for drawing penalties.
“It’s the byproduct of the way he plays,” says coach Brent Sutter. “He’s a great skater, he competes hard, he’s in the trenches. He makes things happen when he’s on the ice. That’s what intensity does and that’s what someone with skating ability does — it creates good things for you.”
The gritty and industrious depth forward should continue to thrive in the agitator role. While offensive contributions will not be his ticket to continuing to play at hockey’s highest level, he is not totally devoid of offensive ability. In the WHL, he once had a 36-goal campaign and two 34 goal campaigns. He also has a 21 goal season under his belt in the AHL.
With David Moss returning to the line-up Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, Meyer found himself a healthy scratch and watched the Flames lose 2-1. Given that he has a two-way contract, Stefan runs the risk of being demoted to the AHL as the Flames forward ranks get healthier. As per CapGeek, his NHL salary is $500,000, but his income significantly drops to $85,000 should he find himself in Abbotsford. His grit and consistent energetic effort will make any decisions with this respect tough for both GM Darryl and Coach Brent Sutter.
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