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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carl Söderberg sighting

This is one of those non-2011 draft posts that I'll occasionally indulge in here on this blog space, and for that, I apologize.

I must admit that following hockey prospects is a borderline obsession with me, so even though my head tells me sometimes that certain players simply aren't going to pan out in the NHL, I still go through the process of watching them nonetheless. I did this about six years ago with Slovak goalie Peter Hamerlik when he was playing in the ECHL, and I bought tickets and drove several hours just to see him play when he was with the Augusta Lynx. That endeavor proved to be a waste of time and energy.

So it was yesterday that I found myself tuning into the exhibition game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Swedish Allsvneskan club the Malmö Redhawks. Hardcore Bruins prospects followers are well versed with Malmö because that is the team that Carl Söderberg has repeatedly spurned Boston in favor of playing for since Peter Chiarelli acquired his rights more than three years ago for Hannu Toivonen.

The former second-round pick in 2004 didn't make a splash offensively, but even in a limited viewing of an admittedly poor quality feed, I could see why he's been a relatively hot topic of debate and certainly a polarizing figure over the last two seasons. Alas, I didn't see anything that would really lead me to believe that he's a difference-maker at the NHL level.

Often times, there is a tendency for fans and hockey followers to get hung up on skill/talent when discussing whether players are going to go the distance and justify their draft positions or projections for them based on ability alone. Being a pro hockey player has a lot to do with ability, but that's not the only driving force that will determine a player's success or failure, and perhaps more importantly, whether that individual will ever get the maximum out of his natural physical gifts that enable him to do what 95% of the rest of us can't.

Söderberg is an NHL talent. But, I'd be surprised if the league ever sees more than 100 games from him.

It isn't a maturity or character thing with the Swede, he's simply a player who appears to be settled in his hometown and has perhaps reconciled himself to the fact that being in North America is not a top priority.

It's a shame, too, because talent-wise, he certainly can skate in the NHL and carve a niche for himself as a third-liner at the very least. However, he just seems content to stay at home and play there as opposed to doing what it takes to commit to the NHL and have to work his way into a job in the world's top hockey league. It certainly isn't a crime that he's declined to sign and come over, but after having watched him, I can honestly say that the team has in all likelihood moved on and unless he comes to them and really wants to make a go of it, we're not going to see him darkening the doorsteps of NHL arenas anytime soon, at least not in a Bruins sweater.

So, the beat goes on. Söderberg is a lot like that girl (or guy) that was so much better looking and popular than you were used to dating in high school who for a fleeting moment expressed interest in you and maybe even gave you her number. You saw what could be and spent hours on one or more evenings waiting for her to call, only to be disappointed, because at the end of the day, she simply wasn't into you enough to make much of an effort to get past small talk phase of your relationship. At some point, you moved on.

And so it is with the Bruins' courtship of Söderberg. They tried to get him on board before, when there were spots for the taking but for reasons known only to him, it wasn't enticing enough to cross the Atlantic and give it a shot.

There are always a variety of reasons for a prospect's inability to become a legitimate NHL player, but in the end, the lack of commitment and/or desire is the biggest showstopper of them all.

And that's where we appear to be with Söderberg.

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