Despite 31 points and a plus-26 rating, Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman will not be at Sunday’s 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal.
But he’s fine with that.
“I guess I didn’t really think about it,” Wideman replied when asked this week about the snub. “The guys that are on there deserve to be there and it’s a great accomplishment for the guys that made it and they played really well. I think every guy that’s on there is deserving of being there.”
He’s tied for eighth among NHL blueliners in points and tops in plus/minus, so Wideman is definitely just as deserving. His progression from a bottom-of-the depth chart defenseman to the Bruins’ No. 2 has continued this year where it left off last season. And one national columnist even lauded Wideman with the half-season Norris Trophy. But as much as Wideman has matured on the ice, he’s grown up off it as well. And part of that is a humbleness that won’t allow him to brag about his emergence as one of the league’s upper-echelon defenders.
“I think things have been going pretty well. But when you keep winning hockey games and keep winning hockey games, it’s always easy to say, ‘oh, I must be playing better,’” he explained. “I don’t know. I’m not overly good at self-assessment, so you’d have to ask the coaches or someone else what they think.”
There’s no need to ask anyone about Wideman because all you have to do is look at his avearge time on the ice, which ranks him second only to Zdeno Chara among Bruins at 25:47. Players who aren’t pleasing their coach don’t get the time of ice time.
Since Andrew Ference went down with a broken foot in mid-November, much of Wideman’s time on the ice has been spent paired up with rookies Matt Hunwick and Matt Lashoff. Just 24, Wideman is in his fourth NHL season, so he can still offer a tip or two to blueliners who are trying to follow in his footsteps.
“He’s always one to communicate and let me know if there’s something he thinks I can improve on – whether it be game to game or during the game,” Hunwick said. “And he’s someone I can look up to as far as being a younger player and how he’s really come into his own over the last couple of years.”
Hunwick said the biggest thing Wideman has passed on is to always be an option and support your partner. Wideman is quick to downplay any impact he’s had as a mentor on his younger teammates. However, he admits he’ll impart knowledge now and then.
“If I see something that can help them a little bit, I try to give them a little help whenever I can,” he said. “But those guys are good players, they’re in the NHL, so they don’t need a whole lot of help. The only thing I try to say is if I can make it a little easier on them, a little shortcut of something that can make it a little easier.”
Wideman admits that in his fourth year, he’s still learning the game. And that’s good news for the Bruins. After all, they didn’t sign him to a four-year deal last summer with the intention of him plateuing.
No, the Bruins have high expectations for Wideman. Maybe next year he’ll fulfill one by earning a trip to the All-Star Game.