By: Will Burchfield
In the span of three and a half seasons, Tomas Jurco went from promising rookie to struggling sophomore to disgruntled spare part.
He was traded from the Red Wings to the Blackhawks last month and sounds much happier with his team team.
“The biggest difference is that here we’re told to make plays instead of just making safe plays and chipping it in and playing safely,” Jurco told the Chicago Tribune. “Here you actually should create something if you want to stick in this lineup because there’s so many creative players.”
Jurco’s original promise – captured by 15 points in 36 games in his 2013-14 rookie season – stemmed from his talent. But it was stunted the following year when then-head coach Mike Babcock placed Jurco in a checking role and wilted further as Jeff Blashill continued to do the same. By the time he was dealt to Chicago, having spent much of the 2016-17 season as a healthy scratch, Jurco’s potential seemed sapped.
Now, in a new skill-oriented system, he’s trying to shake the habits he learned in Detroit rekindle the player he used to be.
“I played that third-, fourth-line role so it’s in me now. I have that bad habit sometimes to play safe and chip it in. When I played juniors (and) in the AHL, I was a creative player, so it takes a little while for me,” Jurco said.
Jurco is pointless through six games with the Blackhawks, but seems to be taking well to a more imaginative brand of hockey.
“I try to play it safe and it doesn’t work here. You obviously can’t be risking it at certain times of the game or situation, but most of the time you should try to create something, hold onto pucks and don’t just chip it in and go for it,” he said.
The Wings wanted more consistent production out of Jurco, but he had a hard time supplying it in a limited role. Time will tell if more freedom yields better results.