There probably isn’t a lot that would faze Trevor van Riemsdyk.
A relative unknown at this time last year, van Riemsdyk had a strong training camp and earned a roster spot. He played in 18 games and won plaudits for his steadiness and confidence with the puck, but his momentum was halted when he took a shot off his left knee on Nov. 16 and underwent surgery to fix a broken patella.
On Feb. 25 he was assigned to Rockford to continue his recovery but he suffered a right wrist injury playing for the IceHogs and underwent another surgery. Instead of his season ending, van Riemsdyk was recalled May 22 and he appeared in four Stanley Cup Final games and added to a blue line lacking depth.
So now as he prepares for his second NHL season, it should be hard to bother van Riemsdyk or get into his head.
“If you can make it back after a couple surgeries during the year there’s other stuff where you look at it, you think ‘OK, that’s not too big of an obstacle to climb,’” van Riemsdyk said “Whereas if I hadn’t been through these couple injuries maybe you look at it a different way. But it kind of puts things into perspective and how lucky you are when you are healthy to be out here every day.”
The Blackhawks will also need him to be healthy and in the lineup.
With Michal Rozsival still working his way back from a broken left ankle and the Hawks again looking for relatively inexpensive defensive depth after a summer of changes, van Riemsdyk’s importance is clear. It would be foolish to say the Hawks couldn’t survive without him, but van Riemsdyk could add a steady presence coach Joe Quenneville trusts and one that’s played in the biggest of games.
Duncan Keith, who praised van Riemsdyk’s poise and composure and his ability to contribute against Tampa Bay, recognizes that.
“It would be huge for us to have a healthy Trevor van Riemsdyk out on the ice for us all year long,” Keith said. “I think he just adds that much more to our team with our-puck possession game and our all-around game. He’s a great player.”
That may be, but it doesn’t mean van Riemsdyk is a finished product or playing like he was a year ago. On Tuesday, Quenneville said van Riemsdyk has been “OK.”
“I think that you could see that, the way he was last year in camp, I think he’s trying to capture that again,” Quenneville said. “But I see him progressing here in camp right now. I think the last few days looks better and he looks like he’s a little stronger than he was.”
van Riemsdyk couldn’t compare how he’s doing now to what he was doing a year ago. Because last year, van Riemsdyk was “so nervous about anything you kind of hardly even remember how well you’re actually playing and stuff.”
That’s not the case at this point. He’s a Stanley Cup champion, expected to be part of the team, armed with a new deal and used to being part of a roster with some of the NHL’s biggest names.
“I think I’m playing well. Some games you want some mistakes back just like every game but you can’t really harp on them. You’ve just got to learn from it and go from there,” van Riemsdyk said. “By no means have I been perfect. There’s a lot I need to work on and get better at but you’ve got to use this time wisely and just be ready for the regular season.”