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The Ward Factor
(Photo by Alena Schwarz)
As the Caps’ new head coach, Barry Trotz, surveys his current roster trying to determine the best route to finding the ‘core’ of the team, one name should stand out—Joel Ward. Not only because Ward played under Trotz for the Nashville Predators from 2008-2011, but because he had a really good 2013-2014 season. His positive performance was unfortunately overshadowed by a lackluster team effort that left some of the Caps able to play in the World Championship (including Ward), some planning vacations and watching the playoffs on TV, and Brooks Laich is off in Hollywood “dancing” with a star. Nevertheless, Ward played well and Trotz should take note.
Ward played in 82 games last season. He scored 24 goals and had 25 assists for a total of 49 points. His plus/minus ratio was +7, he had 133 shots on goal and ranked second behind Alex Ovechkin in game-winning goals. It was his personal best since he began playing in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild in 2006.
Affectionately referred to as ‘Wardo’ by his teammates and Caps fans alike, the 33-year-old right winger hails from Ontario, Canada. He paid his dues with a four-year junior career playing in the Ontario Hockey League until he was recruited by the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport. (The CIS is the governing body for all university sport in Canada.) While attending the university, Ward achieved highly on and off the ice. He was named the Panthers’ Rookie of the Year. Continuing to excel, he became a three-time MVP before graduating with a degree in sociology. Ward signed his first professional contract to play for the Houston Aeros, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, in 2005. He played eleven games in the NHL for the Wild during the 2006-2007 season. Ward played his first full NHL season with the Nashville Predators in 2008-2009, which leads us back to his connection to Trotz. Ward played for the Predators under Trotz until 2011. During that time, the Predators made it the playoffs 2 out 3 seasons. He became a free agent at the end of the 2010-2011 season and signed with the Caps.
Consequently, Trotz needs to look no further than his own backyard and work from within to develop the type of drive and teamwork he desires. He needs to remember and recognize Ward’s exemplary work ethic and use that strength as a catalyst to inspire other players to work hard, play hard and meet the challenge of the 2014-2015 season.
Speaking of Ward, check out his interview with TSN at the French Open.