The last year and a half has been an oft-times tumultuous period for RW Corey Tropp. He damaged both the ACL/MCL in the October 2012 season opener for the Rochester Amerks, which led to season-ending surgery. He suffered a broken jaw and concussion, due to a fight, in a September 2013 preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He returned to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on November 2 and played 9 games before being waived to make room for Matt D’Agostini. In those 9 games he was 0-1-1, -8. He didn’t seem to be making the strides in his recovery from injury and his overall game that were expected of him.
"Obviously, I was upset and p*ssed off," said Tropp about being put on waivers by the Sabres, "which any player would be. But, at the same time, I understood why they did it. I’ve missed a lot of time over the last year and a half. Sometimes, that’s just the way the business works."
On November 28 the Blue Jackets claimed him off waivers. In the 15 games he’s played since donning the Union Blue, he’s 2-3-5, +7. It would seem that he’s found a home on the bottom 6 for Columbus. His style of play meshes with the "hard work" mentality of the Blue Jackets.
"I’m just trying to come in every day, work hard, get better and get my game back to where I know it can be", he said. "I still don’t think I’m there, yet. I think I have more to offer. But, every day I’m feeling more comfortable on the ice."
"I think a lot of it, especially in Buffalo, coming off the knee injury (then) I had an unfortunate injury in preseason with that fight. As soon as I started playing again, getting back into it, we changed coaches. It was tough to get adjusted, especially dealing with my own personal issues from missing time. We were losing a lot of games and the lines were changing every day. It was hard to gain any traction on where I was going."
He has gained the trust of head coach Todd Richards and his staff, which has translated to playing late in games. Richards has the personnel to roll four lines, even when chasing the game. Tropp relishes the opportunity he’s earned.
Obviously, I was upset and p*ssed off
-Corey Tropp about being put on waivers by the Sabres.
"I think if you look at teams that win in the playoffs," Tropp continued, "every team has a fourth line that helps them to win games. You see it every year in the playoffs. The teams that are going the distance are rolling four lines. It’s a long season and you can’t be playing guys 20 minutes, every single night."
"But at the same time, you’ve got to earn that trust. You’ve got to continue to prove to them that you’re going to help the team rather than hurt them. When you’re out there late in a 1-1 game, he’s (Richards) not just putting you out there to kill some minutes. He also thinks that you can bring a little offense, but play responsibly."
Columbus head coach Todd Richards likes what he’s seeing from the young Tropp and what he brings to the team. "Energy, simple skater, thinks the game well", said Richards. "He does a great job on the fore-check in creating some energy that way."
"He scored a big goal for us in Carolina and goes to the hard areas. He’s a committed guy. He’s pretty courageous. When you watch a guy and a defenseman is getting ready to take a slap shot from the point, he’s on one knee at the top of the circles trying to block the shot."
"It’s different if I’m three feet from you and I’m going to one knee, it’s not going to hurt. But when you’re twenty feet away and that puck’s coming up, I’m putting myself in a vulnerable position. And, he does that. He’s a courageous kid that plays hard."
Along with the energy that he brings on every shift, he had a highlight-reel goal against Pittsburgh last Sunday. No, really, go youtube it. This was a direct result of his burgeoning confidence from earning the trust of the coaches.
"I’m just trying to do the best that I can with the opportunity", Tropp said humbly. "I’ve always had the belief that I can be an effective player in this league. I’m just slowly trying to get back to where I was. I come to the rink every day with a positive attitude and try to get better."
Todd Richards likes the confidence that Tropp is showing with each game. "He’s been getting better and better," said Richards, "I’m sure more comfortable with the systems. He’s getting more comfortable with his surroundings and his teammates. When you feel comfortable, your game should get better. And his game has gotten better."
Corey Tropp is another one of the bricks in John Davidson’s "brick by brick" mantra for the Blue Jackets. He works hard every shift and has bought into the team mentality. He just wants to seize the opportunity he’s been given to show what he can do for Columbus.