Waiver-wire acquisition has played major role in Blue Jackets run
As a player, Corey Tropp’s ignition switch is stuck in the "on" position. His motor is always revving, and that’s one of the reasons the Blue Jackets winger’s season has gone from waiver wire castoff to impact player on a playoff contending team.
He was acquired by Columbus in late November, from the Buffalo Sabres. To that point, it wasn’t the best of times for the former Michigan State star. He tore up his knee at the beginning of the 2012-13 season and hadn’t played in an NHL game since. Then he was sidelined again, this time breaking his jaw and sustaining a concussion in a pre-season fight against Toronto’s Jamie Devane. Luckily for the Michigan native, things have been going in a good direction since then.
"It’s been a wild, crazy year," he admitted. "I knew from day one coming into this season, I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be coming off the knee injury. Then I had an unfortunate injury during the pre-season, so I just never got off to the start I wanted to and probably needed coming off the long rehab. It was probably a year and a half from NHL game to NHL game because we finished in April the year before (2012), then I tore my knee up the following October.
"It’s been a wild ride, but you just have to continue to stick with it and work hard," he continued. "All along, I’ve always had faith in myself. I knew the player I was becoming before the injury, and I had no doubt that I could get back there, and I still believe I have a lot more to offer. I still think it’s hopefully going to continue to get better and better, but that’s going to come through hard work."
Tropp played a little tentatively when he arrived in Columbus. After all, he was just starting to get healthy, and he had that whole acclimation process to maneuver. You know – new city, coaches, teammates, systems, etc. Several games in, though, the player who had been on GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s radar for some time, began to emerge. With Blake Comeau on the shelf, Tropp began to shine as an energetic, hard-hitting winger on the Blue Jackets fourth line, and the head coach was liking what he saw.
"Corey does a lot of good things for us," said Todd Richards. "He brings character, grit, toughness, and speed. I’ll tell you, he went down to block a shot in Carolina (Saturday), and he gets low and leads with his face almost. He’s a fearless type player that way. So, he brings a lot of qualities; in that energy role, he’s been very good for us.
"He’s got some skill," Richards added. "You go back to that goal he scored against Pittsburgh (12/29), where he beats (Otti) Maatta, who’s turned out to be a good defenseman, one-on-one and makes a great move and is able to finish. When he’s most effective, he’s going up and down his wing, he’s chipping it (the puck), and he’s going in after it. Whether he gets there first and takes a hit, or whether he’s second and delivers a hit, he’s been effective for us that way. To me, the biggest thing is just his character and his heart."
You don’t teach players those qualities, but in Tropp’s case, that wasn’t necessary. He just plays that way and always has.
"I’ve always been a guy that likes to play hard," he noted. "Usually when you’re playing hard and with energy a lot of good things happen. I think I have a little more offense than maybe I’ve shown this season. But a lot of times when you’re out there you want to play smart and responsible hockey.
"And a lot of it for me coming in here was to earn the coach’s trust. Once you get the coach’s trust you can maybe start making more plays offensively. The whole coaching staff has been great to me — very fair — and I can’t thank them enough for giving me an opportunity."
Going from injury woes, to the waiver wire, to a guy playing important minutes in the most important games of the year for his team, Corey Tropp has traveled quite a distance in his NHL career in the past four months. You just don’t do that with the engine set on idle. And you can imagine, the 24-year-old, who called his injury rehab "one of the most miserable times of my life," is savoring every moment.
"It’s kind of hard to put into words how much fun this is now. I don’t even know if it’s really hit me. I think it might be one of those things in the off-season during those two weeks before I start training again, I’ll kind of sit back and reflect on what’s happened this year."
Maybe then, when he finally pauses to reflect, will the engine be turned off. Maybe.