Defenseman Sheldon Souray is behind Montreal's resurgence
UNTIL THIS season Sheldon Souray was known as a defense-man who rarely left his own zone on die ice and seldom stayed at home off it A bruising physical specimen at 6'4" and 227 pounds, Souray had a meager 48 points in five seasons with the Devils and the Canadiens. Souray, 27, acknowledges that he worked the glittering New York and Montreal social scenes with as much effort as he put into his workouts. "I was making some money, and I didn't have a lot of pressure on me," he says. "My focus wasn't 100 percent on hockey"
A career-threatening injury—Souray sat out all of '02-03 with a fractured left wrist that required four operations—forced him to reconsider that lifestyle, and he has matured as a result. This year, finally getting the most out of one of the NHL's heaviest slap shots, he led all defensemen at week's end with 15 goals, two more than his career total entering die season.
Souray's impressive return—he'll make his first All-Star appearance this weekend—mirrors that of the Canadiens, who at 26-20-6-2 were in fourth place in the Northeast Division and on track for the playoffs. "He's an impact defenseman now," says Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "You always knew that in his end, there was a price to be paid. Now you pay attention to him in the other end too."
In December 2001, after Souray had been suffering pain in his left wrist for weeks, doctors found the scaphoid bone was fractured, requiring surgery. He returned that season, playing with a cast, and was the Canadiens' most effective defender during their run to the Eastern Conference semis. But when the wrist failed to heal property, a series of bone grafts was needed. Had the final operation, in March 2003, not been successful, Souray might have been forced to retire. "When your career is in jeopardy, it's a reality check," he says.
Souray reported to training camp this year with a renewed dedication to the game and a quieter social life. (He married Bay-watch actress Angelica Bridges in August 2002, and they had a daughter last September.) Coach Claude Julien has made him a regular on special teams for the first time in his career, and he has responded with six power-play goals on what is now the seventh best unit in the NHL (18.7%).
"I see the injury as a positive," Souray says, "because it gave me the chance to step back and look at what kind of player I was. I'm having more fun than ever now. It's just a different kind of fun."
A Reputation on the Line
Hard Hitter Doig Isn't Dirty
Capitals defenseman Jason Doig straddled the line between physical play and sinister tactics last week. On Jan. 28 he leveled Eric Lindros with a body check, giving the Rangers' winger his eighth concussion and putting him out of action indefinitely. The next night Doig felled Hurricanes center Kevyn Adams with a knee-on-knee blow that drew a two-minute penalty. Adams will be out for four weeks, and Carolina coach Peter Laviolette derided the play as a "dirty hit."
The league suspended Doig for two games for that hit, but he doesn't deserve the "dirty" tag. He didn't appear to intentionally knee Adams, and his crunching of Lindros was legal. "He has to make that hit," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said of Doig's catching Lindros skating with his head down. "If he doesn't, he's not doing his job."