The 60th in our 118-part series.
There are plenty of genial guys in the NHL. There are plenty of awe-inspiring playoff beards. There are plenty of fourth/fifth defenseman-types. There are plenty of doofuses who have suffered serious eye injuries who insist on still not wearing visors. But none of them combine all those traits into one Sideshow Bob-coiffed, charmingly hard-drinking, self-deprecating guy who also happens to be one of the first prospects we ever paid attention to in the Devils system. Mikey C is our Sideshow Bob coiffed, charmingly hard-drinking, self-deprecating guy. We’re not really sure why we noticed him when he was still just a Devils draftee, nor are we sure what compelled us to still care about him when he started cracking the lineup for the first time. He couldn’t really handle the puck well, he wasn’t all that sound positionally, and he couldn’t skate to save his live. But he was still that guy we’d cared about — for whatever reason — before he made the big club, so we felt attached to him. When Larry Robinson praised him for having “a reach from here to eternity” we swelled with pride. When two regular D men went down in a game in Ottawa, leaving us with just four blueliners, and Mikey had to step in and play a theretofore unheard-of (for him) twenty minutes, we were thrilled. And when he got thrown in as ballast in the Sykora/Friesen deal, we were crushed.
Then he disappeared. It seems Mike Babcock wasn’t as enamored of his flabby lack of work ethic and appealing lack of any discernible skills, and Mikey C was banished to the minors, never, it seemed, to be seen again. Of course, fate and injury conspired to bring him back to the NHL in time to become a folk hero thanks to his “I’m too lazy to get my hair cut” afro, and, amazingly, he stuck. Other people may love Mikey C now for his overexposed bathrobe antics during the ’06 Cup run, or for his vastly improved play (by “vastly improved” we mean “he no longer looks like a waste of a draft pick”), or his affable charm and ability to drink his own weight in beer at the drop of a hat, but we love Mikey C for an entirely different reason. We love him because once upon a time he was a part of that bright and hope-filled future every fan imagines for their team.