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At Forward with Todd Simon

September 10, 2011 Players 1 Comment

At forward with Todd Simon
By Bob Cunningham
Oct 30, 2001, 17:47

 

Whether you’re progressing from Bantam to Midget or moving from the American Hockey League to the NHL, flourishing among increasingly stiff competition can be a stumbling block for even the best young talents.

Todd Simon, a fleet-skating rookie center for the Buffalo Sabres, endured that test last season, when he was called up to the Sabres after leading the AHL in scoring as a member of the Rochester Americans. At Rochester, Simon had amassed an impressive 85 points in 55 games. He was routinely accounting for two or three points per game, while admittedly paying more attention to his offensive production than to rounding out his entire game.

In two previous seasons at Niagara Falls of the Ontario (Junior) Hockey League, Simon scored even more, racking up 271 points in just 131 contests.

Promotion, understandably, had become commonplace. First from Niagara Falls to Rochester, and last March from Rochester to the NHL.

It was the opportunity every minor leaguer awaits. And yet, the realization of a dream can often produce negative effects; it can be greeted with bouts of anxiety.

So even though Simon tallied only a single assist in 15 games with the Sabres, the 22-year-old is comfortable with how he made the adjustment, and realistic in confronting his own expectations, and the expectations of others. As a forward, he had to deal with the additional mental burden that the Sabres might expect him to put up big numbers upon his arrival.

Can’t shun the spotlight

If he were a defenseman, the low scoring totals would be easier to hide. But as a forward with a reputation for lighting the lamp, it’s difficult to shun the spotlight.

“I just tried to do the things you do that get you (to the NHL),” says Simon, a 5’11”, 185-pounder who’s into practicing what he preaches. “I didn’t even think about trying to do a lot of scoring, because I knew it wasn’t the minors. I wasn’t concentrating on one thing. I was trying to concentrate on everything.

“I wanted to do my best in all aspects, starting in my own end.”

Simon notes that it’s hockey-player nature to be cautious upon entering new turf. Instead of looking for his shot, or otherwise attempting to establish himself offensively, he did everything in his power to assure he wouldn’t gain recognition through negative circumstances. His thinking: I may not score a lot, but I’m not going to get burned.

“When you get to a new level, you have to be willing to feel your way around for a while,” he says. “I think the worst thing you can do is to try and do too much. There’s that urge to prove you belong, but you have to be patient.”

A key element for new arrivals, Simon believes, is executing within the coach’s system. “Play the system, and play it well,” he says. And give yourself time to “adjust to playing with the big boys.”

Some rookies make the mistake of going over their heads. They try to make an immediate impact upon their call-ups—and they often do, in the form of crucial on-ice errors that result in their being cast back where they came from.

“It can be tough. You can be taken out of your game easily,” says Simon.

The simplest approach to staying within your game, he says, is not to look ahead—not even to the next period.

“Work on doing well that shift, and don’t think beyond that.”

Fundamentals ignored?

Simon believes it’s conceivable that today’s younger players aren’t as well prepared as in the past to take the next step in their development. “Coaches,” Simon feels, “aren’t teaching the fundamentals as well as they used to.

“I see a lot of kids trying to be the superstar. They’re not into the fact that it’s a team game,” Simon explains. “The game starts with fundamentals. Learning how to play the game correctly before worrying about anything else. I’ve seen kids do that, and I’ve seen others who (only) love the contact. They’re not into playing hockey. They just go around hitting people.”

Simon has plenty of time, at his young age, to adapt to the pro game. He’s proven virtually all he can in the minors, and will likely be rewarded with increased ice time this season.

“That’s when I can get comfortable. And when I get to that stage, I can think more about creating scoring opportunities and doing some of the other things that I’ve had success doing in the minors,” he says. “The NHL is not the minors, though.”

Bob Cunningham is a Southern California-based freelance writer who contributes to several sports publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.

This first appeared in the 11/1994 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Bob Stubbs says:

    I wondering where Todd Simon is now. Remember him playing youth hockey in Toronto.

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