18 April 2019

Chiller Instinct provides enthusiasts with an annual assessment of a player that has responded to extraordinary circumstance(s) to provide himself, his fans, and his team with a resurgence in play, at the highest level of hockey. 

Consider all aspects from team success to personal achievements, defensive presence weighed among offensive merit.  A player's past history can be brought into the fold, but the current postseason cannot.  Statistics in bold highlight the leader of the five selected, with the lowest penalty minutes, highest point totals, lowest salary, most shots, etc. brought into light.  Write in your votes and additional suggestions to grinderhockey@gmail.com . 
The official nominations are as follows:
(RW) Michael Ryder (29, 6'0", 192 lbs, $4.0M)

After being run out of Montreal in his contract year with poor totals, the Bonavista, Newfoundland native found solace with the arch-rival Bruins.  Resplendent with the Eastern powerhouse this season, Ryder came close to matching career totals in both goals and points.  Sticking it to an arch-rival must be secretly sweet as well, especially when a fanbase came crashing down on said player so harshly and were measured to Tiger Woods on the links so early.  The Bruins wisely contracted the positionally-sound right-wing for three years, and Ryder was solid down the stretch with 10 points in his final 12 contests.  Never one to be mistaken for the second coming of Jere Lehtinen, Ryder was among the league leaders in +/- rating and leads this list in the category.
Stats:  74 games, 27 goals, 53 points, +28, 26 PIM, 10 PPG, 0 SHG, 7 GWG, 185 shots
(D) Brian Pothier (32, 6'0", 198 lbs, $2.5M)

Defensive help came to the Capitals down the stretch.  Pothier was a steal last season as an off-season free-agent signing out of Ottawa.  The New Bedford, Massachusetts-born defender is slick in his own end and moves the puck to the forwards extremely well.  The knock against Pothier has been questionable decision making at times, but there is no doubting his consistent offensive production and skating ability.  Those abilities were in fine form as Washington closed the season out, and the undrafted Pothier was a complimentary figure on the blueline after missing nearly an entire season with concussion problems.  He collected two points in his final three games and has accumulated 103 total points over his 301 regular season career matches.
Stats:  9 games, 1 goal, 3 points, even rating, 6 PIM, 0 PPG, 0 SHG, 1 GWG, 8 shots
(F) Steve Sullivan (34, 5'8", 165 lbs, $3.2M) 

The eldest player on our list also has the toughest battles nightly.  Never one to shy away from the areas required to produce, Sullivan returned from back surgery after 40 Nashville games to spark the offence and deliver 12 points in his final 12 contests.  Sullivan showed absolute desire and attention to detail, giving the Predators both a boost offensively and in the locker-room.  Somewhat misleading, the Predators finished last in the Central Division, though missed the playoffs by only three points. 
Stats:  41 games, 11 goals, 32 points, +2, 30 PIM, 3 PPG, 2 GWG, 83 shots
(LW) Simon Gagne (29, 6'0", 198 lbs, $5.25M)
With a history of concussion problems starting to beleaguer Gagne's fine career, many questioned his effectiveness as he re-entered the Philadelphia lineup.  Gagne has silenced those critics and kept his name pencilled in for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics.  The St.-Foy, Quebec-born Gagne was relevant on both the Flyer powerplay and penalty-killing units, did not miss a single contest after 3 January 2009, and notched nine points in his final 12 games.
Stats:   79 games, 34 goals, 79 points, +21, 42 PIM, 12 PPG, 4 SHG, 3 GWG, 221 shots
(D) Kurtis Foster (27, 6'5", 218 lbs, $1.025M)

After an incredibly dangerous bodycheck by Shark Torrey Mitchell left Foster with a broken leg last year, the big guy's career was on hold for the next ten months.  A short conditioning stint in Houston (AHL) allowed the Wild brass to assess whether or not the hulking defender was NHL ready once more.  With Minnesota in a bind and looking for help in all shapes and forms, Foster showed renewed prowess with the puck, and utilized his large frame on the defensive side.  The Wild went 6-4 in the ten games Foster came back for and every loss was by one goal.  Foster himself had five points in his final three matches and was 2nd star in the final game of the season.  His +7 rating accumulated over the small stretch wound up leading the Wild in that category.
Stats:  10 games, 1 goal, 6 points, +7, 6 PIM, 10 shots
The first annual winner of the Chiller Instinct Comeback Player of the Year will be announced 10 May 2009, Mother's Day.
Robin Keith Thompson / 25 April 2009

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