The shortened 2020-21 NHL COVID-19 season has not been kind to defenseman Nate Schmidt. Barely a year after the start of a massive $ 35.7 million contract with the top-flight Vegas Golden Knights, the energetic defenseman was heartbroken to hear of a trade with the Canucks from Vancouver in time for the start of the season.
Even though the excitement of learning a new city and a new team was there, it never really worked out for Schmidt in BC. A two-time COVID fighter, the puck passer failed to find his way with the young Canucks.
With a career-high 15 points and one less player (-7) for the first time in his eight years in the NHL, Schmidt welcomed the July 27, 2021 trade from Vancouver to Winnipeg with open arms.
Of course, a lot can be blamed on team chemistry, a shortened season, and COVID-related absences, but there’s not much to fault Schmidt at the moment in Winnipeg, the ‘Except for a deflection goal Friday night that bounced off his foot and Eric Comrie in the Jets’ 3-2 loss to his former teammates.
âHere’s the thing. It was a tough year for everyone last year, âSchmidt said when asked why Vancouver hadn’t worked. âI don’t really mean this one way or the other. Both sides saw this as something they wanted to do. When you look at this as a whole, I really enjoyed my time. The people and the city of Vancouver have been great to me while we were here so there is no hard feelings about it.
Some simple factors this season have made Schmidt feel more comfortable in his 16 games than he found last year.
âLast season was incredibly tough for everyone,â he added. âOne of the most important things too is not having training camps, it was huge. Not having that familiarity, compared to this year you can kind of get comfortable with it during the preseason games and during the first part of the season – there is a bit more time.
This weather worked wonders for the offensive defender. Currently sitting at one goal and 11 points in 16 games, the 30-year-old is on course for one of his best statistical performances to date.
âIt was a good change,â Schmidt said. âI got my game back. Last year was difficult. It’s hard to find your game in a short year. Trying to fit in and move on, then COVID and everything. I think it’s been a lot more of a normal transition for me to come in with the Jets here. “
Seemingly locked and loaded with Josh ‘J-Movechkin’ Morrissey by his side, a sense of comfort found Schmidt in Winnipeg.
âIf you look at the calendar, you usually look at what would be February / March and that’s just a box of games, right? ” he explains. âAnd that’s kind of what we’ve been playing all last year. You get this start of the year 16 games since October, you get a little more time. But the transition has been really good. My mom and dad enjoyed the ride. It’s a fairly easy ride. With Josh and me too, it was really easy to gel with the guys. I think it’s something that makes a big difference.