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Arnott in the hunt for consistency


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Arnott in the hunt for consistency

By Larry Wigge | NHL.com columnist

Feb 2, 20006

It took one ... two ... three righteous whacks at the puck before Jason Arnott finally poked the puck under goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to give the Dallas Stars a 3-2 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks.

The goal came with 35.3 second left in overtime and helped the highly competitive Stars from going to a shootout for the fourth straight game -- all of which they had won.

When you talk about the high-skilled 6-foot-4, 225-pound Arnott, the accent is almost always on effort. Since he burst into the NHL as a 68-point rookie in 1993-94, people have always wanted more from Arnott. More points from a player who was drafted seventh overall in 1993. More physical play from a man who is 6-4 and easily carries 225 pounds on a muscular frame. More leadership from a veteran with a Stanley Cup ring.

With this tightly wound, yet highly-skilled center, it's almost all about perception.

"You look at Jason and say, 'Wow! He's the complete package. Big. Strong. Has a great shot. Strong skater," Stars coach Dave Tippett told me after a three-assist performance in St. Louis in late December. "The next thought you have is, 'Why? Why hasn't he achieved greatness? And what is it that I can do to extract that all that skill and talent.' "

Glimpses of greatness. Some long. Some short. When Arnott is motivated, he's a tough player to play against -- like in his rookie season, when he had an impressive 33 goals and 35 assists in Edmonton, or for nearly three full seasons in New Jersey, when he centered an awesome line with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Their best moment together came in June of 2000, when Arnott scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal in double overtime of Game 6 in Dallas.

That January 30 game-winner against San Jose gave Arnott 19 goals this season to go along with 28 assists, nearly the same point-per-game pace he had as a rookie in Edmonton and during his high-flying run with Elias and Sykora in New Jersey.

"I know," Arnott said, shaking his head after I asked him to tell me which was the real Jason Arnott told me in a moment of complete candor. "Sometimes I'm a hard person to figure out. One year in New Jersey they even had me work with a hypnotherapist."

Arnott could afford a little smile after a three-assist game in St. Louis that night, what with things going pretty well for the first-place Stars and Jason's linemates Brenden Morrow and Bill Guerin.

The inconsistency isn't a character trait, but self-motivation is for Arnott, along with a lot of highly-skilled players who sometimes coast on the God-given talents they have.

"There was a time when it used to eat me up," the 31-year-old Arnott said. "And I know I had to drive Coach Tippett crazy with the inconsistency of my play."

"Yeah," said Tippett, hands in the air in a mock pulling-his-hair-out moment. "Sometimes you have to find the right button to push to make a player be better. With Jason, it was kind of playing a few mind games with him to see how he would react. Mostly, however, it was positive re-enforcement. You know, picking a moment that he was simply dominant and trying to get into his head and find out how that made him feel."

"Coach and I are finally on the same page, I think," Arnott said. "He showed me tapes of myself in good times .... and bad. He wanted me to take a good look at myself and then asked me, 'What kind of player do I want to be?' I guess that's how I learned that I have to give more if I want to be better. Sounds simple when I say it now, doesn't it?

"Unless your team is winning the Stanley Cup on a regular basis, I think every player has to think that way."

Now Arnott and Tippett get together on a regular basis for some more good one-on-ones. And that has produced more great one-on-one skill from Arnott on the ice.

"When he's determined to get from Point A to Point B, it's hard to stop him," then-St. Louis center Doug Weight told me. "He can be a handful. He's a big man ... with big skills. He can beat you one-on-one or pull you toward him to try to limit his time and space and then dish the puck off to his linemates at just the right time."

The keyword there, of course, is "When he's determined."

"He's a different player than he was in Edmonton, where he'd skate around 1,000 mph and never accomplish as much as you thought he should," noted Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "Now he plays a much stronger positional game. For the most part, he reads and reacts, lets the game come to him. But when he asserts himself, 'Look out.' He's that dominant."

"To me, Jason was a victim of the system we had in this League," Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello told me a couple of weeks ago. "There was too much pressure on him to succeed right out of the draft. When he came to New Jersey, he was one-dimensional -- all offense. He learned how to be a well-rounded player with the Devils and learned how to win. Some players can lead, others are good followers. Jason can be both. Especially when it comes from here."

Lamoriello raised his right arm across his chest to point at his heart.

And now, well, it's beginning to sink why Arnott was right up there seventh overall in the 1993 draft that also produced such NHL stars as Chris Pronger, Paul Kariya, Jason Allison, Saku Koivu, Todd Bertuzzi, Vinny Prospal, Eric Daze, Miroslav Satan, Darcy Tucker and Pavol Demitra."The first clue about Arnie's commitment to the Stars came before the 2003-04 season," Morrow said. "The first time I saw him before training camp, I thought, 'My God, look at what great shape Jason's in. Then, when we got on the ice, the work ethic was also there."

During the lockout, Arnott also bulked up on a heavy weight-lifting routine.

"Trying to get a player to feel good about himself," said Tippett. "That's what coaches live for."

"The better player Jason is, the better team we are," according to Guerin.

Now, here's where this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation gets a little weird ... for me. Arnott reduced his body fat by changing his eating habits.

"I went from McDonald's and Wendy's to eating deer and moose and other meats that might not sound conventional," he said, with a huge smile on his face while literally licking his lips. There's more. Arnott hunts for his own meat with a bow and arrow.( looks like he hung out with Stevens too much)

Stars captain Mike Modano walked by and shook his head when he heard about the solemnity of sitting in a tree-stand waiting for hours to get a shot.

"One of these days, I'll get you out there with me," Arnott said, laughing.

"Not on your life," said Modano.

Jason Arnott burst onto the NHL scene as a 68-point rookie in 1993-94 with the Oilers.

"The guys don't understand that hunting is like my form of meditation," Arnott said. "It's not the kill. It's the game. Animals can sense and smell and see us."

Arnott said it's sort of like gifted hockey players trying to find the time and space to make their magic on the ice.

"But the animals are a lot smarter than most hockey players," he said, with a laugh. "I know one thing: My senses are better after a few hours on a hunt."

Arnott's favorite delicacies are whitetail deer and moose.

"But the only moose we find in Dallas is Johan Hedberg," he said, referring to the Stars backup goaltender who got the nickname Moose a few years back when he made a meteoric rise from the AHL's Manitoba Moose to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals.

For now, the Dallas Stars have a meditated, driven and talented Jason Arnott on the hunt against opposing teams.

"You want to be in control of your destiny," Arnott said. "You want put it on yourself to be better. Living up to expectations others have for you can be hard. But I've learned to live up to my own expectations."

When he was traded from Edmonton to New Jersey for Guerin (how ironic that they are now together in Dallas), fans were on him for not meeting the potential they had for him.

"It was like a roller coaster of emotions," Arnott said. "Going to New Jersey, there wasn't the everyday focus on what I had to do to meet expectations. There was a chance to breathe. Coming to Dallas, the found I still had to out-skate others expectations.

"I learned that I can't please everyone ... I learned that trying to please myself was most important."

I wondered what would please Jason Arnott most. He pointed to the finger where he might normally have the Stanley Cup ring he earned while playing in New Jersey.

Arnott concluded, "That's what will make me satisfied."

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Yeah.. but Arnott taught Stevens about bow hunting :evil:

Hmm.. Arnie is a romantic who is dissatisfied with reality. That's what I think. He has no idea who he is. He can't decide on who he wants to be -- all I know is I really hate his teeth. I dont know if the guy will ever find peice of mind. He doesn't sound like it one little bit in this article. Sounds like a lot of Moose Poop to me...

:lol: or peace of mind either :rolleyes:

Edited by Darwindog
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Yeah.. but Arnott taught Stevens about bow hunting :evil:

Hmm.. Arnie is a romantic who is dissatisfied with reality. That's what I think. He has no idea who he is. He can't decide on who he wants to be -- all I know is I really hate his teeth. I dont know if the guy will ever find peice of mind. He doesn't sound like it one little bit in this article. Sounds like a lot of Moose Poop to me...

:lol: or peace of mind either :rolleyes:

Never understood why the line that was the BESt in hockey for parts of 3 seasons all of the sudden fizzled out...

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I think Arnott had some back trouble and was for a few games and thats when everything like sorta fell apart. I would love to have him back he's a helluva power forward. Get rid of Kozlov and put Arnott in there that would be sweet.

How do you think Syk would react if NJ brought Arnot back and all of the sudden elias & Arnott were together again??? we could have the a new and improved SEA Monster ( Scott/Elais/ Arnot!!)

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Yeah.. but Arnott taught Stevens about bow hunting :evil:

Hmm.. Arnie is a romantic who is dissatisfied with reality. That's what I think. He has no idea who he is. He can't decide on who he wants to be -- all I know is I really hate his teeth. I dont know if the guy will ever find peice of mind. He doesn't sound like it one little bit in this article. Sounds like a lot of Moose Poop to me...

:lol: or peace of mind either :rolleyes:

I loved his teeth... when they were sliding across the ice in the most awesomely unnecessary use of slow-mo and replay of all time.

I agree with you though. He's oddly delicate. It's sad that he can't figure it out. I don't want him back. You can only futz with a component so much before it makes you crazy and you have to replace it for your own sanity, and we already did it with him once.

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He's not hard to figure out -- he's just frustrating. He's childish basically is my understanding of it. The key to his success is to constantly come up with an amusing story for him to find motivation within. Pyss on that dude -- grow up self sooth and if that means quit hockey flippin' quit then -- you knwo or just go collect a paycheck somewhere else if that's the deal...

His amusements ARE cool that' sthe thing of it too. Yeah when he's motivated he IS cool and as interesting and all that horsesh!t as he needs his life to feel... but man he;s got to find peace when he can't have his own way. He's just damm weird - so self centered and spoiled and vain -- I did always want to say "I dont get him" or "what is his deal?" -- but fact is: he's infantile -- end of story.

I guess what's annoying/frustrating is that he's kind of the personification of everyones bad habits and selfindulgent streaks and he makes it all seem OK to be like that...he rationalizes selfindulgence in a very romantic way - makes it all seem very cool and admirable to be a free child or a looses cannon or troubled child or whatever his personality du jour is -and it's all rather low key - so you think he's not so bad --- but I really feel he is and I was never happier than when they got him off the team. even though he wasn't so bad... see? that's what you think.. and THAT is his effing problem. ICK!!!!

He just gets me riled because he doesn't love hockey. :evil: He's a poser - that's why I find him so irksome. :evil: He offends my hockey sensabilities. :evil:

Edited by Darwindog
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He's not hard to figure out -- he's just frustrating. He's childish basically is my understanding of it. The key to his success is to constantly come up with an amusing story for him to find motivation within. Pyss on that dude -- grow up self sooth and if that means quit hockey flippin' quit then -- you knwo or just go collect a paycheck somewhere else if that's the deal...

His amusements ARE cool that' sthe thing of it too. Yeah when he's motivated he IS cool and as interesting and all that horsesh!t as he needs his life to feel... but man he;s got to find peace when he can't have his own way. He's just damm weird - so self centered and spoiled and vain -- I did always want to say "I dont get him" or "what is his deal?" -- but fact is: he's infantile -- end of story.

I guess what's annoying/frustrating is that he's kind of the personification of everyones bad habits and selfindulgent streaks and he makes it all seem OK to be like that...he rationalizes selfindulgence in a very romantic way - makes it all seem very cool and admirable to be a free child or a looses cannon or troubled child or whatever his personality du jour is -and it's all rather low key - so you think he's not so bad --- but I really feel he is and I was never happier than when they got him off the team. even though he wasn't so bad... see? that's what you think.. and THAT is his effing problem. ICK!!!!

Have you discussed this with Arnie's wife, PK???

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Oh yeah -- deirdre and I have talked for hours on it...

or debbie or Dinah or whatever her name is. :P

But do you know what I mean? Stevens loves life and loves hockey - in that order. Arnott -- he loves himself - he loves a reflection of perfection and if he can'[t see it he gets miffed. Get over it I find him so annoying when he speaks! But I've really made the whole thing up--- I mean I made up several Neidermayer personas -- I still dont feel I've got hm pegged yet. I just like floating the stuff out there. and we all know I just really dislike Arnie. He's just a prick peckerwood f*cknut. Marty on the other hand is funny charming and "it's a cultural thing" becauase MARTY LOVES HOCKEY! :angry:

Edited by Darwindog
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Oh yeah -- deirdre and I have talked for hours on it...

or debbie or Dinah or whatever her name is. :P

I thought so :evil: ...where else are you going to get infantile and romantic in the same universe??? :giggle:

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