Cam Fowler was still on the shelf when news came down that the rookie defenseman will be staying with the club past the 9-game mark this season, though Coach Carlyle was quick to point out that the team will still entertain the possibility of saving an RFA year at the team's 40 game mark. News also came down that Fowler will be spending the season living in the Niedermayer residence in the West Coast version of the Crosby/Lemieux mentoring program, Legends Without Boarders.
Daniel, Cam looked incredible in his first game back tonight, but you and I were both wary of the decision to keep him this year, especially if he was going to be a third pairing guy and not experience the same 18 year old year that Drew Doughty had. So, now that they've decided to keep him, and now that it seems he will get the same shot that Drew Doughty got (and is apparently almost equally up to that challenge), what do you think of the decision? Oh, and what do you think about him living with Niedermayer?
I'm pleased with the decision to keep Fowler. The kid has been nothing short of amazing. He earned the right to be up here. He's logging insane minutes for an 18 year old defender. His maturity is inspiring, and his skill set is undeniable. I took my time getting on the Fowler bandwagon due to fear of being disappointed, but right now I just want to thank everyone who picked 3-11 in this year's draft.
As for Fowler shacking up with the Niedermayers. I don't really know what to think. I suppose it's a good idea if Fowler is sitting at the dinner table every night with Papa Niedermayer and going over game tape. I know that they will spend a huge amount of time together talking hockey, and that can only be a good thing for this kid. However, I also think there will be times when Fowler is just hanging out being an 18 year old. There's no way this can be a bad thing, but I don't know if it's going to be a 24/7 coaching life where the kid magically absorbs all of Scotty's awesomeness.
I think living with the Niedermayers is intriguing. Of course, there is the romantic notion we all have of what Crosby's life was like with Lemieux, talking hockey with a legend on a daily basis. But I'm sure it wasn't like that for them, and it won't be like that for Niedermayer and Fowler. The rookie may get talked into buying a hybrid before he absorbs his first hockey related tip from old Nieds.
But I think helping the kid adjust is key. This offers him that billet family experience (i.e. regular meals and a family environment) while still putting him within earshot of a guy who knows the do's and don't's of being a pro hockey player at a young age. I don't think they need to talk about the game of hockey every day for it to be a valuable experience. When Jonas Hiller described how Francois Allaire prepared him for the playoffs, he said the goaltending coach described every detail of the experience, down to the questions the kid would hear from reporters. Sometimes, the little things are important.
As to the decision to keep him, I have to agree that he's earned it. He's handling NHL top six forwards without getting rattled in the slightest. He's playing to the strengths of Carlyle's system, and he's a weapon on the power play. Is it the same quality year you would get from him at 25? Of course not. But it's maybe the same year you would get from him at 20, and it maybe guarantees that his 19 year old year will be that much more explosive after getting his rookie year out of the way. At that point, maybe it's worth it to lose him at 25 or have to pay him more on his next two contracts, if it means we have a strong young defenseman before Getzlaf and Perry's current deals run out.