In recent years Cheechoo has become more widely known for these odd YouTube tributes/songs
Do you know where Jonathan Cheechoo played in 2011-12 prior to watching the video above? If you said no, odds are you're not alone. If you said the Peoria Rivermen, award yourself a firm pat on the back. If you're puzzled by who this Cheechoo fellow is then you probably didn't follow hockey very closely in the mid 2000s.
Cheechoo spent the 2011-12 season skating with the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues - the Peoria Rivermen. Cheechoo has hopped from team to team over the past several seasons, failing to find his form that made him one of the most threatening scorers in the NHL back in 2005.
As Cheechoo prepares to face free agency, again, we're left asking one more time - what's next for Cheechoo? Perhaps more importantly, if Cheechoo finds a new team will we see a new rendition of the Jonathan Cheechoo Train song?
Jonathan Cheechoo was signed to a one-year contract prior to 2011-12 by the St. Louis Blues to give the Rivermen some depth while granting Cheechoo another chance to turn his career around. With a minimal AHL salary ($105,000), Cheechoo was a gamble the Blues could afford to make with the hope being that he might find the offensive form that has been missing for the past several seasons.
Cheechoo spent the entire 2011-12 season down at the AHL level. This might sound discouraging but there is some positive news. In 70 AHL games, Cheechoo scored 25 goals and 31 assists for a total of 56 points. These numbers aren't ones to marvel at but they are ones that show a distinct improvement over his 2010-11 AHL season (55 games - 18 goals, 29 assists) and 2009-10 AHL season (86 games - 13 goals, 15 assists). Considering the downward spiral that has been Cheechoo's career the past seven years, it's important to point out a positive when we find one.
Still, despite his improvement in 2011-12, Cheechoo's future is murkier than ever. His deal with St. Louis expires this summer and again he will be on the hunt for a new team. It's too early to rule out the Blues giving him a new contract but at the same time it's too early to assume he will return to the Rivermen.
Cheechoo will be 32 when the 2012-13 season starts. Time is running out for the forward to resurrect what has been a mostly bizarre and frustrating NHL career. The odds are stacked against him. However, the case can be made for any team, especially the Blues, to offer Cheechoo a new contract.
Cheechoo is cheap. At the very, very least he is an experienced presence in the AHL that can offer insight on the NHL to youngsters just starting out in professional hockey. Cheechoo can offer important lessons on the rise to stardom and the subsequent fall from stardom and how to cope with failures mentally. This leadership could very well be Cheechoo's most prized asset at this stage of his career.
Cheechoo is still a low risk, high reward player. Despite the fact he hasn't skated at the NHL level since 2009-10, Cheechoo still has a bit of skill left and remains determined to recapture the magic he once had. His 2011-12 AHL campaign wasn't overwhelming but it was positive. However, Rivermen fans will be quick to point out that Cheechoo appears a step slower and is still lacking the spark he had that once propelled him to some incredible NHL numbers back in 2005-06 and even 2006-07. It's a safe bet that some team will be willing to take a chance on Cheechoo given the low cost and, while far-fetched, potentially huge return.
At the very least, fans should root for Cheechoo to find a new team just so we can see a new installment of the rather bizarre phenomenon that is the Cheechoo Train YouTube video series. Hey, they're catchy. Below is another one for your enjoyment.
Warning - Some NSFW language
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cheechoo made a pile of money..............Blues are the Cubs of hockey.........will never hoist the Cup
It seems reasonable to think that most teams would be looking at Cheechoo as an AHL presence, if only for this reason: When the Blues were beset by injury this season, they chose to call up pretty much every potentially-NHL-ready player on the Rivermen roster except for Jonathan Cheechoo. That, at least to me, would raise certain questions about his readiness to play at the NHL level, though it certainly doesn't offer the organization's reasoning, just the outcome. Still, that's me, and NHL Talent Evaluator is (unfortunately) not a part of my professional resume. It's entirely possible that a team would be willing to take a chance on him at a league minimum contract in order to have more money to work with to shore up their team in other areas, after all.
@miendiem I suppose I'm just surprised by how many Blues fan I've seen that believe the Blues won't give him a new AHL deal, if only for AHL purposes. He did score 25 goals. He does have some experience. He could easily become a more potent Graham Mink - a guy that may or may not get a shot at the NHL again but at the very least makes the AHL club a bit more formidable.
@David Rogers I honestly can't see any reason why not to, for reasons that you've already articulated. The question, to me, is more whether or not there's some team out there working on a limited budget that thinks Cheechoo will make their third scoring line better without breaking the bank while they try to land Free Agent X, or keep their core together. Given his recent past performance, an AHL contract SOMEWHERE seems to be obviously in the cards, as long as his desire to play is still there.