Beyond The Benches

Beyond The Benches w/ New Jersey Devils’ Cam Janssen

New Jersey Devils right-wing Cam Janssen has not had the easiest path in the NHL but it has certainly been an admirable one.  The 30-year-old St. Louis-native is most recognizable for his fighting ability and willingness to make a punishing hit while skating at full-speed.

Last season Janssen, an NHL-veteran of nine years, played 24 games with the Devils.  Janssen has spent a large portion of his career splitting seasons between the NHL and AHL since being selected in the 4th round (117th overall) at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Now that Janssen is an experienced player, he knows how important off-season training and diet can be for his game.

“I’m definitely a lot healthier now than I was when I was younger, from top to bottom, as far as what I eat, how I prepare, social life,” Janssen said after Thursday’s 2-1 shootout-victory over the New York Islanders.

Janssen explained he does more intense on-ice and off-ice workouts.

“Definitely more aware of what I put in my body. As far as the training, I’ve always known how to train since I was a kid,” he said. “Every summer you tweak what you need to work on the most.  This summer it was skating and puck-handling, and a lot of extra fight-training too.  I have a good set-up back home with ice-time and everything.”

Cam Janssen has been cited as an energy-player that can spark a jolt in the team.  He’s well-liked by his teammates because he always brings a positive attitude to the rink.

“Even when I wasn’t playing hockey I had that characteristic,” Janssen said.

Janssen also has what he believes is the best way to get his teammates energized when he senses a lull during a game.

“It changes and it’s different every game.  One game it could be a fight, another game it could just be a good shift.  In games like that [low energy], you just go have a good shift. It’s not always about getting in a fight,” he said.

Janssen will drop the gloves if it is needed but he realizes that the NHL is changing.  The enforcer-role has diminished in the past five years.

“There’s maybe one guy on each team that maybe will fight you, if they’re forced into it. It’s about making a good hit and getting the team going,” said Janssen.

He claims that the AHL is full of enforcers trying to make a name for themselves through fighting.

“In the American League, yes, but up here [in the NHL], no. In the American League there’s more of an abundance of tough guys. Every team has one,” he said. “Here [in the NHL] you have to be able to play.”

Janssen laughed about the glaring, skill-level difference between the two leagues.

“It’s a lot easier to be a tough guy in the American League than it is to be a tough guy in the NHL.  You have to be able to play and bring an extra element like skating, hitting. It’s hard,” he said.

The Devils invited an abundance of forwards to training camp this September.  They currently have 14 forwards, excluding Janssen, on one-way contracts.  However, Janssen knows the Devils are aware that he’s been working at improving his overall game.

“They [Management] know that I’m getting better and they know I’m working on the right things,” he said.  “I’m more patient with the puck.  They know I’m healthier too, they can see it.  They know when you’re doing the right things and when you’re not.”

Whether Janssen starts the season with the Devils or gets sent down to the AHL, he has become a more complete player.  Even with his limited ice time last season he still managed to score three goals on 11 shots (27.3% shooting percentage).  He knows scoring is not his game though, it’s about doing whatever is necessary to help the team win.


Writer: James Stolfi is a journalist from the New York metro area covering the NHL Metropolitan Division. He can be contacted on Twitter @JamesStolfi