Meech bides his time
As a newcomer to each level, Meech found himself in the middle of a locker room of winners. As a 16-year-old, Meech was part of a Red Deer Rebel team that had the best record in the Western Hockey League (54-12-3-3). On that squad were future NHLers like Colby Armstrong, Jim Vandermeer, Martin Erat and Kyle Wanvig. Future Stanley Cup champion Cam Ward even got into one game in net as a 17-year-old.
As an NHL rookie, Meech is part of a Red Wings team that has started with an 11-2-1 record. He sits a couple of locker stalls over from Nicklas Lidstrom and a few doors down from there is Chris Chelios. Meech can look across the room at Dominik Hasek, the league's leading scorer, Henrik Zetterberg, and the circuit's top assist man, Pavel Datsyuk.
"I'd rather be here than anywhere else in the world," said Meech. "I have nothing to complain about."
But he does have an adjustment to make, which is the second similarity. Meech went on to become a star in junior hockey. He then made a seamless adjustment to the professional game, becoming an American Hockey League all-star last season.
But this season is a lot like Meech's first season in juniors, trying to find a spot in the lineup whenever and wherever possible.
With defenseman Niklas Kronwall likely to miss Wednesday's game against Nashville (7:30 p.m., FSN) with a lingering groin pull, Meech will get into his fourth game of the season. Being the seventh defenseman in a six-deep lineup has left Meech sitting out 10 games so far.
"I think you've got to treat game days like game days, whether you're playing or not," said Meech. "I treat it the same way just to keep mentally sharp, keep the cobwebs away. Eat the pregame meal at the same time, keep everything in the routine the same as when I'm playing. It's very hard watching the game. You just wish you were out there. During games, I work out to keep the intensity up."
Meech had a four-game callup last season to give him an inkling of the NHL level of play. One year before his rookie season in juniors, Meech got into five games with Red Deer.
When Meech started his first full season in Red Deer, he found himself the odd man out on the blue line, just like this year. That led to Meech being inserted into the lineup frequently as a forward when an opening arose.
"I have been thrown at forward in junior just to get me in the lineup," said Meech. "The first half of the year, I'd go from forward to 'D' wherever they needed me. I just ran around, hit everything I saw. I loved it.
"That year, the team we had was … I don't know if I can say similar to this team because this team is second to none. But the situation was that we were top of the league and I was working my way in and out of the lineup."