by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Darren Haydar is feeling very refreshed these days.
He doesn’t like it at all.
At this point of the off-season, the forward is usually still recovering from a long playoff run, resting tired legs and tending to an assortment of ailments. But there’s none of that wear and tear now. Skating for Lake Erie last season, Haydar missed the playoffs for the first time in a pro career that began in 2002.
"Definitely, being finished in April was a wakeup call for myself," he said.
While there are certainly no guarantees about these things, Haydar has decided to hedge his bets for the next two seasons.
Haydar, 30, said he is returning to familiar ground by signing a two-year AHL deal with the Chicago Wolves, home to some of his greatest success. He played two seasons there, won one of his two Calder Cups and greatly furthered his case as the best AHL player of his time.
"It’s an organization that likes to win. I felt I could go there and help and get back to winning again," he said. "I want those expectations of going to the rink and expecting to win. I think for myself, I’m definitely comfortable being in Chicago."
Haydar’s laser focus on the finish line is understandable. He’s the AHL’s all-time leader in career playoff points (135) and goals (59) and is tied for first with Wolves teammate Jason Krog in assists (76).
Haydar said he strongly considered joining his talented age group peers overseas this year, but decided that tying himself to an AHL deal was a better career option because now any NHL team can sign him.
With Lake Erie last season, he was locked into Colorado — perhaps too much so. Haydar produced 23 goals and 41 assists in 66 games for the Monsters, but admitted he became a little distracted when he was rewarded with just one NHL game.
He said the difference now is that he accepts he’ll be in Chicago, a freedom that may in turn elevate his play enough to get him promoted out of there.
"I’m sure, to some degree, it affected my play (last season). You see all these guys going up, you are not one of them, you wonder why," he said. "I think the guys who do well are those who are able to let it (worrying) go from their mind. I had to be ready to know I’ll be (in Chicago). This year, whatever happens, happens."
Lindsay Kramer is the AHL correspondent for NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.