Frequent Fighter Myles

It’s gotta be the shoes.

Sure, it was a Nike slogan popularized by the fictional Mars Blackmon, but it may also explain why Myles Stoesz’s offense seems to have vacated him since his call-up to Lowell.

During the playoffs last season, it was hard not to notice Stoesz’s trademark white snakeskin boots. They’re as ugly as you’d think they are, but the affable tough guy considered them to be a good luck charm…and hey, who’s going to tell him he can’t wear them?

So, before the 22-year-old Canadian suited up for the Lowell Devils in Newark, the dopey beat writer asked the guy who could beat the crap out of him if he’d brought his garish footwear with him to the next level.

“The snakeskins?” asked Stoesz with a smile. “Oh yeah, they’re still in Trenton. I’ve got a lot of my stuff there, still. I’m going to go pick them up after the game.”

Hopefully, the trip to Trenton did Stoesz some good, as he earned his first call-up to the AHL in his third professional season after scoring four goals in his first 19 games with the T-Devils.

“It was after the game,” said Stoesz, recalling the moment of his big break.

“We played Elmira on a Saturday night, and then the team was going to Elmira for a Sunday night game. I got called into the office after the game, and Chris Lamiorello was in there and Killer — Rick — and they pretty much just said, ‘You’re going up, you’re getting a chance.’ To say the least, there was a lot of surprise. I had been waiting two and a half years for that meeting and it was definitely nice to hear.”

It was a chance that many people who’d watched Stoesz after he’d been traded over to the Devils organization from Atlanta at the deadline didn’t think would ever come. Last season, Stoesz was viewed as a one-dimensional player, expendable on some nights where the opposition didn’t have a lot of toughness in their lineup.

“Last year was tough for me,” Stoesz said.

“I came in late, and the systems are different. I was getting ice time, but I wasn’t getting it consistently enough to really do anything. I mean, I only played ten games and it was a new team and whatnot. I always knew I had the ability to put the puck in the net and chip in every now and then.

With the game of hockey always evolving, many players in Stoesz’s role have come to realize that their fists won’t necessarily keep them in the lineup every night. It seems the unexpected offense this season just sort of happened, instead of Stoesz focusing on it this off-season.

“This summer, I wouldn’t say I worked on it any more or less than I did the summers before,” he said.

“But this summer, I did do a lot of hockey camps with kids and stuff, where I taught skills and stuff. I played around a lot with kids, and that might have helped out a lot. I also played in a little summer league, where I was second in the league in scoring. I wouldn’t say there was anything really different, I just played around a lot.”

And while many of the same people who were critical of Stoesz’s game in Mercer County in 2008-09 seem to have changed their tune after seeing him 2009-10 as a result of his added offensive skill, Stoesz doesn’t necessarily believe that’s what earned him his AHL call-up.

“I think it was just the way I went about things,” Stoesz told me.

“I just said this year, I’m going to have fun and whatever happens, happens. I wanted to just play with confidence, and things just started to click for me. Rick gave me an opportunity to really step in and play a bigger role. He showed confidence in me, which gave me confidence to play. It’s just one of those things. The chips fell in the right place and things worked out.”

In terms of the scoresheet, Stoesz has struggled in Lowell, failing to record a point in his first 17 games. But his development as a player is undeniable. And as that develop continues, surely a work in progress, he knows the points will start to come his way.

“I’ve had chances,” he said.

“I had a chance to score my first goal and I missed it wide. It was a wide open net and it just missed wide. I’ve been making plays, but it’s just one of those things. It’ll come, I’m not worried about it. It’s not my job, really. If I do, it’s a bonus. I’ve been putting up points in other places. It’ll come.”

Those “points” that Stoesz speaks of are, of course, penalty minutes. He has 67 PIM’s in 17 contests. And while yes, the offense played a big role in his trip to Massachusetts, he’s still showing up on the other side of the scoresheet as well.

“I’m going to give them every reason to fight me,” Stoesz said.

“I’m not just going to a play a game where I’m going to pretend I’m a goal scorer and then want to fight all of a sudden. I’m going to crush and hit everybody, and I’m going to piss them off. I want them to want to fight me.”

And fight him they have. Even for a young, relatively unknown fighter, finding a dance partner hasn’t seemed to have been an issue for the talkative Mantioba native.

“It’s been pretty easy to find someone that’s willing to go…yes and no,” Stoesz said.

“There’s only been one guy so far that I’ve fought where there was a ‘who are you’ sort of thing, and that was Kevin Westgarth. He wouldn’t fight me because I was a young guy. But other than that, I’ve fought a few guys that I’ve fought in junior. My first fight was against a guy that I fought in junior. And then other than that, it was kind of heat of the moment type stuff. Some of the guys I’ve fought, I’ve known from the past.”

John MacLean, currently the Lowell Devils head coach, has played a big role in the Devils past, and believes that Stoesz and the rest of the T-Devils call-ups could play a part in Devils future.

“Any of the guys that have come up, they’ve filled in nicely for us, which is good,” MacLean said.

“(Trenton is) no different than what we are to New Jersey. We’re hoping that when Rick sends guys to us, they can help us out and when we send guys up here, we’re hoping they can help out.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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