Friday, August 6, 2010

Neil Brady

This is Neil Brady, the man who scored the first goal in the history of the new Ottawa Senators way back on the opening night of the 1992-93 season.

He would only score six more goals that season. That goal will forever be the most notable moment in the once very promising career of Neil Brady.

Born in Montreal but raised in Calgary, Brady was a quick sensation with the Medicine Hat Tigers upon his arrival in 1985-86 season. With his strapping size and playmaking ability, the big center instantly clicked with left winger Mark Pederson to form a dangerous duo. Brady put up 81 points in 72 rookie games, and then added a strong playoff performance with 20 points in 21 games

The strong campaign combined with his size and promise skyrocketed him up the NHL scouts draft rankings. He was almost an after-thought heading into the season, but when all was said and done the New Jersey Devils made Brady the 3rd overall draft pick in the 1986 draft, taking him ahead of Vincent Damphousse, Brian Leetch and Craig Janney.

Brady was returned to junior, but a funny thing happened to Brady. Even though Pederson returned, too, and Trevor Linden and Rob Dimaio soon arrived, Brady's offense mysteriously disappeared. He started out well with enough with 83 points in 57 games, but he all but disappeared in the Tigers' run to the Memorial Cup with just 1 goal and 4 assists in 18 games.

Things did not get any better in 1987-88 when Brady could only muster 51 points in 61 regular season games and then just 3 lonely assists in 15 playoff contests. Apparently he was very distracted during this season, as his mother was dying from cancer. She died as the Tigers' were capturing their second consecutive Memorial Cup championship.

Brady's game had gone from top prospect to deep suspect before he even turned pro. The Devils had hoped he would be able to regain his game as he put his mother's plight behind him.

Brady had one major flaw - he lacked speed in serious regard. He had the size and he had wonderful hands to be a good playmaking pivot, but he simply lacked any jump in his game to get anywhere. To be successful, he needed to embrace the power forward role, but lacking the speed to get that extra step on the defenseman to cut towards the net, he was more often than not rendered ineffective.

New Jersey tried developing Brady in their farm system. They experimented with him on the wing where he could bring a playmaker's touch to the wing. He put together a couple of strong AHL seasons, but he never could catch on in the NHL. He never embraced the bang and crash role he was asked to adopt. He simply did not have the nasty temperament to bull his way through the opposition. The pro coaches saw this big man with nice hands and wanted him to retrieve loose pucks and set up the offense. But too often Brady did nothing with his size and was often invisible on the ice.

The unrealistic expectations of the high draft selection certainly did not help Brady, as he failed to live up to expectations. The Devils were happy to move Brady to the expansion team in Ottawa in the summer of 1992.

That first year Ottawa Senators team was down right brutal. For all the expansion fees they had to pay they got table scraps for talent. Brady played in 55 games that season, by far a career high. He scored 7 goals and 24 points but clearly he was a journeyman forward at best. It was unlikely he would be able to crack most established rosters.

The Senators did not renew Brady's contract after one season. The Dallas Stars took a chance by signing him as a free agent. Aside from 5 NHL games, he would quietly contribute to the Stars farm team until the end of the decade, never to be seen in the NHL again.

Brady finished his NHL career with 89 career games, scoring 9 goals, 22 assists and 31 points.

Interestingly, Brady was not the only member of the very strong 1980s Medicine Hat teams that could not translate junior success into NHL stardom. Mark Pederson, Scott McCrady, and Wayne McBean were also integral parts of the Tigers' success but never found regular NHL employment.

2 comments:

Tim D. August 6, 2010 at 4:59 PM  

One thing you forgot to mention, and that may have contributed to Neil Brady's loss of offense during the Tigers 2nd Memorial Cup run was the passing of his mother.

His Mom died of cancer while they were at the Memorial Cup in Chicoutimi, and the team promptly returned home after winning it all to attend her funeral.

Interesting stuff tho!

Dennis Doll,  October 6, 2010 at 9:00 PM  

as a fan since day 1 ,I dont re-call the story you wrote,it makes a person realize that these young men deal with a lot more than hockey. and remember their only kids,putting on a great nite of entertainment in the sport they love. also ,I commend the TEAM for attending the service

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