When he entered the NHL as a 19-year-old for the Ottawa Senators Wade Redden learned the ropes from Lance Pitlick, a journeyman defenceman who also served as Redden’s roommate and partner on defence.
Now, 20 years later, Redden will be mentoring Pitlick’s son, Rem, in his wholly unfamiliar new role as the assistant director of player development for the Nashville Predators. Redden, the Senators all-time leading scorer among defencemen, retired from the NHL in 2013 and is moving onto the next phase of his hockey life.
He’s now second in command to former NHLer Scott Nichol on the Predators development side, responsible for evaluating the club’s prospects and assisting them in their transition to the NHL with a focus on areas such as nutrition and training.
"Just the whole fact of being a player for so long and now sitting in the coaches’ room and being on that side of it, it’s a bit of an adjustment," Redden said last month while attending the Predators development camp. "It should be a learning process for me."
Redden last played in the NHL in Game 6 of the Boston Bruins first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013.
It was the quiet ending to a career that tapered off considerably when Redden left Ottawa in 2008. He signed a six-year, $39 million US deal with the New York Rangers that summer, an onerous contract that ultimately served as his undoing in the NHL.
Redden suited up in only two seasons with the Rangers, was demoted to the minors and then bought out by the club shortly after the 2013 lockout ended.
Brief stints with the Blues and Bruins concluded a fine career for the second overall pick of the 1995 draft. It was in St. Louis that Redden became friendly with Nichol, who later pitched him on a job with the Predators while on a scouting trip to Kelowna, where Redden lives.
"It seemed like perfect timing for me to get involved, to learn something new and be part of this," Redden said.
With a young family Redden didn’t think coaching, and the hectic travel and commitment it requires, was right for him at the time. He’s not sure how much travelling he’ll be doing in his new role, but he’s intrigued at the prospect of working for Nashville, a factory for quality development on defence.
Redden, who played more than 1,000 NHL games on defence, isn’t sure what the role will look like exactly. He met some of the team’s prospects at development camp and got to know the club’s minor league staff, observing how they operate while gathering intel on the current pool of young players.
Mostly, he’ll try to be a voice of guidance, just as those like Pitlick, Randy Cunneyworth, Jason York and even (a young) Daniel Alfredsson were to him with the Senators early in his NHL career.
Redden, now 39, says he has no regrets about leaving the nation’s capital when he did — one year after a run to the Stanley Cup final — even in light of the messy end result. It was a quick decision then, he said, one he wishes he had been a "little more diligent" with.
"That was a big choice obviously," said Redden. "No regrets. But yeah we had such a good thing in Ottawa there. We had a great group. And before you know it you’re on your way and things have changed so much.
"Jeez, 10 years have almost passed."