When Graham Mink left Hershey in 2007 after contributing mightily to the Hershey Bears success in attaining the Calder Cup, he most likely did not think he would be in Hershey racing for the Cup again just three seasons later. However, as fate would have it, Worcester’s playoff woes–failing to qualify last season, and being ousted in the first round the year before–turned out to be Hershey’s gain, and was a major element in Mink’s decision to return to the Washington Capitals organization.
“I wanted to have a chance to win in the playoffs, so that was a major factor in my decision and we’ve made a pretty good run here so far,” said Mink, by phone from Providence on Saturday. “I have a lot of friends in Hershey and Washington, so coming back was pretty much a no-brainer. After speaking with them, and them being interested, I didn’t really care to look anywhere else.”
Returning himself to the familiar surroundings under the Capitals’ radar proved beneficial to Mink, allowing him to see some NHL action, after two years of no call-ups to the San Jose Sharks. The call from our nation’s capital from Mink’s former coach in Hershey, Bruce Boudreau, caught the eight year pro mildly off guard.
“I was a little surprised, I was playing pretty well at the time and I had played for Bruce when I was here three years ago. Getting an opportunity to play in the NHL is a function of luck as much as it is of playing well and deserving to be there,“ said Mink, who was never drafted following the culmination of his three- year college career at the University of Vermont. “You need to have that opportunity, whether it be through injuries or suspensions or what have you. When things like that happen it gives somebody in the AHL an opportunity, and unfortunately for me, nothing like that happened when I was in Worcester for two years. I had a couple good years in Worcester. The Sharks are a first-class organization.”
Mink, one of Hershey’s current alternate captains, and a leader on the 2006 Calder Cup team, while admitting that every team is different, surprisingly thinks that this year’s contenders may have a slight edge over the ‘06 squad.
“I notice similarities in the character level of the guys. I think we’re a lot different team than we were three years ago,” said Mink, who had previously served as captain for both the Portland Pirates and the Worcester Sharks. “I think the team this year is a lot deeper. We’ve got four plus lines of forwards, and three plus lines of D that are capable of doing the job. I think three years ago, we had some players step up and play very well in the playoffs. The character level between the two teams is similar; the never give up, never-say-die attitude is there.”
An unrestricted free agent after the termination of this season, Mink, while admitting he has put a little thought into his future beyond this season, says he totally focused on the task at hand.
“Certainly once the playoffs are over here, I’m going to talk with Washington and Hershey and see what their thoughts are,” said Mink, who turned 30 on May 21st. “I’d love to come back, but that’s the stuff you have an agent for and you worry about right now. The major goal is to win the championship, and that makes everybody’s life a lot easier in the summertime.”
Hopefully, life will be easy and the champagne will be flowing all summer long in Chocolatetown.
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