Justin Falk is a case study in how not to stay in the NHL. He earned his spot in camp over Drew Bagnall, and played impressively in the spots he was given. He played well enough to send Cam Barker to the press box, and yet was sent down after Brent Burns returned from a suspension. Marco Scandella stayed up, a decision that was unpopular at the time.
Falk went back to Houston, ever the good soldier, and played well enough to warrant another call up in February, and another in April which ended very, very badly for young Mr. Falk. Was the lack of standing up for his teammates a lesson he learned? Was it enough to cost him decent grades?
Make the jump and find out.
JS- GRADE: D+ Another guy we simply haven't seen enough of. He did very good in his first stint, playing some solid hockey, but for some reason, when he came back, he was a shadow of his first-half self. He was brought in for a bit of physical presence, but he looked like a puppet.
Elise- GRADE: C Still learning, needs some more time in the minors. Not a big point guy, but to make up for that he needs to play more to his size. A 6'5'', 215 lb defenseman should be hitting people and using his body. That's a big key for him to stick with the big club.
Dan- GRADE: C+ Great start to the season but as the season went on, his lack of physicality and his inexperience showed. Still, its great to see a huge, mobile defensive prospect in our system.
Bryan- GRADE: C- Trying not to let his final game's showing influence this too much, but wow. How is a guy 6' 5" tall, and watches as his teammates get manhandled by a rival? Disappointing to say the least. Word is, he stepped up in Houston to defend Matthew Hackett, so maybe it is a lesson learned. He played really well to start the year, went down, learned some things, and came back and had a sketchy NHL return trip. Like Marco Scandella, he has the makings of a great d-man, but he needs to even it out.
Nathan- GRADE: C. Justin Falk needs to learn to play with an edge. Get physical. Play tough. He can be the next big stay at home blueliner if he learns consistency and when to pick his battles. Maybe he's learning the game, maybe he's learning how to manage his size, but come on kid. You're 6'5", 215. Crush someone. Play with a mean streak. Hit somebody and push people around. You need to be the third pairing physical body. You need to grab the chance and lock it down.
Cumulative GPA: 1.75 C-
Hockey players want to be in the NHL. To play in the NHL at 6' 5", you better throw some big hits, and you had better be prepared to drop your gloves when needed. It's not exactly fair, but welcome to life. Justin Falk left the NHL on poor terms, and left a bad taste in his GM's mouth. Absolutely an unacceptable performance, and he was sent the message.
He is, by all reports, back to playing big in Houston, which is welcome to hear. We're going to chalk it up to rookie mistakes, and give him a conditional pass. We won't harp on it, too much, until we see him next year. If it happens again, expect the big stick to get swung.
Step it up, Justin. We don't want the second best Justin Falk in the league, OK?