WINNIPEG - The proof will be on the ice but veteran NHL defenceman Mathieu Schneider wore a big smile and said all the right things when he met reporters this morning at the MTS Centre.
Schneider, the 40-year-old with 1,281 NHL games under his belt, was waived by the Vancouver Canucks last week and assigned to the Moose on Sunday.
"Honestly I’m just going day to day right now," Schneider said this morning. "I had a great talk with (Moose coach) Scotty Arniel and every day I’m on the ice is just another day to get my legs going and feel good and have fun. "As long as I’m here, there are young guys I think I can help and make better and it’s just all about being a good leader and being a good guy in the dressing room. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do my whole career."
Schneider indicated that his disagreement with the Canucks over his role is water under the bridge and that there was never any doubt he’d report to the Moose.
"A lot of the stuff is just personal," he said. "There’s not much to talk about. For me, there was never a doubt I would come. I just want to play. Mike (Gillis, his former agent and now Vancouver’s GM) and I have been good friends for years and we’ve handled this situation between ourselves. Other than that, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about other than I told him I just want to play hockey."
The crux of the Vancouver situation was that Schneider wanted to play more.
Arniel said today he doesn’t expect to hear much more about that disagreement.
"Like most people and most hockey players, 99 per cent of the time they take the high road," Arniel said. "Mat’s a pretty classy guy. I talked to him briefly about it. To me it’s not my concern. I don’t know what was said, all of what was said. Some of it may be accurate, some if it may not be accurate.
"I’m more concerned about what he does here and how he carries himself here. I talked to him about being a leader ... fitting in with this group. Obviously it’s younger and it’s a different game at this level. I don’t really care so much about what he’s done but about what he’s going to do for us going forward."
And the Moose coach practically spit when asked how he’d respond to those who would criticize the Moose for having two 40-plus players on their roster (Mike Keane is the other), that such a practice is contrary to the AHL’s mission.
"They can go rub salt," Arniel said. "This league to me, there are two different sides to the coin. There are those that want to play 20 young kids and they don’t care what happens, they don’t care if they lose 10, 15, 20 games in a row as long as they get their icetime. To me, I totally disagree with that.
"I’m more of the philosophy that these guys here can help fast track your young guys. When you have Mike Keane, Marty Murray and now Mathieu Schneider in that room and what they say and how they prepare themselves and how they practise and work out in the weight room, those are great examples for young guys who, coming in here at 18, 19 and 20 think they have all the answers.
"They get a little wake-up call seeing guys who have done it for 10, 15 years. Development is big, as is winning. They go hand in hand and you can do both."
The Moose didn’t practise today, taking a day for team-building away from the MTS Centre. Their next action, and possibly Schneider’s debut, is Friday against Hershey.