For the first time in his life, Brett Palin is answering to the title of All-Star.
Don’t worry, though. The soft-spoken Quad-City Flames defender remains all-star modest.
“I think going there will be a good experience,” the 24-year-old, fourth-year professional said of his chance to play with Team Canada at Monday’s American Hockey League All-Star game in Worcester, Mass. “But I’m definitely not going to go around calling myself (an All-Star.)”
Heck, here’s a snapshot into Palin’s modest reception toward his All-Star status: He learned he had been selected by AHL coaches ahead of a Jan. 6 skate that ended around 11 a.m. About 2 that afternoon, his father called to say he’d read about his selection on the Internet.
You mean to say you didn’t call your parents to brag after practice, he was asked?
“No,” he said, almost surprised by the question. “I had to go eat lunch.”
Well … a man’s got to eat.
“I don’t know,” Palin said, shrugging off the implications of his All-Star status. “It’s an honor, but hopefully it’s not going to change who I am and how I play the game.”
That is almost precisely the answer Q-C Flames coach Ryan McGill would expect from Palin.
“That shows you his character and integrity,” the coach said of Palin’s almost sheepish response to being the team’s lone representative at the All-Star affair. “He brings himself to the rink every day. He comes with great focus, good habits and he is a great role model for any one of these guys here, guys who are older or younger.”
McGill said Palin’s selection by league coaches is fairly high praise.
“I think they look at him as being a real steady player,” said the coach. “He has been a real steady player for four years and he has improved every year. So coaches can see that and see that those guys need recognition and opportunity.”
And there is ample evidence that with All-Star recognition comes opportunity.
The last four Flames All-Star reps — Adam Pardy, Dustin Boyd, Curtis McElhinney and Richie Regehr — all now are members of the NHL Flames.
“If history repeats itself, Brett might be in the NHL next year, huh?” said McGill, who wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen. “He continues to work hard and get better and he has good habits. There’s no reason why he can’t be up with somebody, whether it’s the Calgary Flames or one of 29 other teams.”
Obviously, the NHL call he has yet to receive is Palin’s ambition.
Typically, though, he is practicing patience.
“I’m just sitting here,” he said. “I’m on the team I am on and I want to be the best I can be everyday and keep improving so that when I do get the chance, I can make the most of it. There’s a reason I haven’t been up there yet and when I’m ready I’ll get that chance, hopefully. I am excited for that.”
Palin’s assessment of his performance this season is, not surprisingly, a bit self-critical.
He scored twice over the weekend and now has four goals for the campaign, three more than he scored in his previous three seasons combined. Goals aren’t his goal, though. Consistent steady defense is.
“For the most part, I have been able to go out and perform at the level I am supposed to,” he said. “But there have been a few ups and downs, inconsistencies I would like to eliminate.”
Not many. As he did in each of the past two seasons, Palin leads the Flames with a plus/minus rating of 7. A year ago, he finished with a plus rating of 14 on a team whose nearest player was nine points lower.
“You have to be careful with certain players,” McGill cautioned of that statistical measure. “With him you have to put a lot into it. We don’t score easy. We don’t score often 5-on-5. And Brett plays against the best players on the opposing team. For him, you can look at that stat.”
Even ever-modest Palin won’t argue that.
“With my style of game, it is the one stat that means a lot to me,” he said.
Hearing from his teammates about his big-time All-Star status means a little less.
His mates know Palin doesn’t want to be considered a big shot. That only has put a target on his back.
“The guys have been giving it to me a little bit,’’ he said. “Not too much. Just the regular chirps and jabs. It’s all fun and games.”
Craig DeVrieze can be contacted at (563) 333-2610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.