Matthew Lombardi has a goal and two points in seven games this season. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
In 1981-82, the Flames picked up a journeyman by the name of Gary ‘Too Bad’ McAdam.
Great team player, ‘Too Bad’ was. Skated like the wind, ‘Too Bad’ could. Energy? ‘Too Bad’ had tons of it.
Problem was – and this is how his nickname came about – ‘Too Bad’ couldn’t bury a puck if his career depended upon it.
“Here comes McAdam down the wing…around the defenseman… shoots…just wide.”
“Here comes McAdam alone on goal…shoots…oh, hits the post.”
Players and fans got so used to saying ‘Too Bad’ after each of his chances, the name stuck around even if McAdam didn’t. ‘Too Bad’ played with Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit before joining Calgary at the age of 26. He lasted a year with the Flames, then took his frustrating game to Buffalo again, followed by trips to Washington, New Jersey and Toronto.
Every team had the same thought about ‘Too Bad’: Wow, what a great skater. It’s bound to turn into offense eventually. For all the chances McAdam generated with his blazing speed, he never had a 20-goal season. He had just 96 in 534 games with seven teams.
The attributes and frustrations of McAdam are embodied in the uniform of sweater No. 18. Matthew Lombardi is Calgary’s tribute to ‘Too Bad’ McAdam. He can skate faster than any player in the league, yet doesn’t have the finishing ability to generate offense, even when given ample opportunity on the top two lines.
Lombardi is close to returning from a shoulder injury and the question now is where to slot him. He has already proven he can’t produce consistently centering one of the team’s scoring lines. Moreover, it would be a mistake to take the ball away from Dustin Boyd in that role.
Craig Conroy and Wayne Primeau fill serviceable roles centering the third and fourth lines. So where does that leave ‘Too Bad’ Lombardi? Maybe it’s time to try him on a wing, spelling the unproductive David Moss and Eric Nystrom on occasion. And rest Brandon Prust against passive teams.
Lombardi can still serve an important role for the Flames, but it’s too bad it will never be in an offensive capacity.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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