The pride of Quispamsis, New Brunswick, Randy Jones would go undrafted by the NHL, as playing Junior A hockey in Ontario would not get him a lot of looks from pro scouts. His time with the Cobourg Cougars would warrant him a spot with Clarkson University, where he would first break out as a freshman to earn All-Rookie honours in the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference by posting 20 points in 34 games. He would follow that up with a point a game season in his sophomore year, as he notched 33 points in 33 games which got him onto the First Team All-Conference team for ECAC, and more importantly caught the eye of Russ Farwell and the Philadelphia Flyers, who would sign him as an undrafted free agent. Between 2003 and 2010, Jones would split time between the Flyers and their farm team, the Philadelphia/Adirondack Phantoms. He had 69 points in 217 NHL games during that span, which is really not that bad for a defender. In the fall of 2009, Jones was picked up on re-entry waivers by the Los Angeles Kings, where he would play out the season to the tune of 21 points in 48 games. That season he was making 3 million dollars in salary, and had a cap hit of 2.75 million dollars. The Kings were unwilling to re-sign him, as the price of his contract likely scared them off, and he eventually signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2010-2011 season. He would play in 61 games and record 13 points before an ankle injury forced him to miss the final 15 games of the regular season and 8 playoff games before he rejoined the team and helped them reach the Eastern Conference final.
Which brings us to the offseason of 2011. Jones joined the Jets and looked to be a good depth defender at a decent price of 1.15 million, meaning there was little financial risk. Or so it seemed…
The season did not go according to plan for Randy. Another ankle injury saw him spending a lot of time in the press box, and even when he was healthy the Jets had a number of options ahead of him on the depth chart, and Jones would end up as a healthy scratch on many nights throughout the season. His ability to score goals had also seemingly dried up over the past two seasons. In 100 regular season games with the Lightning and Jets something went awry as just 2 shots went in the net out of 76 shots on goal. That gave him an abysmally low 2.6% shooting percentage since joining Tampa Bay.
And it wasn’t just his offense that was struggling. Many a Jets fan could lament about the defensive gaffes that lead to goals against. He was also a 6’2″ 210 lbs defender who only threw 23 hits in 39 games, as physicality never matched up with size. The fancy stats agreed that this was a terrible season for Ran_y Jones, and he was the only player on roster who Jets management did not even talk to in regards to retaining their services for 2012-2013.
With all that being said, I do not think, nor do I hope, that Randy Jones is done as a hockey player. At 31 years old he still has some gas left in the legs, as long as his ankles hold up. As mentioned in a recent meeting with some sports nerds I know, two pros I came up with were “good skater, and kind eyes”, which sounds silly but Jones can skate with the best of them, and he appeared as a great example of a teammate, as despite his limited on ice role with the team there was one thing about him that always resonated deep. The Winnipeg Jets were, and still are, a rather young team so a veteran like Jones is someone that needs to provide leadership and guidance, and occasionally look after the younger players. In every single game in which both Randy Jones and Alexander Burmistrov were playing, Alexander Burmistrov would be the last guy off the ice…if it wasn’t for Randy Jones. Despite the fact that Jones could never match the energy of the young enigmatic Russian, he would always wait for Burmistrov to finish his warmup and as the younger player skated by Jones would slap his stick on the ice and give the kid a love tap on the butt with it, before following him down the tunnel into the locker room. For a young player to know the veterans of the team are looking out for you has to be a morale booster.
There is one other shining moment in Randy Jones’ season:
In the midst of a 7-0 blowout win against the Florida Panthers, Jones would play an integral, if unwilling, part in a 5 on 1 rush that resulted in the 4th goal of the night for Winnipeg. With all 5 Jets skaters rushing into the Florida zone, with only Erik Gudbranson on defense for the Panthers. Blake Wheeler carried the puck in, as the Jets formed a “Flying W”, and panicked, and much to the chagrin of the majority of fans watching decided to pass it to none other than Randy Jones in the middle of the W. Randy, who apparently knows what’s what, one touched it right back to Wheeler who then feathered a pass across to Bryan Little who tucked it passed Jose Theodore. The resulting assist would be the only one Jones would score all season, but it has got to be one of the most memorable assists you will ever see.
So to Randy Jones I say: I wish you well. I don’t know if you’ll ever have a million dollar contract again, but I do think you’ll find a place to play. Good character is always something good to have on a resume. And if prospective employers don’t believe that….show them the replay again.