There is a fine line between a great minor league player and decent NHL player.
Case in point: Steve Maltais.
Maltais was a goal scoring machine with the IHL's Chicago Wolves. The big left winger lit up the International Hockey League with 219 goals in four seasons with the Wolves, an average of 55 goals a year!
Think anyone could use a guy who averages 55 goals a year in the minors? "You'd like to think so," said the Arvida, Quebec native. "You put up numbers like that, you'd think you could chip in with 15 or 20 at this level (the NHL)."
Maltais wasn't a stranger to the NHL. The Washington Capitals drafted him in the second round back in 1987 after he scored 114 goals in 124 junior games. Since then, he has played 94 games in the NHL, 610 in the minors. His longest NHL stint was 63 games with Tampa Bay in the 1992-93 season. He had seven goals and 13 assists. He's been traded three times.
Despite Maltais' prodigious minor-league numbers, Maltais could never find a NHL home. He had the size, a bit of grit, maybe his skating and defensive play were below NHL standards but he knew how to find the back of the net.
Maltais thinks he is the victim of bad rap. "Once you put up numbers in the minors, I think you maybe get labeled as a one-way player," Maltais said. "I don't think that's fair. There's so much pressure having to score, night in, night out."