With 128 goals and 260 points in 1072 career NHL games, it is clear that Kirk Maltby did not survive all those NHL wars because of his offense. Although he was a 50 goal scorer in junior hockey, Maltby never scored more than 14 goals in a single NHL campaign.
"We have a handful of guys on our team that had to adjust their roles as hockey players from what got them drafted originally. And we've been able to adjust to it and accept it both mentally and physically," said a wise and mature Maltby later in his career.
Maltby was drafted by Edmonton but traded to Detroit in March, 1996 (in exchange for Dan McGillis). In Detroit Maltby, who scored just 3 goals in the season prior, was forced to accept a lesser (but no less important) role if he wanted a NHL paycheck. After all, Detroit featured such superstars as Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Keith Primeau, Brendan Shanahan and Igor Larionov.
Adjust he did, and he found a home for the next 13 seasons. He even earned four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit. He was also named as an elite role player for Team Canada in their 2004 World Cup of Hockey championship.
Maltby used his good speed to his advantage. He worked tirelessly in pursuit of pucks and puck carriers, and loved to flatten opponents with clean but emphatic hits that suggested he was much bigger than he actually was.
Skating was his forte, obviously in speed but also in balance. But he was also a great student of the game. He was very coachable, and as a result he came to understand the game expertly from the role player's vantage point.
A member of the Red Wings famous Grind Line with Kris Draper and Darren McCarty, Maltby was a great penalty killer, an opportunistic forechecker and a fearless shot blocker. He also was an agitating presence, suckering more than a few opponents into taking penalties against him.
"I know my role as a hockey player in this organization," says Maltby. "I think that's one of the reasons why our team has been so successful over the last 10 years, because we've got players that are willing to change their game or they know their roles and want to win for the best of the team and not from an individual standpoint."
Maltby was a big part of setting that championship example in Detroit.