TORONTO – Before Tyson Barrie's contract year was interrupted by a pandemic, there was one of the longest-dropping droughts in his life. There was a coach change that turned his fortune over with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but still included a few uncomfortable days until close of trade as the team explored their market.
Yes, it can be said that the offensive-minded defender has seen a few things in recent months.
And here he is at home in Victoria on May 20, waiting to find out if the next act of his professional life is to return to the ice with the Leafs for a playoff like no other or to look for his next contract as an unrestricted free agent.
"It's a strange time to be free, that's for sure," said Barrie on Wednesday. "It's a strange time, but at this point I think all I have to do now is concentrate on preparing for the game if we want to play and running with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs
"That's why they brought me in, and that would be pretty spectacular. Hopefully we'll get the chance."
There really doesn't seem to be any illusion that the Leafs are a longer-term option for Barrie. While they may still need capable right shots on their blue line, the fit between the team and the player has never been entirely right.
It is significant that Barrie's first thought when asked about his priorities for free agents is exactly that – "fit".
"I think it has to be a place where you obviously need someone like me and a good team to go in the right direction and good organization," he said. "I think there are a lot of organizations that can fit in these boxes. So it will be a process where you sit down and just go through everything and what is important to me."
Barrie arrived in Toronto on July 1 as an important part of a mini-blockbuster in which Nazem Kadri was sent to the Colorado Avalanche for him and Alexander Kerfoot.
After a 59-point season with the only NHL team he had ever known, former coach Mike Babcock did not initially serve Barrie in the Leafs' top power play unit. That certainly contributed to a painful stretch of 18 games, in which he recorded only one assist and encountered some self-doubt.
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It is no coincidence that one of Sheldon Keefe's first acts, after moving from Babcock on November 20, brought Barrie to PP1 and immediately gated him in with the weight of the world shifted from the player's shoulders successive games responded
In retrospect, the 28-year-old is proud that he resisted any instinct to change his playing style during this rocky start. Water eventually found its way and Barrie had 39 points in 70 games when the season was interrupted – behind the pace of his last two seasons, but still good for 22nd among all NHL defenders after the worst two-month start to his career.
"I'm not sure I have ever given enough appreciation to people who trade and need to change their whole lives to join a new team and adapt immediately," said Barrie. "I think it is a little bit harder than I expected it to be. I am glad that I have had the experience of seeing this firsthand."
All sport remains in limbo because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Barrie seems keen to end what he started in Toronto. He admits that the playoff formats discussed are not "ideal" and tries to take advantage of the opportunity to get into a bubble in a hub city as he would if he were Canada at IIHF ice hockey World Cup in Europe.
"I think at a time like this, how could something be super traditional?" said Barrie. "I think the integrity (of the playoffs) will be there as it will still be the best players in the world playing against each other to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup." Without fans or whatever the scenario may be, it will certainly be strange, but I think we all have to adapt and be ready to adapt and somehow realize that it won't be these perfect, classic NHL playoffs.
"I think for the situation we've been in for a year, I think that's okay."
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Barrie found comfort on daily walks with his dog Ralph during the 10-week quarantine. He loves spending time outdoors and says the weather on Vancouver Island was ideal.
As with pretty much everyone right now, there is no shortage of things to worry about – like the damage done to the NHL's business the moment it signs a new contract – but Barrie seems to be at peace whatever comes next.
"It is one of those things that I think you work long to get to where you are a free agent and teams you want," he said. "Sure, there were moments when it seemed a little bad, but I think for myself, just to keep an eye on what's going on in the world (helped).…
"Ultimately, I am very blessed and happy to be able to play a sport and earn my living from it."