It’s a good bet that you haven’t heard of Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans the mountain climbers. They were a part of the team that ascended Mount Everest in 1953. They achieved an excellent climb and for a short period of time they had been higher than anyone in the world. A few days later two other members of the same team started out in the early hours of May 29th.  By noon Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay were at the top of the world and were forever etched into the history books. The difference? Bad weather, and faulty oxygen tanks, one was luck the other preparation.

Watching Korbinian Holzer this season there are several things you can tell about his game. He measures his offensive chances well, he protects the puck well and he is giving his usual defensive partner all sorts of confidence.

“I’ve been trying to work on my offensive game. The coaches have put a lot of faith in me to put me on the second unit power play. I’m getting better at jumping in on the rush. I’ve developed more this year than last. It’s just better to be playing in the other team’s zone.” He breaks down his game coolly and measured. It’s as if he analyzes his play after each game and evaluates what needs to be done. This year he is seeing plenty of video of his efforts with Steve Spott at the helm of the Marlies.

“It’s having confidence in my shot. Get it off quick, see that chance better, sometimes on that power play they take away the lanes. Even last year I would have held back but this year they have encouraged me to take that shot. It’s great.”  Having a steady hand at the back of the power play isn’t an option, it’s absolutely essential, Holzer has been like day following night…a reliable event.

The moment you hear Holzer say four years you nod knowingly but also wonderingly. Can it really be that he has been there on the blue line of the Marlies that long? It is the young defensive corps around him that now looks to him as the benchmark of the blue line.

“I’ve been there, in my first year in North America. Macker’s (Andrew MacWilliam)doing a lot of good things out there. The most important thing is communication. I remember playing with Darren Van Impe when he was in Germany and he said just keep it simple and talk, always talk  I keep doing that. I tell everyone to keep doing that.”

It is so seldom that a defensive corps can go a season in the NHL without injury and no one can say the Leafs didn’t do the right thing by making sure they had depth at the position in the veteran Holzer. This year there were no opportunities for even the toughest reasons.

“I think I did a lot of good things over the four years in the AHL, I think I showed that I can play last year when I played in the NHL. I wouldn’t say I’m at a crossroads but you do see younger guys and it’s all a matter of getting an opportunity.  It’s a good thing that the organization has depth, it’s up to me to be ready for whatever happens. I can only play as well as I can and do the things they want me to do.” This season Holzer has done more than played well he has been the defenseman to measure against.

Getting a taste of the NHL for Korbinian Holzer was like being Bourdillon and Evans. He knows he can do it. He knows he can play there. He just needs the weather to clear because he is fully prepared.

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