The Isles Get Tougher...Right?
The Islanders have had Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz sitting in the minors but have felt that he needed time to develop his game, as an enforcer, in the AHL before he could be considered as a legitimate NHL fighter.
Trevor Gillies, an AHL journeyman, has been playing with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season as well. Last year he played in 30 games with the Albany River Rats, unable to muster up any points but managing 125 PIMs. This year in Bridgeport he has one goal and 123 PIMs in 18 games played. At the age of 31, Garth Snow felt that he knows the game, and the dance, well enough to give him an NHL contract (two-way) that will last out until the end of the year.
His Islander debut yesterday against the Flyers was not his first NHL game as he had played one previously with The Ducks. In that game he managed to spend 21 minutes in the sin bin.
As you can see, Gillies is not afraid to get his hands dirty and is a tough customer. The Islanders have been lacking a veteran fighter all year long, an issue that fans have wanted management to address for some time now. Tim Jackman has done alright as a middle-weight fighter, but he really isn't someone you can rely on to protect guys like Tavares, Okposo and Bailey. The Wrecker would be ideal, given his size at 6'4 and 220lbs, but even fighting in the NHL requires experience when you're going toe-to-toe with guys like Pronger, Godard and Carcillo.
Despite this hole in the line-up, the Islanders never were fond of having a guy like Rechlicz taking up a roster spot since he would only manage about four minutes a game. Ironically, Gillies played less than that during the first half of their match with the Flyers.
It's expected that Gillies will be used on a game-by-game basis, only when the coaching staff feels that his protection could have some service. It's a start, but the Islanders must look into a full-time enforcer for the start of next year.
The fact of the matter is that Garth Snow can't ignore how soft his team can play on some nights and has been forced to change his mind on the role of a fourth line enforcer for his team. They must find at least one fighter who can play the game every night instead of just when needed. Any game can have one opposing player that throws a big hit or a cheap shot that can harm a player that is key to the future. The Islanders have been and will always be vulnerable to such plays without having someone in the line-up to make your opponents think otherwise. Plus it is key to have someone that can send a message to Carcillo after he runs over Roloson in the crease. Of course Bailey and MacDonald deserve acknowledgment for immediately coming to his defense, but the next shift for Carcillo should have been met by someone like Gillies. Being that it was a close game, Gordon couldn't afford to waste a shift on someone who could have been a liability.
It's possible that in a year or two we may see Matt Martin take over the role of a fourth-line forward who can drop the gloves and chip in a few goals here and there. But until then, Trevor Gillies is a step in the right direction, but this team still needs to get tougher.
P.S. Check out my other blog for the day at The Hockey Writers!
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