Where Does Marty Reasoner Fit With The Isles?
Marty Reasoner was signed to a two-year deal during last summer's off-season to replace the recently departed, Zenon Konopka. "Z" instilled toughness and leadership in the locker room and gave Islanders fans, as well as his teammates, a reason to stick up for themselves when getting the brunt of the NHL's toughest teams and officials. But due to some rumored internal issues, Konopka was let go to free agency and Reasoner was signed to be his replacement; a less threatening, but more productive fourth line center that could kill penalties and win key face-offs. (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)
To everyone's dismay, it did not take long for Reasoner to quickly become the scapegoat for most Islanders fans. He was constantly making defensive mistakes, playing out of position and didn't score his first goal of the season until March 29th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He finished the year with five assists to go with that solo goal for at total of six points in 61 games played. He was also a whopping -25, the worst +/- rating of his entire career.
Not exactly the type of defensive play you want from your penalty killing, depth forward, especially when he was a +2 with 32 points and 14 goals the season before.
So where does Reasoner stand now?
John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Reasoner are currently three centers that are signed to play up the middle next year. GM Garth Snow has been on record saying that Josh Bailey will start the year on wing since that is where he has produced at his highest level, so you can scratch him off the short list.
Brad Boyes can play center, but it is expected that he might get a chance on the top line with Tavares and Matt Moulson in the wake of P.A. Parenteau's departure. If not, he will probably play wing on the second line if Bailey or Kyle Okposo get a chance to be on the top unit.
Therefore it appears that Reasoner will still be with the team on the fourth line whether Islanders fans like it or not. But he shouldn't get too comfortable with his current position.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers forwards David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas can both play center. Ullstrom put up more points than Reasoner did in far fewer games and Cizikas played like a veteran and even contributed four assists in only 15 games played. And both of them had much better +/- ratings as well. (Screenshot via Statsgirl14/YouTube)
Ryan Strome might even see his chance to play with the Islanders this year, although that has yet to be determined. Strome is still young and doesn't need to be rushed to the NHL. The Isles currently have Nino Niederreiter playing catch up after spending most of the year on the fourth line. Although Niederreiter will likely start 2013 with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, I doubt that Garth Snow intends on rushing Strome into the number two or three center position.
Never the less, Cizikas and Ullstrom have displayed that they are both NHL ready hockey players and will certainly be salivating at the chance to prove that they are capable of handling that responsibility.
There is also still plenty of time to see if Garth Snow will add a number two center, whether it be via free agency or trade, to improve his hockey club's offense, which struggled horribly at the beginning of last season. That will only make the log jam up the middle even more of a battle between Reasoner, Cizikas and Ullstrom.
The youth movement has been all about rewarding the kids within the system. Don't be surprised if a guy like Reasoner starts to get less and less playing time as next season moves forward.
On a side note, I originally wanted to discuss how the NHL needs to do something in regards to all of these long-term contracts that go for 10-years and beyond. But Dee Karl of Hockeybuzz wrote an excellent piece that covered everything I could have and more. She makes a lot of valid arguments that the NHL should be considering while engaging in the current CBA discussions. It's a must read.