Last summer Islanders GM Garth Snow and coach Scott Gordon -- to much fan chagrin -- decided not to dress a dedicated enforcer this season. After a training camp battle between three true one-trick ponies, Mitch Fritz won the right to be shuttled up and down from Bridgeport, to be inserted into the lineup whenever a "tough" opponent (read: Philly) was on the schedule.
Fritz literally logged about two minutes most nights. It was silly, and you almost felt bad for him when he did see the ice, because he'd have to fight on completely cold legs. But then the Isles waived Fritz, and we haven't seen him since. Instead, fourth-line utility man Tim Jackman has embraced the de facto role of enforcer.
Now comes word that NHLPA head Paul Kelly is suspicious of these one-trick guys who -- enforcer poetry aside -- see zero quality ice time and don't often bring much beyond staged fights. It's an interesting thought: While some are against fighting entirely, a lot more are fine with fighting but wish the sideshow, staged battles were limited. Leave fighting only for the Clark Gillies-esque, enough-is-enough type of fights.
So, the Islanders still have fights, as we saw with Jackman v. Lecavalier the other night. Were Snow and Gordon ahead of the curve by de-emphasizing the need for a romantic goon?
Doing Alright with the 2009 1st-Round Pick, Too
Here's another contrast between Snow/Gordon ("Snordon?") and their peers: They've eased Josh Bailey into the lineup all season long, steadily increasing his ice time. Meanwhile, #1 pick Steve Stamkos has been tossed around and scratched amid the Melrose-turned-Tocchet Koules Chaos in Tampa Bay:
"I always thought the more you play, the more you learn," Stamkos said. "That's the philosophy I think works. But in different organizations, they think differently. Obviously, New York believes in that. [Bailey's] getting a chance, and he's playing well. It's good for him."
Now granted, Bailey's preseason injury was a blessing in disguise, allowing him to ease in. And Stamkos perhaps isn't the best arbiter for how he can become an NHL player.
But it bears considering that -- at this point, at least -- Snow and Gordon have the better-developed young center. And he's a happy center, to boot.