You had to know I wasn't going to let Big Picture off-ice topics control the entire week at LHH, right? Big issues aside (and do keep those debates on the "areener" proposal going), we're still in this thing for the fun of hockey.
I like Micheal Haley's name because it confuses even major hockey sites, some of which still list him as "Michael" -- no doubt thinking, "Surely there's some mistake." With a "k" but no "c" in my
screen name, I can relate.
I like Micheal Haley's game because he has done everything a player of his profile must do to make the NHL: Undrafted, undersized and even unheralded in his junior days, the surprisingly speedy Haley has grabbed every role tossed at him including, of course, fighting.
What irate Pens fans and dismissive national pundits don't know about Haley is that when he was called up by the Islanders before the Friday Fight Fest, he was leading AHL Bridgeport in goals with 12. Let me repeat that in the odd chance it actually gets through: The Islanders recalled their affiliate's leading goal scorer.
The ignorant media narrative was, "Oh they called up a bunch of AHL goons for this game." In reality, the chief enforcers and suspended fellows in that game were already with the Isles and had been all season, while due to injuries they added the leading goal scorer of their AHL team. No, he'll never be known for his scoring, but the injury situation was such that he was next up and an appropriate fit for a fourth-line role. And fit he did.
As luck would have it, Haley not only gave Maxim Talbot a good working over -- oh, and by the way, it was Talbot who grabbed Haley out of the pile in that fateful scrum, not the other way around -- he also scored a streaking highlight goal after zipping around the Penguins defense. (I'd bet good money Talbot, who is above scuffles except when it suits him, thought he was grabbing a manageable 5'10" guy in Haley, rather than the fireball he encountered.)
Not a bad day's work for "some AHL goon." Mario weeps.
We'll do the usual report card polling drill here, although I'm curious what expectations any of us had for Haley entering the season. The question before us is where does he fit going forward. According to CapGeek -- whose pop-up ads have gotten so bad I can't in good conscience link to them -- Haley's contract is expiring, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Haley was part of the Islanders' spiritual revival in the second half of the season, but should he be part of even the immediate future?
|2010-11 - Islanders||27||2||1||3||-4||85||0||0||13th of 14
|2010-11 - AHL Bridgeport
With just 27 games and an average of 8 minutes of ice time per game, there's not much numbers-wise to go on with Haley. He was used in a fourth line role, so his ice time, quality of linemates and Corsi/puck possession figures all reflect that, which was usually a line of limited skills with trouble getting the puck out.
Linemates (via Dobber Hockey):
|33.76%||EV||59 HALEY,MICHEAL - 28 KONOPKA,ZENON - 17 MARTIN,MATT|
|16.68%||EV||81 DIBENEDETTO,JUSTIN - 59 HALEY,MICHEAL - 28 KONOPKA,ZENON|
|9.07%||EV||14 GILLIES,TREVOR - 59 HALEY,MICHEAL - 28 KONOPKA,ZENON|
That said, maybe Haley's profile helps the "energy/protector" if used with more able linemates. What he has in his favor are good wheels and a feisty, this-shift-could-be-my-last disposition. But he wasn't used on the PK nor in defensive zone situations like Zenon Konopka (Haley's OZone start % was 45.8%, in the upper middle tier for Isles forwards) and there's no indication whether he could be helpful in either role at the NHL level.
On that note, though signed as a center he was used as a wing with the Isles, so there are no hints that he could play a Zenon-like role. Haley took only 20 faceoffs, losing 13 of them.
So at present you have a grinding, somewhat speedy fourth-line winger who can win middleweight fights with the "Don't f#$% with me, I'm crazy" fire of a Highland Scot. Defaulting to his profile, there isn't much of a ceiling. But he's fought through doubters and diligently worked on his game his entire hockey career. At 24, could he still improve? Could he add another element to his game and make good like Konopka (who didn't find a niche in the NHL until age 29)?
If that happens, I don't expect it to be with the Isles, who have a nice pipeline of middle-line forward prospects on the horizon. But if Haley moves on, we'll always have the memories, like when Sean Avery also made Talbot's "oh I can handle this little guy" mistake:
E before A, is the Micheal way
Until you get to the "Haley"
Then it's reversed, these vowels dispersed
Close but not quite like in "Bailey"
If 59's skills were as great as his heart
He'd be in the lineup daily
But there's consolation in the recollection
Of the night he punked poor Sean Avery.
You know, the drill with these is to grade based on your preseason expectations. That way we don't just give fourth-liners 2's and 3's and top scorers 7's and 8's and then shout at the wind about how much stupid fans over/undervalue player X. That said, I've no idea what expectations you had for Haley before the season (me: Didn't expect to see him). And Internet democracies are
insane about as effective as real-world democracies, so feel free to ignore that criteria and tell us how smart you are.