On Veteran Tryouts: The Jay Pandolfo File

One of the "why not?" reasons you extend a training camp invite to a veteran who played zero NHL hockey games last season is the remote chance you catch lightning in a bottle -- a Diet Moulson, if you will. But the more likely reason is to reinforce to your young team just how precious it is to have a job in the NHL.

Odds are Jay Pandolfo does not make the Islanders opening night roster with his training camp invite. But odds are he's going to bust every last fiber left of his tail to beat those odds.

Having tasted the good life, and spent a year without it after shoulder surgery, he knows what's at stake. He knows how to master "the little things" that coaches desire with regularity. In pursuing those, he should be an example for, possibly an inspiration to, the young Islanders upon whom the future of the franchise rests.

Former Islander Dave Scatchard wasn't a training camp invite in St. Louis last year -- he had a two-way contract. But with new Blues GM Doug Armstrong seeking to set a new tone for his young precocious lineup, Scatchard was the Pandolfo Armstrong needed.

Scatchard didn't make the lineup and toiled mostly in AHL Peoria. He did get some NHL time with the Blues later in the season -- eight games in December after the Blues became the only team that could say they knew what the injury-ravaged Islanders were going through. Those ended up being the last games of Scatchard's NHL career.

1996-1997 Devils 46 6 8 14 -1 6 0 0 1 61 9.8
1996-1997 Albany River Rats-AHL 12 3 9 12

1997-1998 Devils 23 1 3 4 -4 4 0 0 0 23 4.3
1997-1998 Albany River Rats-AHL 51 18 19 37 9 24 3 4 2 154 11.7
1998-1999 Devils 70 14 13 27 3 10 1 1 4 100 14.0
1998-1999 United States-WC-A 2 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 1
1999-2000 Devils 71 7 8 15 0 4 0 0 0 86 8.1
2000-2001 Devils 63 4 12 16 3 16 0 0 0 57 7.0
2001-2002 Devils 65 4 10 14 12 15 0 1 0 72 5.6
2002-2003 Devils 68 6 11 17 12 23 0 1 4 92 6.5
2003-2004 Devils 82 13 13 26 5 14 1 2 4 140 9.3
2004-2005 EC Red Bull Salzburg-Austria 19 5 7 12

2005-2006 Devils 82 10 10 20 2 16 0 0 0 116 8.6
2006-2007 Devils 82 13 14 27 -5 8 0 1 1 109 11.9
2007-2008 Devils 54 12 12 24 10 22 0 0 1 78 15.4
2008-2009 Devils 61 5 5 10 -12 10 0 1 1 63 7.9
2009-2010 Devils 52 4 5 9 -10 6 0 0 3 71 5.6
2010-2011 Springfield Falcons-AHL 12 2 4 6 -2 4 1 0 0 19 10.5

Pandolfo has been working out in Boston, which is why there were hints he might be doing a training camp invite with the Bruins. Last week he told the Boston Globe:

"Going to give it one more chance. Once you stop for good, you’re obviously done. I’ll try and give it one more try here. If it works out, great. If not, that’s it.’’

Pandolfo was the kind of speedy, smart forward that the New Jersey Devils used to churn out from some assembly line at Lou Lamoriello's cottage. Not exactly household names, but names you knew from their Cup years, all those Maddens and Pandolfos are on their last legs now.

Pandolfo's fade was accelerated, as so many are in their mid-30s, by injury. A surgery-necessitating shoulder injury at the end of 2009-10 helped feed the Devils' decision to buy him out under the Great Ilya Cap Crisis of 2010. At the time Pandolfo reportedly requested the waiver/buyout, with one version of events indicating he was told via text that he wouldn't dress for a playoff game he'd been verbally told to be ready for.

A 12-game tryout contract with AHL Springfield was his only pro hockey in 2010-11. When you're already a grinding forward, losing a step can be the step that's the difference between the NHL and retirement.

If he impresses, it's not yet clear whether the Isles are interested in, or whether Pandolfo is open to, the Scatchard-type two-way deal. Teams whose AHL affiliates are so close to the parent at least make that more attractive for a veteran in his Sim years. That's probably the best Pandolfo, who's never scored more than 14 goals nor reached 30 points in an NHL season, can hope for.

But whether the BU grad has anything left at age 36 is for training camp and that rehabbed shoulder to decide. With his roles and talent in his long Devils career, counting stats were secondary, so any goals or lack thereof won't be the measure for this preseason.

For the Islanders, whether they have another veteran 4th-line forward in the mix on opening night isn't really a big deal. But having another guy around to help their young players understand how precious and short an NHL career is? Someone who can demonstrate the pro habits the way old Oilers Rangers once did for a rookie Doug Weight, in a process repeated on countless teams throughout the years? That's probably worth a training camp invite.

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