*I know many of us were spooked by the injury curse that followed our previous community projections (okay, it was only 2 of 4 we cursed...knocks on rabbit's foot salt shaker). But P.A. Parenteau is a topic that bears preseason discussion.
One of the drawbacks from the aborted China Plan making a silly NHL preseason even sillier is this: Fans have all of two games of barely seen data on Parenteau. Not that any "normal" preseason gives you much meaning, but in the Islanders' preseason-lite Parenteau's stat line after skating with John Tavares and Blake Comeau looks like this:
2GP, 0G, 0A, -1, 1 shot
For context, Tavares's line is all of one assist and two shots larger.
But with a pair of devastating injuries plus secondary scorer Rob Schremp hitting IR (and denting the forward depth) for the season's first 3-4 weeks, suddenly it's really important for "This Year's Matt Moulson?" to really be this year's Matt Moulson.
In light of the injuries, the Sports Network's Atlantic preview already has the Isles flirting with last overall, while Pierre LeBrun's initial ranking puts the Isles at 27th overall. Most of us view with suspicion any general reporters' analysis of the beloved team we follow every day, but there is good reason for those projections. Two major injuries + uncertain depth/youth will do that. (I notice our "confidence poll" on the left margin took its first major dive of the summer once those injuries piled up.)
Which is why it would make a critical difference if one uncertainty, Parenteau, worked out. So, think he'll do it?
Different Bodies, Different Skills
Matt Moulson was a consistent 20-plus goal scorer in the AHL, possessing a nice shot from distance as well as good in hands in tight. But a major asset he brought to the Islanders was the proverbial "nose" around the net and a willingness to go there. In other words, he has some size and he's willing to use it to get the dirty goals. Thirty of them, in fact. Before his big break with the Isles, he was a little under a point per game in the AHL the three seasons and showed respectable scoring touch in limited NHL chances with the Kings.
Parenteau is no shrimp -- listed at 6'0", 198 -- but his strengths are more perimeter-oriented: He has those sneaky hands, good passing vision, and strong finishing that has famously made him lethal in the shootout. He's been better than a point-per-game player in the AHL the last four seasons. His 3-5-8 line in 22 games with the Rangers wasn't shabby given his limited minutes.
Moulson's strengths fit on John Tavares's line -- and every other line -- right away. Tavares could be the playmaker, Kyle Okposo could be the engine, and Moulson could be the ruckus-maker and deflection man in front of the net. But Moulson's two-way play kept his conscience clean no matter his linemates. (BenHasna showed earlier this year how Moulson was often better for Tavares than Tavares was for Moulson.)
Can Parenteau prove to be as effective with Tavares as Moulson was? If preseason is the guide, it's a different line construction: Comeau becomes both the banging winger and net-crasher, while Tavares and Parenteau make two puckhandlers on one line. Parenteau + Tavares is a setup that should help the powerplay, but I do have some reservations about the combo at 5-on-5. If Tavares's weakest attribute is his footspeed, putting Parenteau with him hardly helps cover for that.
But again, preseason was brief -- Parenteau may not be destined for Tavares's line, and Scott Gordon may just be trying him there to probe his "ceiling" in the best offensive conditions.
We all probably agree the whole "Next Matt Moulson?" hope is a little overplayed. The lament goes: "The Islanders think a career minor leaguer rejected by two NHL teams can suddenly be a regular. That just doesn't happen."
But of course, it happened last year. Sometimes players really do just need opportunity with an organization that can afford to provide it. The Islanders can clearly afford it; problem is, with Okposo and now Schremp out, they need it. Can Parenteau deliver? A career and a season may depend on it.