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Islanders Re-sign Gillies: Gettin' the band back together?

"Trevor provides us with a physical presence and commitment and dedication that every team looks for," said Garth Snow, General Manager, New York Islanders. "We look forward to having his energy on and off the ice next year."

>>Team P.R.

On and off the ice. Interesting distinction. As in, "He will still be a scratch many nights, but have you seen Trevor's facial expressions? The man breathes fire from his mouth and shoots lightning bolts from his eyes."

Not related to Hall of Famer Jethro, but still: Gillies. It has a ring to it, so now don't they just have to bid on Eric Nystrom, even if he's saying the right things about staying in Calgary? (Note: That statement will not keep me from making small pleas for Nystrom The Younger like a fanboy all summer long. Sometimes you need pet topics.)

Anyway, after four-plus years since his first (and only) NHL game in 2005, Trevor Gillies' NHL career resumed in January as a spot-duty callup to face the Flyers at age 31. At some point down the stretch, with the Isles out of the playoff race and piling up injuries at forward, he transitioned to a regular enforcer rather than just the "for the Flyers" kind. Matt Carkner discovered that the hard way. How much this matters is up for debate.

As someone who doesn't believe in paying $1 million-plus for the leagues name-brand-but-washed-up enforcers -- you know, the ones who "paid their dues" and then try to translate that into resting on those dues -- this one-year extension (likely for around the league minimum) pacifies me.

Because Gillies will still get just his five minutes or so a night (when he's in the lineup), but unlike those veteran "name" enforcers he will at least know he still needs to earn it, and unlike the other bargains the Isles have tried in recent years (Joel Rechlicz, Mitch Fritz), Gillies is already experienced enough to handle the job and "fire up the boys."

(I don't mean to harp on the "star" enforcers of the league; they have an unimaginably tough job. But some of them earn their street cred as young guys, get their multi-million-dollar deals, and then forget about the only reason they're in the NHL. See, most enforcers become enforcers not for a love of the role, but because the other (frankly emotionally easier) roles in the league are beyond their skill set. It's either fight, or call it a career. So when an enforcer stops enforcing and starts thinking he's more important than he is, that just turns him into an overpaid bad hockey player.)

GP G A P +/- PIM Minors Min. Drawn On-ice GF:GA
2009-10 - Trevor Gillies 14 0 1 1 -2 75 10 3 2:4 3:49
6 0.0

The Enforcers' Lament

Which is to say enforcers aren't important to any single win, and they're often detrimental. That's why when we enter the must-win season known as playoffs, most of them sit.

But they can be helpful in aggregate, spread over the course of a season: as a constant presence, an energy guy and protector for spot games, a guy who keeps things alive during the doldrums of an 82-game season, a guy who's appreciative of every night he's in the lineup, a guy who can move up and down to the AHL and be a low waiver risk. Reports have hardly been thorough, and observation is limited, but it sounds like Gillies delivers that. He certainly wants to deliver that.

He's still going to get spot duty. He's still not going to be a factor on the stat sheet. He's still going to have to win a job in training camp. If he makes it and if Gordon deploys him right (a big IF -- in the final game in Pittsburgh, he was on for two first-period even-strength goals that Sidney Crosby either scored or assisted on), he doesn't have to be a 5-on-5 liability. Hopefully he avoids the bad penalties as much as his role allows. And hopefully he makes his teammates feel a little bolder.

I know he's going to excite a lot of fans and fire up some teammates. Despite my long-held reservations about how people hype the role, I know there's some value in that.