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Grading the Islanders: Trevor Gillies, enforcer out of nowhere

"Your nose will look nice on my mantle, next to Matt Carkner's ear."
"Your nose will look nice on my mantle, next to Matt Carkner's ear."

[Note: If you missed 'em, you can still weigh in on recent 2009-10 report cards for: Bruno Gervais, Blake Comeau, Martin Biron, Sean Bergenheim, and Josh Bailey at those handy links.]

Trevor GIllies played his 2nd NHL game on his 31st birthday, four seasons after playing his first. Think about that for a moment, and imagine that was how you "arrived" in the league after spending your life -- from childhood to decade four -- trying to be an NHLer. ... Would tend to motivate a man, no?

My view of the use of single-purpose enforcers in today's NHL is one of deep skepticism, to say the least. Doesn't mean I don't see a role for fighting, but it does mean I need a lot of convincing to believe any old four-minute guy can "toughen" your team by playing five shifts a game and fighting the other team's four-minute guy while the rest of the guys watch and extrapolate some feeling of security from hockey's fan-pleasing ritual dance.

However, if my team's going to have one, I prefer he bring the kind of career motivation Gillies takes into every shift, rather than the kind of "I've made it and I'm satiated" demeanor that characterizes many big-name enforcers who hit the UFA market and pull down $1 million per year. Last summer, I opposed bidding for Donald Brashear (done), Andrew Peters (just no...please) or Colton Orr (4 years and $4 million for bad hockey and poor decision-making? Pass.)

But if you have a cheap guy who is capable of fighting, visibly fires up his teammates, doesn't take stupid penalties and doesn't sulk about the limited ice time? I'll consider it. Like I said, there is a role for this stuff, however limited -- and rushing the green and overmatched (but also inexpensive) Joel Rechlicz into that role didn't cut it. Gillies took some bad penalties early on after his callup, but on balance he may have shown he's the right mix of low-cost, high-intensity enforcery that really can give the team a jump -- and retain the coach's trust. We'll see.

They signed him to a two-way deal, and at age 31 with almost 570 pro games under his belt, he juuust might possess both the experience and still-remaining motivated fuel to do the job so many Islanders fans have pined for since Garth Snow and Scott Gordon elected to forgo a full-time enforcer: Scare the opposition's idiots, make opponents think twice, fight with fire, bring the crazy but don't -- and this is important -- don't be a sideshow.

Trevor Gillies

#14 / Left Wing / New York Islanders



Jan 30, 1979


1 year, 2-way, $500k NHL salary

"We have another Gillies?! Oh wait...Bridgeport does."

GP G A P +/- PIM TOI Fight Card:
W L Draw Minors Taken/Drawn
2009-10 - Trevor Gillies 14 0 1 1 -2 75 3:49 5 4 0 1 9:2

The Poem

With a name like GILLIES on your back
You know Isles fans will cut you slack
But with hands like WEBB in your game
It's gonna take some blood to win you Stevie's fame

So play with a little common sense
Keep your time in the box to five-and-tens
Bring the crazy, make Flyers crap their pants
And we'll keep bringing you to every dance

The Grade

It's a little challenging to grade Gillies by our normal curved criteria -- based on your preseason expectations -- since there were no preseason expectations. He wasn't even on an NHL deal until the sudden Philly-motivated call-up in January.

That said, he came up, he played the enforcer, he fought -- and fought well -- he scared the bejesus out of anyone he looked at with that intense game face, and his bad penalties were (I think) reined in. So give him a grade, won't you? He's likely your 2010-11 first-call enforcer.