The New York Islanders' decision to assign Ryan Strome back to AHL Bridgeport created a stir when word first got out via Newsday's Arthur Staple this morning.
Though a general explanation later came out from Staple and Isles GM Garth Snow about the very specific rules that allow a player such as Strome to play in the AHL while the NHL is off for the Olympic break in February, the next logical question is why the Islanders view that time in Bridgeport -- where Strome is the top center when there -- as more important than the next several games in the NHL, where he serves as the Islanders' third-line center.
In a word, they are taking the long view with Strome the player, though arguably not with the Islanders 2013-14 season. Jack Capuano addressed it from his point of view, posted on the Islanders' road trip blog:
"The first thing he probably realizes, and we talked about it, is that he wanted to create more from an offensive standpoint. The defensemen are bigger and stronger [in the NHL], the forwards track a lot harder and you don't have that time and space, but the fact that he recognizes those things shows his attention to detail and the willingness to get better. That's what I really like about Ryan and he knows he has to get stronger to play better down low and away from the puck. It's not a demotion, it's a process and it's good for his development to continue to play as we move forward."
In 15 NHL games thus far, Strome has one goal and three assists, with 33 shots, an average of 17 shifts per game and 13:30 of ice time, including 1:42 of power play time.
"We put him in a top-nine role. We put him on the power play a little bit. It's not like we didn't give him some offensive opportunities. He got some minutes. Late in tight games, I cut his minutes a little bit and put Casey on that line because of the inexperience and the strength and [Strome] was great. He watched the video and asked a lot of questions.
"I think he has a bright future. He's an offensively-gifted player, and to hear him say he wanted to create more; he understands how he has to create more. That's being heavier on sticks, getting into those battle levels and defending a little harder because as a centerman, good defense is going to lead to offense. I think his opportunity, as we move forward, he'll have a bigger role on our hockey club."
Digging into the NHL's AHL-assignment-during-Olympics rules, Michael Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post notes that Strome could miss the next five Isles games and conceivably be recalled to face the Blues on Jan. 25, then be eligible to play for Bridgeport's six games during the break.
We'll see how they proceed with the exact logistics, but there you have the full rationale from the Islanders' point of view of how they can have their Strome developmental cake and eat it too.
Meanwhile, some are inferring that the Kings are doing the same thing with Tyler Toffoli and his recent demotion to AHL Manchester. The Kings, however, say that's not the case and insist the 21-year-old's demotion is more performance-based -- though honestly, you can see from coach Darryl Sutter's comments that it equates to developmental reasons too:
"He hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games," Darryl Sutter said. "It’s like I told some guys on the ice today. Tyler got to go down to work on his game. Some guys get to go to the press box. Some guys get to go to the end of the bench. I said there’s not much you can do about it. Based on performance. Hey, Pearson, we’ve sent Lindy down. Every team does it. It’s not a big deal."
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