The New York Islanders - along with every other NHL team and many other businesses - have temporarily suspended operations due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and World Health Organizations have strongly advised the public to practice self-quarantining and avoid close contact and crowds to limit the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean we can’t gather in a virtual space and talk about old hockey players.
As long as the Islanders are on pause, we’ll run this series to give folks a place to chat, reminisce, and generally relieve the stress of the times.
Once upon a time, a Hobey Baker Award winner actually chose to sign with the Islanders, where he could start his NHL journey with a team always in desperate need of a talent infusion.
Jason Krog ended up up having an unusually vagabond pro hockey career, and like many before him, he came in with high expectations based on a stellar college career. Krog racked up 94 goals and 238 points over four years at the University of New Hampshire, including a 34-goal, 85-point senior season in which he led all NCAA players in scoring. He was named college hockey’s best player in 1999, beating out later NHLers like Mike York, Jason Blake and Brian Gionta, two of whom ended up playing for the Islanders (as did the third guy’s brother!).
At 5’-11”, Krog was an undersized center and by his own admission, “a late bloomer” which caused him to go undrafted. Armed with a pretty sizable two year, $4 million contract, Islanders GM Mike Milbury convinced Krog choose them over six other suitors. This was kind of a big-ish deal at the time and it seemed to be a good match between a guy with something to prove joining a team absolutely no one believed in.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it didn’t work out that way. Krog spent the next three seasons playing for four separate AHL teams, and getting only cups of coffee with the big club. The longest of those would be 17 games in 1999-00, where he scored two goals and four assists. His AHL numbers that season were better (44 points in 56 games), but there’s no doubt he and everyone else expected him to spend more time in the NHL.
Year two with the Islanders saw even better AHL totals (57 points in 50 games) but only nine NHL games. One of them was this one, where Krog found a little chemistry with linemates Juraj Kolnik and Brad Isbister.
When the Islanders got much better thanks to a Peca-Yashin-Osgood upgrade, the undeniably talented and progressing Krog got phased out. His 2001-02 season was spent almost totally in Bridgeport, except for two games on the Island. Krog had 26 goals and 62 points that season as the Sound Tigers marched all the way to the Calder Cup final. But that would be it for his time in the Islanders organization, the promise of his notable signing having never fully been fulfilled.
He signed as a free agent with the then-still-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002 and chipped in 10 goals and 25 points in 67 games as a bottom sixer, his first time getting regular playing time at the NHL level. The Mike Babcock-coached team went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Devils. Krog played in all 21 playoff games for the Ducks that spring, scoring three goals along the way. That run (which frankly seems insane in retrospect) would be his only experience in the NHL playoffs. He played a career high 80 games for Anaheim the next season, scoring six goals and 12 assists, but they missed the playoffs.
The lockout sent him to Europe, where he played in both Switzerland and Austria for two seasons. Krog made a somewhat surprising return to North America in 2006, signing with the Atlanta Thrashers. After 14 games for them, he was claimed by the Rangers off waivers, played nine games for them, then was re-claimed a month later by the Thrashers. He spent the majority of that season and the entirety of next with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, the team with which he would have his most successes.
Krog’s 2007-08 season was his best as a professional. His 39-goal, 112-point season for the Wolves at age 32 won him just about everything a player can win in the AHL, including MVP and playoff MVP. It also won him his last NHL contract, one with Vancouver, where he played just four games in 2008-09. That season was spent mostly with the Manitoba Moose, where he was once again outstanding with 30 goals and 86 points.
After two more great seasons back with the Wolves, he went back across the pond, playing with HV-71 in Sweden, Zagreb in the KHL and teams in Austria, France and Norway. He finally retired after the 2016-17 season, a helluva long time from 1999.
Jason Krog is an agent now, specializing in helping players get better deals in Europe. While it may not have turned out the way he or Islanders Country expected it to, he had a long career in pro hockey that included some incredible seasons and some dire, difficult ones. Now he can use all of that experience to help other players find their success, even if they’re “late bloomers.”