11:55 am, NVMC: Jeff Tambellini returns to the Islanders’ lineup tonight after watching the last two games from the press box. (Who sits is unclear at this time. Maybe Mitch Fritz, maybe more of an eye-opener).
Tambellini, a dominant goal-scorer in the American League, has just one assist in 8 games this season. There was hope this year would be different for Tambellini, who for the past two seasons averaged well over a goal every other game in Bridgeport but had just 3 in 54 games with the Islanders. Despite his pairing with Sound Tigers linemate and bff Frans Nielsen, the 5-11 left wing has not contributed much offense.
It’s getting late a bit early for the determined and likeable Tambellini, who was scratched the last two games when Scott Gordon opted to add an enforcer to the lineup. He does not always have to score, but to stick around he’s going to have to always do everything else.
I asked Gordon after today’s morning skate if he ever had a player in Providence like Tambellini, someone who lit it up in the A but failed to find his touch in the majors. Gordon told the story of Andy Hilbert, who scored 37 goals for him but had trouble breaking into the Boston Bruins lineup.
Mike Sullivan, then the Boston coach, had a crossroads conversation with Hilbert: if Andy wasn’t going to be a scorer in the NHL, what else was he prepared to do? “Andy committed himself to the defensive game,” said Gordon, “and he’s even more valuable to us now.”
As for Tambellini, Gordon asks, “What do you want to be – a half-million dollar all-around player in the NHL, or maybe a hundred thousand dollar scorer in the American League”?
Two-year, one-way contract or not, whether Jeff Tambellini is going to be that all-around player for the New York Islanders, we’ll probably find out over the next couple of weeks.