9:15 am: He was a Sound Tigers roster player, not property of the New York Islanders, on New Year’s Eve when Matt Carkner seriously injured Tim Jackman with a series of premature punches in a game in Ottawa, but Trevor Gillies knew the score.
“Just because I wasn’t signed by the Islanders at the time doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on with other guys in the organization,” said Gillies. “I keep an eye on everything. I love the game, and it’s my job.”
When the 31-year-old didn’t have Sound Tigers games on his schedule, he tried to never miss an Islanders game on the Centre Ice package.
“I have a stepson named Phoenix…he knows even more about the NHL than I do,” said Gillies. “Phoenix is nine years old, but he’s been a big part of my life since he was a year and a half. From watching the games on TV or playing the video games, he knows every player and their strengths and weaknesses. We watch the games together. I saw the tape of what happened with Jacks.”
However, when the Ottawa heavyweight asked Gillies to drop the gloves in the third period on Saturday, the 6-3, 210-pound Islanders left wing pondered the invitation for a few seconds. “We were up 3-0,” said Gillies. “By then, I thought it was a little late to be settling scores and you never want to risk giving the other team some momentum. Then I thought about Tim Jackman, decided the lead was big enough and figured, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Carkner and Gillies both connected on a few punches, but only Carkner was bleeding when it was over.
Said Gillies: “After the fight I said to Jacks, ‘That was for you, buddy.’”
From his decade in the pros at every level, Gillies knows all about the irony of having former foes as teammates.
“The funny thing with Tim Jackman is, I absolutely hated that guy when we played against him in the minors,” said Gillies. “Hated him. But from the moment I was called up to the Islanders, Jacks made me feel comfortable and has given me advice. He’s my teammate. He’s become a good friend.”
Saturday’s win over Ottawa was special to Gillies for another reason.
“My mom and dad came down from Cambridge, Ontario for the weekend,” he said with a big smile. “First time they’ve had the chance to see me play in the National Hockey League. That was special. This whole stretch has been special and I cannot thank Garth Snow, Scott Gordon and everyone enough for giving me the chance.”
The Islanders are 6-2-1 in their last nine games with No. 14 in the lineup. Over his eleven games this season, Gillies has one assist and 45 penalty minutes and – despite two unnecessary roughing penalties he’d probably like to take back - has kept his plus-minus at even. In the victory last night over Montreal, he kept the puck moving to linemates Jackman and Richard Park and put a big hit early on Sergei Kostitsyn – all in his allotted 3:19 of icetime.
End-of-season coincidence or not, the Islanders have looked like a tougher, more confident team with Gillies as cop, jury and executioner. “I find the more I get in the other team’s face and talk it up on the bench,” he said, “the more the rest of our team gets involved in the game.”
That was most noticeable on Saturday afternoon, when every player with the Senators knew his name by the end of the game. Later that night on “Hockey Night Live,” Ken Daneyko – in this blogger’s opinion, one of the best warriors and winners of the last twenty years – paid the ultimate compliment to Gillies. “Gillies has made a big difference in their lineup,” said Daneyko, the former Devils defenseman and sometimes pugilist. “The Islanders should look at bringing him back. They haven’t had that kind of presence in a while. They could use Trevor Gillies.”
The killer from Cambridge was humbled by the praise and the man delivering it. “Wow,” said Gillies. “That’s awesome to hear. Scott Stevens was one of my favorite players and I loved watching him and Ken Daneyko. Stuff like that makes you feel good, especially coming from a man who knows what it takes to win.
“I hope I’ve given the Islanders something to think about,” continued Gillies, who is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. “Either way, I’m very appreciative of the opportunity. If Garth and Scott decide it’s for the best of the franchise that I come back in my role, I would be proud to wear the Islanders crest.”
This is a one-post-per reader Comments thread and we’re done with the lottery stuff. Hope you enjoy this story. Your comments on Trevor Gillies and this post are encouraged. Thank you…CB