Noon: Trevor Gillies received a one-year, two-way contract from the Islanders at the end of last season and nothing else. No promises, not a handshake or even a whisper, that he’ll be in the NHL full-time as the enforcer-on-call for 2010-11. Gillies got a commitment for one salary scale when he plays with the big club ($500,000), and another, much lower one should he play for the Islanders’ top minor league affiliate in Bridgeport.
The 30-year-old frequent fighter has no complaints, only appreciation.
“There was no talk about what my role would be if I signed,” said Gillies, who inked the deal on April 15. “There wasn’t any need for it. I know my role here. The Islanders were amazing to me last season and continue to be. I want to be with the big club the entire season – whether I get in 20, 50, 70 games. Being a leader, playing hard, setting an example for the young guys and standing up for my teammates is how I get to thank the Islanders for showing confidence in me.”
Gillies is aware of the kind words thrown his way in the press over the last week about his work with some of the young players prior to the rookie games in Boston. The Islanders’ traffic cop wanted it known that the relationship is a two-way street.
“Of all the young players I’ve gotten to know in ten years as a pro, Matt Martin might be my all-time favorite rookie,” said Gillies. “Last season, he taught me as much as I taught him. Matt’s really good at tipping pucks when he’s standing in front of the goalie. I always struggled with that. Matt showed me a few things that really helped me. I’m better at it now.”
Gillies was thrilled that Garth Snow is building a tougher team by signing scrapper Zenon Konopka and giving Martin a chance to make the Islanders. In a conversation with Point Blank, Gillies mapped out each tough guy’s assignment should the trio play in the same game.
“Konopka is fearless. He led the league in fights last season and will go with anyone,” said Gillies, who had 75 penalty minutes in 13 games with the Islanders last season. “He can handle the lightweights and the middleweights. Matty’s on his way to being a great fighter, but he’s more of a middleweight guy, too. I’ll take on the heavyweights…”
I interrupted Gillies, saying I thought Martin could hold his own not just with middleweights, but with cruiserweights and light-heavyweights.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” said Gillies. “Both Z and Matty can battle with anyone. Let’s put it this way: if we’re all in a game together and the other team is stirring it up, it doesn’t matter who takes who. We’ll get together on the bench and do ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors.’”
Notes: Butch Goring and the gang from MSG Network’s “Hockey Night Live” last night placed the Islanders with the Panthers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes in a group called “longshots” (for the playoffs). They also predicted the Islanders would finish 13th in the Eastern Conference this season.
Andy Hilbert (groin strain) sat out his group’s session today. He’s day-to-day.
Prospect to watch: Kevin Poulin. Through five days of rookie camp and two of main camp, there has been a quiet buzz about the young goaltender. It’s like everyone is afraid of getting too excited too early. (As a blog, of course, we don’t worry about that stuff).
Goring shared a telling anecdote about the difference between training camps today and in his generation, when players used the workouts to get into shape. “We’re about a week into camp,” said Butch. “I’m breaking in new equipment, taking it slowly, rounding into shape. I’m on the ice before practice, warming up. Al Arbour skates over to me and says, ‘Hey Butchie, would you mind breaking a sweat today.’ I laughed. I said, ‘Al, when does the real season start? Three weeks, right? I promise you, I’ll be ready then.’”
Comments on this post are invited. We’ll be here all week.