This is not going to be a typical blog by a fan that will rant about the Isles receiving a lack of justice in regards to the suspension laid upon Mike Mottau of the New Jersey Devils. As far as that subject goes I will say that it does seem a bit odd that Thomas Pock got five games for his hit the head of Ryan Shannon of the Ottawa Senators while Mottau only got two. Shannon was able to skate off the ice while Nielsen needed assistance from two of his teammates.
But like I said, this is not where I'm going tonight.
Going into the season many fans spoke out when they realized there was not one player on the roster that would drop the gloves on a consistent basis. Sutton, Witt, Guerin, and even Comrie have shown a willingness to throw their fists in the past, but let's get real here. Comrie is supposed to be a scorer for our club. Although he holds his ground he is not what you would call an intimidating player on the ice. Guerin is getting older, and although he has done a bang-up job (no pun intended) when grappling with an opposing player, he too is not what you would consider a threat. The same can be said for Witt as he's known for his grit in front of the net rather than his haymakers. Sutton is the only skater on this team with a permanent role that you can classify as intimidating, but he shares a common trait that the aforementioned skaters have as well - they don't fight on a consistent basis. Case in point - Sutton, although he had a late start due to injury has yet to drop the gloves once this season.
I do feel that Tim Jackman can play as a regular fourth line enforcer, but keeping in mind that he has seen a lot of up and down time between the NHL and AHL it's hard to say if he will get that opportunity this year. Fritz usually logs less than five minutes a game which pretty much erases him from the minds of the opposition.
With all do respect to Hunter, he did jump to Nielsen's defense immediately after the hit, but the Isles need someone like Eric Cairns from back in the day. He would drop his gloves game in and game out and was able to play about fifteen minutes a game as a defenseman. He may not have been the most skilled defenseman, but now-a-days enforcers aren't known for good hands when holding a stick. The point I'm trying to make is that he was able to maintain a roster spot while fulfilling his role on the ice.
We all hope that this is one of the last serious injuries this team will have to deal with, especially to a younger player that had been developing nicely over the last few games. I am always fearful that an injury to one of the young guys this early in their career will hamper their development. It's not always the case, and some may argue that it is usually not the case. Bottom line is that they are going to lose playing time and will have to work to get back to where they were before the injury, and then continue their progress after reaching that point.
Teams took advantage of us a lot last year since the roster did not have a real enforcer then either. A hit like this is a pure example of it. It causes guys like Trent Hunter to uncharacteristically fight since there aren't many other options. I can't remember who the Isles were playing last year but I remember seeing Blake Comeau getting illegally checked from behind forcing Bryan Berard to get involved in some minor fisticuffs...yes, Bryan Berard.
Coaches, GM's, and other hockey experts can say that the enforcer role is on its way to extinction in the "New NHL," but I don't buy it and definitely won't accept it. Yes, the game has changed and some of the physical elements have declined, but a hit like that to the head of Nielsen is evidence that the enforcer is still needed. A last minute call-up like Fritz does not take care of this void in the roster. The Isles need someone to protect their players on a nightly basis, especially with many of them being the future of our franchise.
Maybe this will cause Gordon and Snow to come to a realization that something needs to be done.
Stay tuned this week as I will give my analysis of the Islanders performance thus far as they come to the end of the first quarter of the season.