Many of you probably looked at the headline and said, "Uh, who?" But many Islander fans know plenty about Michael Haley and are very excited to see him dress in an Islanders uniform for the first time when they face-off against the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Prudential Center.
Haley is a pugilist at 5'11 and 198 pounds that loves to drop the gloves, sticks up for his teammates and leaves everything he has on the ice after every shift. He's a gritty 24 year old that has managed to put up 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 65 games played in his third season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has also racked up 196 penalty minutes.
Fans have been dying for the Islanders to get tougher all season long, and believe it or not, the team has performed better with drove-glopping players in the line-up.
Since Trevor Gillies has been with the Islanders, they have gone 6-2-1, possibly cheating themselves out of a top-5 draft pick. However, it goes to show that when a policeman is on the ice, other teams are not so quick to take liberties with the younger players.
Personally, I am surprised that it took General Manager Garth Snow this long to wake up and smell the coffee. He used to be a tough guy himself and had plenty of defenders in front of him, such as Eric Cairns, Steve Webb, Dave Scatchard, Arron Asham and Eric Godard that were always willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone. But the team has pretty much lacked an intimidating physical presence for the past two years.
Matt Martin is someone that fits the rebuild motion that can serve that role for the Islanders for many years to come. After a few showcasing games this year with the big club, Martin may have earned himself a look on the team at the start of next year. It remains to be seen if Gillies will be offered a contract beyond the end of the 2009-2010 year as he is an impending unrestricted free agent.
Haley has been waiting for his chance to make it to the NHL. He finally has it tonight. My guess is that Mike Mottau may hear a few choice words from Gillies or Haley for the hit he threw on Frans Nielsen last year. Players don't forget these things, even if they weren't involved with the team at the time. Gillies recently told Chris Botta at www.islanderspointblank.com
that he fought Matt Carkner of the Ottawa Senators for Tim Jackman, who is wearing a face-mask after his orbital bone was broken on New Year's Eve due to Carkner throwing a few punches too early. Gillies was only a roster player for the Sound Tigers at the time and was only offered an NHL contract about two months ago.
We will all know for sure tonight some time after 7PM.
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