|That's Cal in the background, shadowing Tavares.|
The Islanders seem to be set in terms of adding players, but line-pairings are not set in stone. With new additions made to this team, a full training camp will be needed to ultimately decide how the Isles will look on October 4th, when the 2013-14 season begins. Sure, the Islanders' lines may be similar to what we saw last year, but then again, with a new array of players set to join the line-up, the Islanders' lines may look very different by first puck drop.
One of those new additions is Cal Clutterbuck, who was acquired for disgruntled ex-Sound Tiger Nino Niederreiter. Many of us looked at the deal as receiving a bottom-six winger for a potential 30-goal scorer, which looks bad when the deal is billed that way, but what if I were to tell you that the Islanders may have received something more? What if the Islanders had a vision of Cal Clutterbuck playing on the first-line alongside John Tavares next season?
In the summer of 2009, the New York Islanders added Matt Moulson. Nobody had heard of him. The only connection that any of us could find between Matt Moulson and the Islanders was because he was a childhood friend of John Tavares. Little did we know, Matt Moulson would start the 2009-10 season on the Islanders' first line, demonstrate enormous chemistry with Tavares, and go on to become a 3x 30-goal scorer.
Fast forward to 2013, and the Islanders now have Cal Clutterbuck. Of course, Clutterbuck already made a name for himself with his "wrecking ball" style of play in Minnesota. The ex-Wild has been one of the NHL's top-hitters since the "hits" statistic was introduced, leading the NHL in the category from the 2008-09 season to the 2010-11 season.
However, like Moulson, Clutterbuck also has a connection to John Tavares, and it's a more "career-relevant" connection than Moulson and Tavares' personal one.
While John Tavares was breaking Wayne Gretzky's junior hockey record for most goals by a 16-year-old, Cal Clutterbuck flanked the Islanders' star. Despite logging 153 penalty minutes in 2006-06, Clutterbuck scored 35 goals and 89 points. During his one other season with Tavares (2005-06), Clutterbuck scored 35 goals and 68 points.
Cal was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Minnesota, and went on to score 62 goals and 110 points in 346 games, which included stints on the first-line alongside Mikko Koivu. Of course, Koivu is no Tavares.
So, what if the Islanders saw a spark during training camp between Cal Clutterbuck and the centre that elevated his game to the max in the OHL? Isn't there a possibility that Clutterbuck, who scored 19 goals in 2010-11, could find a way to improve that total while opening up the ice for John Tavares and Matt Moulson, who have already displayed a strong chemistry together?
Perhaps it's not the way we should be thinking, but I haven't seen any player perform worse alongside John Tavares. Seven years later, and with a void to fill next to JT, I could see a scenario where Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares pick right back up from where they left off in the OHL.
What do you think, Isles' fans? Clutterbuck on the first line?
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!