Fans like to dream of the glory, the excitement, the wins that “can’t-miss” prospects or potential superstars might bring to the team they ardently root for. When John Tavares was selected first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Islander fans were hoping that he could help propel the club from Atlantic Division bottom-feeders to perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
Similarly, optimism now runs high because of the steady stream of young talent the Islanders have recently conglomerated through high draft picks and astute late-round selections. Many consider this talent as “elite,” and the system having great upside and incredible depth. Thus, current players such as Ty Wishart and Travis Hamonic, skating prospects Ryan Strome, Kirill Kabanov, Nino Niederreiter, and Calvin de Haan, and goalie prospects Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen have many Islander fans agog.
Yet through the fog of this excitement, it is oftentimes difficult to see the importance of a steady, unheralded veteran who helps tap a young team’s potential. A veteran player who quietly battles in the trenches on the third or fourth line, and leaves the accolades to others. A veteran whose best attribute may be as a calming influence to a young, inexperienced team.
Fortunately, Islanders general manager Garth Snow saw through the fog. And contrary to what many would consider a dull off-season move, he secured the services of unrestricted free-agent Marty Reasoner for two years at a total of 2.7 million dollars.
The 34 year-old center joined the Islanders on July 1 after registering 14 goals (a career high) and 18 assists in 82 games last season with the Florida Panthers. Prior to his time with Florida, he spent the previous two seasons (2008-10) with the Atlanta Thrashers posting 18 goals and 47 points in 159 games.
Reasoner began his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues in 1998. He was then traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2001, the club with whom he has had his most tenure. As a free-agent in 2004-05, he opted to play overseas for EC Red Bull Salzburg-Austria. Reasoner then rejoined the Oilers in 2005-06, but was traded to the Boston Bruins at the end of the season. Again, he rejoined the Oilers for the 2006-07 season.
Reasoner has been quite durable during his long NHL career. He has played in at least 72 games per year since 2005. In 2003-04, he was limited to 17 games after suffering separate ankle and knee injuries, his only extended stints on injured reserve. Since then he has remained relatively healthy.
Reasoner is an intelligent player who is effective checking opposing centers. He has good hockey sense and above average passing ability. Drafted by the Blues for his offensive skills, he has unfortunately been unable to produce them at the NHL level.
Reasoner has, however, turned into a fine defensive center and a good penalty killer. He is especially adept in the face-off circle, consistently ranking in the league’s top 25 for face-off percentage. Last year, he ranked 21st (54.5 percent). It is for these reasons that the Islander brass allowed fan-favorite Zenon Konopka to leave via free-agency, although he too is among the best face-off men in the game and is notorious for his time spent in the penalty box (a league-leading 307 PIM’s last season). At the time of Reasoner’s signing, Snow said, ” The addition of Marty solidifies our center position.”
Reasoner sees the Islanders as a tough, upcoming team. ” We played them in Florida twice during the second half and they had their way with us. They were a tough team to match up against. They are building in the right direction. Hopefully that can translate into a really good start this October so that we’ll have a great year,” he said.
Reasoner will do whatever it takes to help the club. “I’m going to come in and work hard on face-offs, be there on the penalty kill, and be solid two-ways, trying to chip in offensively, but really be good defensively. Really for me, it’s just trying to help out in any way that I can,” he stated.
The New York native finally takes his trade back home to Long Islandn where he should provide the steady, veteran presence that will hopefully unleash this young Islander team’s immense talent.
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