Friday begins with Pt II of our forward preview which includes Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter and Jon Sim.
1. Mike Sillinger:
Mike Sillinger entered 2007-08 as a player coming off an excellent January in 2006-07where he was the go-to center come playoff time with Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake/Trent Hunter after a line of Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter not only was an excellent shut down line but carried the offense for a stretch to sixth place heading into the trade deadline.
Overall his second half numbers where not dominating, he had a balanced scoring season in 06-07, he had a playoff goal and assist.
Entering camp in 07-08 it seemed Sillinger would again have Hunter on his right side with a mix of Jon Sim, Hilbert or Chris Simon/Bergenheim on his left.
Simply put it was not a good statistical season or a year where Sillinger had a lot of impact when he was healthy early which could have been a byproduct of the teams strategy but Sillinger was hard to notice in too many games beyond his special team play or his faceoff ability unlike 06-07.
Only Sillinger knows how long he played hurt before he shut it down and returned before finally deciding he could not go any further after February 2nd in a season he was honored for playing a thousand games.
He did have an overtime winner against Tampa where he got animated with Chris Campoli just prior to the goal and no doubt he's a winner who knows what it takes for a team to improve and is an asset in many ways that do not show up on a scoresheet. His multi-goal games in Carolina and Calgary where two of his biggest games of the season.
Moving forward, this was a significant injury and surgery that reportedly would keep him off skates until August. He was one of the players who acknowledged the club did not play well but was solidly behind Ted Nolan and credited his coaching so he will be starting over with a new coach and a lot of young centers pushing for his spot in the final year of his contract.
At this stage of his career is this what he wants?
Garth Snow has a tough decision here. Sillinger has not been on the same club to begin a season three years in a row since Vancouver a decade ago. Unless something unexpected happens here regarding his health or a signing/trade it should be his spot to open camp.
Last year's group did win six games in a row without him going into the trade deadline which Garth Snow has to consider.
2. Trent Hunter:
Trent Hunter as I wrote above for Sillinger was a huge part of the club's playoff push in 2006-07 with an outstanding January-February.
2007-08 was somewhat of a strange season for Hunter among the league leaders in hits and outstanding in the trenches with his second highest point total but the lack of speed seemed a factor in his lack of scoring along with the clubs system. No one will go all out more aside from Brendan Witt to block a shot and he did set up a lot of goals but overall the scoring slumps defined his season on a club that badly needed him to step up and increase his production going in.
Moving forward on paper to open camp he signed a five year contract and his play will likely determine how and where Scott Gordon uses him but given how the last two years have played out he will have to produce to see first or second line minutes over Bill Guerin or Kyle Okposo if he makes the roster.
Hunter has not been the same player in terms of that extra step since his 2004 knee on knee hit with Sean Brown and at times the broadcast has noted he wears a brace on his knee but does not tell us if it's the same one?
3. Jon Sim:
Some might think were back to square one with Jon Sim but this is not the same roster on left wing as it was a year ago. Blake Comeau and Sean Bergenheim last year proved they belong in a teams top nine and Jeff Tambellini has to get his full chance and that will not happen on a fourth line for a player with his hands and scoring ability.
Those are all left wingers or were used as left wingers a year ago, Sim has to beat one of them out for a spot in the top nine and he will have to do it recovering from an injury we have seen time and again take an extra year for the player to fully get back that extra stride. We saw it with Peca, Martinek, Nokelainen where they hit a wall in their recovery, no one was injured as early as Sim so that could be to his benefit and the Isles could used his seventeen goal contribution but at who's expense on the left side?
Islanders need the best version of this player who displays a nasty edge and has the occasional hands and speed to match, tough to say how this will work out on the Scott Gordon Islanders but he does have two years left on his contract.
Next up: Richard Park, Andy Hilbert, Sean Bergenheim.