(1-1-0, 20th in NHL)
New Jersey Devils
(1-1-0, 21st in NHL)
4pm, Prudential Center
Newark, New Jersey
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(SINCE THEY'LL BE AT THE GAME TONIGHT)
Thankfully, I'm finally back in Los Angeles after my whirlwind trip to Europe. And unlike you guys had to do last weekend, I get to watch the Los Angeles Kings on television at a more reasonable hour. I can't wait to come home after work, kick up my feet, and tune in to watch the Kings play live....AW WHAT? THE GAME'S AT 4PM.... UGH! Actually, this is a great early season opportunity for myself and Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy to dust off the cobwebs on what we call "Operation Shutdown." For when it's 4pm, all contact with anything that would provide a glimpse of Kings hockey is turned off. This year we are thinking about calling it "Trent Hunter."
Trent Hunter was barely passable as a professional hockey player in his 1st NHL game for the Kings against the Rangers in Stockholm. He was pulled out of the Germany game against the Sabres in favor of Kevin Westgarth but he's back in the lineup tonight against the Devils. So Scott Parse sits and with Colin Fraser now cleared for practice... the competition for healthy scratch is getting more and more competitive each day. So I thought I'd turn to a great New York Islanders fan and one of the Original Hockey Bloggers, Kevin Schultz of Barry Melrose Rocks, to see what he thought of Trent Hunter's chances to make the daily Kings lineup.
Oh, Trent Hunter. Aside from Rick DiPietro -- God rest his knees -- Hunter was the last connection to the Alexei Yashin/Mark Parrish/Dave Scatchard era of Islanders hockey. The one that took a lot of guys who were viable but not great professional hockey players on their own and turned them into a team that was, also, viable but not great. He broke in the second year they made the playoffs, 2003-04, playing the final eight regular season games and an awful five-game first round exit to Ottawa. He was a lone bright spot and showed promise after the Islanders failed to build on the lightning in a bottle they had found a year prior in a mini-renaissance. A year and 25 goals later, he led the same team in points and an equally absymal first round exit. These Islanders were a Frankenstein put together by Mike Milbury, Charles Wang and who knows who else had a hand in it. The unfortunate thing for Hunter is that he stepped into this franchise on its most recent downswing, and yes, save the jokes about there not being any ups. The best years of his career were used up toiling on teams that ended up drafting in the top five.
Hunter spent the last three seasons fighting injuries and decreasing production to the tune of four points and 17 games last season. He has produced solidly and consistently when healthy as a third line grinder, second line on some truly awful Islander teams. It's amazing he didn't get shipped off sooner and that's probably thanks to some loyalty from the Islanders -- he was given a 5-year extension in 2008 (remember this team is barely scraping the cap floor). When Scott Gordon's overspeed system was implemented that same season the slow-footed Hunter fit like a retirement community would mesh with Laguna Beach. Now with Michael Grabner pin-balling around the rink and a whole bunch of young, quick kids there was no doubt he didn't fit, even though Gordon is gone.
Here's a comparison: remember that brief time we sent you Mark Parrish? This will go something like that except Hunter doesn't reside solely in front of the net. He's solid if healthy but is clearly on the downside of his career and it's hard to wonder if the roster spot isn't better used on a kid who needs an opportunity. I know nothing about the Kings' roster, so you'll have to excuse my inability to analyze that thought.
He doesn't get his due from Islanders fans and never will for being a part of some truly shitty teams. He was better than the minor league filler than inhabited those rosters but let's not have any delusions that he was Kenny Jonsson or Ziggy Palffy, worthy All-Stars doing garbage duty.
Well, there you have it from an Islanders expert. Even though he's signed a 1 year contract, Hunter might be playing for a spot on the roster right now. As Quisp has discovered, if Colin Fraser is to be on the active roster, the Kings will need to make some choices soon on who to waive in order to clear up a spot to activate him.
Oh... and Dustin Penner plays his first game of the season after successfully fighting off the heartburn from all the food he ate in Europe. Or rehabbing his groin injury... whichever. Even though Simon Gagne has already stolen Penner's spot on the top line... I'm interested to see how Penner fits on the 2nd line with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. Because those are 3 dudes who, if they wanted to, could hit some bodies and score some goals. (Okay, 2 guys to hit bodies and 3 guys to score goals.)