You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that it’s entirely coincidental that my last official correspondence (be it a tweet or the post) coincided seamlessly with my trip to Vegas for the NHL Awards Show. I was kept out of the office and the locker room for the past few weeks due to injury (again – completely unrelated to Sin City), but my time off (which I’m trying to think of as a vacation, in which I could not go anywhere or do anything) gave me ample opportunity to take notice of a few nice storylines that are taking shape on the Island.
In Motts We Trust – Mike Mottau’s return to the ice after a serious eye injury (not to mention, hip surgery), along with his penchants for “Motts Applesauce” related nicknames should be reason enough for the Bostonian to become a fan favorite on Long Island, but his recent “face-of-the-team” appearances at “Vote Yes” press conferences and his role in attracting free agent Marty Reasoner to the club should seal the deal. Anyone who’s played with Mike will tell you there isn’t a nicer guy on the team, and I think he’s a sleeper to where an “A” this year. Mottau’s 20 games last season were too small a sample for fans to accurately judge his game (the same can be said for Mark Eaton’s 34 games) and this year he’ll be out to prove that his three previous seasons of at least 76 games played were no fluke. Off the ice, if he’s interested in creating a “Bailey’s Buddies” type of program, he won’t do better for a name than the applesauce company’s latest child-friendly product line: “Motts for Tots.” (Dear sponsorship department – you can have that one for free.)
On To The Next One – Matt Donovan left a great impression on me during our brief encounter this offseason. Right off the bat, his visible muscle mass reminded me of Hamonic circa 2010 mini-camp. That’s not to say that I think Donovan will earn a call up early this year and play out-of-his-mind hockey, making it impossible for the coaches to return him to the AHL. All I’m saying is that last year, I remember seeing Hamonic and thinking to myself, “that kid has put on as much muscle as his frame can possibly hold.” There’s something to be said about a highly-regarded prospect whose work ethic has him in that kind of shape in July.
To Dangle, Or Not To Dangle? – While many walked away from the Blue vs. White scrimmage in awe of Ryan Strome’s shootout move, I was curious to hear what Coach Capuano thought stood out from the game. He gave fair praise to the skill displayed by Strome, Nino Niederreiter and Kirill Kabanov, but seemed most excited about collegiate products Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. The pair may not have flashed the hands that drew applause from the crowd, but the way Capuano described Nelson and Lee’s strength on the puck and in the corners made it obvious that he was excited for how seamlessly those skills could translate to the NHL.
Home Run Derby – I’m all for the NHL’s traditional skills competition during All Star Weekend, but so far none of the events have matched the brilliance that ensues when a batter and his hand-selected pitcher work together to make it rain 450-foot bombs. While breakaway challenges are exciting, I think the NHL would do well to create an event where goalies and shooters work together to put on an otherwise impossible show. Maybe they can put whatever the goalie equivalent is of a bullpen catcher (a la Artie Verdie) in net for the breakaway comp to ensure a goal at the end of every highlight-reel move. I’m not sure I’ve hit it yet, but there’s definitely something here…