SPECIAL COMMENT: Sleepless in Bridgeport As Nino’s Agent Asks For Trade


What if someone you never saw do much in the NHL, someone who was finally properly developing in the AHL, and he and his agent were trying to strong-arm Garth Snow to get up into NHL or get traded?


Sleepless in Bridgeport…

A Special Comment by B.D. Gallof


It was a quiet day for Islanders fans. The melodrama of the Visnovsky situation had dulled to a merely questioning throb until February.  The waiver wire pieces that seemed to be littering Long Island had halted. The kids at the Islanders camp were sent back to their junior teams for another year of seasoning. No more, too young, too fast, speeds for kids.


The NY Islander philosophy for those prospects filling out their system is to create a great level of competition, pushing those on the NHL, as much as pushing those in the system.  Next season there will be radical changes to the on ice product as young hungry players push their way in.


The change of how the kids are developed seemed to be a radical turnaround after the mistakes made with Niño Niederriter last season. Nino had been excitedly pencilled into the top line during training camp a year ago only to have a concussion and then a dismal year of struggle, falling to line 4.


Of course, from the mercurial Islanders fans was mass panic on El Niño. Was he a bust? What a development mess, he was clearly ruined!


His play in AHL Bridgeport this season has been excellent. His role on the NHL team however, was not assured. Slated back to their original philosophy, he needed to find his way onto the top 2 lines… Two lines filled with too many wingers as it was.


So not even a camp invite, he was viewed as an injury replacement who would get his chance when the injuries produced by a compressed schedule with little preseason would create.  This was something considered to be almost assured, and the same went for Donovan and Ness. After all, another year and these kids would be bigger, stronger, and more mentally prepared for the rigors. But if they got some NHL time due to injury, all the better.



This also went for Ryan Strome, who fans critical of Nino last year, 360′d in a hypocritical outraged clamor when he was sent back to junior. The same philosophy was applying. Strome needed to make the second line, but also needed to thrive in it for the season, since he could not be returned. Had Seguin debuted on line 2. Had Couturier? No, they appeared deeper but on very stacked teams that could afford and let that talent develop. The Islanders did not have that luxury. Their deeper lines were another issue entirely.


So Reinhart and Strome were sent back to juniors. All seemed fine, the Islanders finally showing a patient hand instead of a naive eagerness on their future.


Instead, they used waiver wires to create some depth options to finish their porous defense. Then, Keith Aucoin was picked up as a depth center.


What the Islanders braintrust might not have realized is that there were bad feelings starting to fester by Nino, who felt, perhaps rightly, that he was showing a tremendous answer to last years follies and foibles. He who remained in the NHL due to a promise made by Garth Snow. Were their words of a promise if he bounced back, that he would find his way back?


One might never know, but one can clearly understand how something went awry somewhere when today Katie Strang declared on twitter that reporters from Nino camp is that a trade was requested of the NY Islanders. Later, it was confirmed by Arthur Staples, the Newsday beat writer.


Mass panic by Isles fans ensued. It doesn’t take much to cause it, but Isles fans also have seen no end to melodrama over silly things. Of course, when something provocative like that is declared on twitter, of course there will be reaction. However, lost here is some questions that need to be asked….


  1. The agent is not quoted.
  2. Nor is the player


The agent, in fact, based in Switzerland is traveling, so unavailable for comment until tomorrow.


The player, is alluded to in Garth’s own response, having not heard from him. Though Nino’s agent likely is to have made the request, what is the function of that request?


Well, looking at the panic and how it echoed across the NHL space, we can see its likely intended result. Garth was asked to move him, and he refused. No surprise here. Garth has yet to panic or do anything in a knee jerk response.


So instead, it leaked, to put pressure on the Islanders perhaps? To make other GMs aware of his availability?


Of course, the armchair GMs have already their trade scenarios. PK Subban. Jamie Benn. Anyone else coveted.


The problem?


None of those scenarios are even feasible. They are only deals for EA NHL 2013 players.


Everyone of those teams are contenders looking for a playoff spot, under immense pressure. They want players to help now, not prospects and picks for later.


Sorry to lay it down so brutally, but even the EA GM would deepsix such silliness. Nor will it happen anyway. Nino is being developed according to the Isles timetable, not his agent, the Nino camp, or El Niño himself.


So, one has to ask, would this have been done had this been Lou Lameriello’s iron fist in NJ? Even better, in the long storied and big competition for prospects to make the Detroit Red Wing team?


Not a chance.


This was likely because there is a lack of respect by the Islanders organization and developmental philosophy. Perhaps a lack of respect due to the owner follies, the long history of mistakes and miscues, and just PERHAPS knowing that there is a serious competition building next season, with even more players likely to make the jump.


Or is this a money matter? According to a source, Nino, who made NHL money last season, will only make AHL money, thus considerably less, this season if he is to remain. Is this under fiscal impetus?


In fact, it is an impatient and cloddish play by a players camp and agent. It will not work.


But here is an interesting item. Nino’s agent, Andre Rufener, based in Switzerland, is actually traveling right now. He will be unable to comment on today’s fiasco until tomorrow.


So, who leaked this, exactly? And why?


The thing is, though this is all fraught with reaction, we need to ask questions instead of being spoon-fed to be be malleable and manipulated by those who stand to gain through all this.


Meanwhile, Garth Snow will not blink. He has been described from numerous sources over the years as a deliberate, thinking, patient, and cool customer. He certainly will not react in the way Nino or his agent might want through all of this. Nor will any silly deal suddenly be made for a prospect they have chosen, developed, and is slated as part of their future. The fact an agent and camp asked for a trade in lieu of last season’s fiasco is simply asinine. Unless they feel he is being mishandled. Of course, the numbers in Bridgeport tell a different tale… like he is exactly where he is supposed to be until Garth Snow decides otherwise.


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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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