September 27, 2011

Steve Staios Hopeful to Make Team

When training camps rolled around in the middle of September, defenseman Steve Staios found himself in a very unfamiliar situation. For the first time in his 15 year NHL career, he didn't have a contract.

While many players have a hard time accepting the inevitable fate near the end of their careers, Staios has embraced it. He agreed to come to camp with the New York Islanders on a try-out basis.

"I enjoy training, so that wasn't a problem. I was motivated to play, and had myself ready to go but just not sure when or where," he said to me. "As time went on, it became apparent that this was a good young team and I like the mix, so that's why I'm here."

Isles hopeful Steve Staios. Photo by C. Hessel

 "I had the option to go to some other places, but it didn't seem like the right fit."

The 38-year-old has shown us over the first two preseason games that he does indeed keep himself in shape. One would be hard pressed to point out a spot where he looked out of place or out of position. This is even more important when you realize that he's coming off of a couple of injury plagued seasons, including a concussion and another upper body injury.

The aforementioned simplified play is something that he prides himself on.

"I would say I'm solid defensively, I try make a good first pass out of the zone and play with poise and leadership. I have a lot of experience, and I'm physical in front of the net."

Staios didn't mention offense at all, and for good reason. He's only scored 56 goals and 212 points in 936 career games. However, in his second preseason game with the team, not only was Staios paired with Mark Streit but he added a goal of his own - even if it went off of an opposing defender before going in. That only helps his cause in trying to make the 2011-2012 installment of the New York Islanders.

In watching Staios over the first two games, I noticed nothing flashy. He may not be the fastest guy in the world, but he compensates for that by being one of the last to come into the offensive zone and then staying really close to the blueline. That helps him get back quick enough to set up for any potential odd man rushes by opponents.

If he is able to continue to do that, then there is no reason to think he won't be doing that October 8th and beyond. While he isn't Christian Ehrhoff, Ian White or Jan Hejda, he can be a good guy who can get the job done - for now - on one of the bottom pairings. If needed, we've seen that he can fill in in a pinch along side Streit.

Staios is one of those rare players who's gotten to experience both sides of the Calgary Flames - Edmonton Oilers rivalry after being dealt to Calgary for former Islander Aaron Johnson and a draft pick at the 2010 trade deadline.

Staios feels he thrives in games like that, and hopes to have the chance to participate in the Islanders - Rangers rivalry this upcoming season.

"Yeah, I would look forward to that. I've seen some of those games. I love playing in those kinds of games, love the atmosphere."

Staios might not do it as much as he used to, but there are numerous occasions you can point to where he steps up the nasty edge in his game and becomes more willing to drop the gloves. An "intense" player, Staios is not a bad guy to have on your side when it comes to facing some of your rivals.

For me, it's one of the things I'll look forward to if (read: when) he signs his deal to play with the team for the season. I liken it to when the Islanders brought Sean Hill to the team in the middle of August in 2006, and that worked out for much of the season (positive steroid test aside).

No, Staios isn't the ideal defenseman we were all hoping we'd get. But after seeing him a few times in practice, and in a couple of games, I'm very open to the idea of having him patrol the blue line for us while Garth Snow continues to work on other options for the defense.

Islanders in Calgary: The Islanders will take on the Calgary Flames at 9 PM tonight, where Staios patrolled the blueline for the previous season and a half. The Islanders are going in with a very watered down line-up from the one we saw on Saturday.

A couple of people are worth keeping an eye on, however. Staios is obviously one of them, and he'll be paired with Milan Jurcina.

Kirill Kabanov makes his preseason debut after suffering a hand injury during practice on media day last week. He'll be on a line with Ryan Strome and Trevor Gillies.

Marty Reasoner will get his first game in too after suffering through a tweaked knee for a good chunk of camp. He'll be skating with Blake Comeau and Rhett Rakhshani.

Of course, the main player to watch tonight will be goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who makes his Islanders "debut" tonight. The Islanders are wasting no time seeing how much he can handle given the line-up that will be in front of him, so it'll be interesting to see how he fares.

MSG+ will be airing the game via NHL Network (via TSN). Anyone with those channels will be able to tune in tonight to get good looks at newcomers Nabokov, Staios, Reasoner and Strome.


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