When we reminisce on the deal that brought over the now-beloved “bash brother” Cal Clutterbuck from the Wild, we remember the amount of scrutiny coming from New York Islanders fans. However, that makes sense when you trade one of your top prospects for an at-best bottom six forward. When we look back on the trade now, it can be argued that the Islanders may have walked out the winner regardless of how Nino Niederreiter‘s career ends up.
In 2010, the Islanders were very excited about the future after having just drafted the franchise cornerstone in John Tavares the previous year. New York wasn’t as fortunate to obtain another 1st overall pick but they had a nice consolation prize in the 5th overall pick. The Islanders used the pick on the Swiss-born winger Nino Niederreiter. Isles fans were excited about the pick and were hoping they found themselves a winger for JT for many years to come.
As we all know now, that plan never quite panned out, or really ever came close. Nino had the 9-game tryout in his draft year where he totaled 1 goal and 1 assist before being sent back to his junior team. In the following season, he played in 55 games for the Islanders and posted an abysmal 1 goal and 0 assists. The following season was the infamous 2012-2013 lockout season where Nino wasn’t even invited to camp by the Islanders. After that, it became apparent within the organization that Niederreiter had an attitude problem and he and his agent demanded to be traded.
The Islanders were handcuffed by this because every team knew the Isles were trying to trade Nino so it was difficult to get back a return that would satisfy Garth. In turn, the team accepted a sure fire bottom six forward (Cal) for Nino who still had tremendous upside.
At first glance, the blue and orange seemed as though they were big-time losers in this deal and Garth Snow received a lot of criticism for going through with it. But, over the past few seasons, it is clear as day that Clutterbuck brings intangibles to this team that Nino never could. Cal has become one of the most liked guys in the locker room and is one of the team leaders. Whenever JT or one of the alternate captains misses a game, Cal is always the next man up to wear a letter. In the locker room, guys flock around players like him and his fellow “bash brother” Matt Martin (along with some others) to set the tone and mood for the day.
While Clutterbuck’s play will never be as flashy or eye-popping as Nino’s, he certainly fits his role well. He has found a permanent role on the 4th line with Martin and Casey Cizikas and they have flourished ever since. Famous Hockey personality Don Cherry even went as far as to say they are the best 4th line in hockey at the end of the season last year. The chemistry that line shares is phenomenal and it wouldn’t have been possible without Clutterbuck. The trio synergizes so well because they all hit hard, play hard, play smart, and know what their job is.
Cal has even found his fair share of goals this season and has a highly underrated wrist shot. It’s tough to imagine where this team would be without their 4th line and what type of energy the locker room would have without Cal Clutterbuck. He may never be as good as Nino may be, but the purpose he serves for this team is far greater than just goals and assists.