Grabs was drafted by Vancouver in 2006 but spent almost his entire career there with their AHL affiliate, minus 20 games in 09-10. Following that season, the Canucks traded Grabs to the Panthers, who placed him on waivers after a shitty training camp, and the Islanders snapped him up! :D How we love waivers. Hence 10-11 was his rookie season and he was nominated for the Calder. :333 He's very fast, which is an important part of our game, but until very recently has not been tough enough, which is also an important part of our game. We love him anyway, though, and there seems to be improvement!
Btw, Grabs was considered an American skater at the draft because he played his juniors in the WHL, for the Spokane Chiefs, and is still super close with his billet family and brought them with him when he went to Vegas for the NHL awards. I am charmed.
This is cute. (x)
Grabs also has been responsible for running Johnny's NHL Cover Vote campaigns in the past (since John himself is absolutely crap at that sort of thing, bless, and also was in Finland repping Canada at the Worlds during the first one). He is fascinatingly aggressive about this, and it required its own post. There's bad photoshop, videos where Grabs works out while staring intensely at a picture of Johnny, and a few people on the toilet. Including the little Gremlin:
Apart from his speed, the most amazing thing about Michael Grabner is his twitter. Through which he is conducting quite the intense little relationship with fourth-liner Colin McDonald:
Note that Grabs actually tagged Colin on the picture of his abs.
Isleography: Michael Grabner
Islanders Round Table - Twitter
Michael Grabner's Nature Adventure - AMAZING! Also yaaay Jones Beach!
Road to the Coliseum: Michael Grabner
Another quintessential Islanders second-chance story, and now he's signed a 2-year contract extension for $600,000 and he's so friggin pumped to actually be in the NHL. <33 His dad played 8 games in the NHL back when, so now the whole family is super proud of Colin, being in the playoffs and kicking ass, as you can learn in this delightful article. To go from being a second-round draft pick to not being able to break into the NHL for half a decade and still maintain a great attitude and work ethic like Colin has is really amazing.
He plays on the fourth line with Casey Cizikas (Zeeker) and Matt Martin, after playing with Zeeker in Bridgeport. They're not fighters, although they will drop the gloves if necessary, but they're definitely the type of guys that other teams say are not fun to play against. Marty is perpetually the league leader in hits, and Colin was tied for 21 with Alex Ovechkin. Despite the closeness of our fourth liners, when Colin was asked which teammate has had the most influence over his career, he said John Tavares.
Which is utterly delightful and also, um, particularly interesting because this year he took up the mantle of "John Tavares NHL Cover Vote Manager" with possibly the most fascinating video any NHL team has ever produced:
Now, the thing about this video. The thing is. The rest of the team had been joking on twitter about Colin being Johnny's pet FOR MONTHS BEFORE THIS HAPPENED.
And recently Johnny posted a picture of Colin WEARING JT91 BRANDED GEAR.
And got told to make sure Colin goes to sleep (Sean Backman is Matt Moulson's wife's brother - his bro-in-law that isn't Jonathan Quick) and when Colin bugged Johnny about not including his twitter handle, Johnny said he needed to "earn it." OKAY.
SO. This video is. A documentary??? I figure Colin was thinking the joke was that Johnny would kick him out, and apart from that he was just sharing his life with us.
There is also a behind the scenes vine that I feel compelled to link to. Given how accurate the video apparently is, some of the stuff on that wall is probably JT's actual interior decorating, isn't it? Does Johnny have a giant Islanders game calender poster on his closet wall, these are important questions.
Making a Change
Know Your Bro with Brock Nelson 1, 2, 3 - Brock is one of our top prospects and I wanted to include him but had to make an executive decision in favor of my mental wellbeing.
Matt Martin is the one on the right. Islanders picked him #148th at the 2008 draft. He started playing regularly in the NHL in the 10-11 season and has consistently been the league's leader in hits since. Matt fights as much as anyone on our team, but it's not so much his thing as for some guys - he's really about the big hits more than fisticuffs. (Although he can be quite effective - and reasonably classy - at it should the need arise.) Islanders fans love him for his attitude and putting his body on the line, and he's won the Bob Nystrom Award (named after the legendary Mr. Islander) the past two years in a row - only the second ever to do so! His '12 and '13 victories follow Frans Niesel in '11 and Kyle Okposo in '10. :)))
I don't know which of his loved ones the NYI PR department was holding hostage, but Matt Martin was everywhere this summer. He covered the VMAs for Barclay's Center TV with Alyonka Larionov. He showed up in random stores, he signed shit, he posed for pictures, he made videos of him trying on suits, and he did a horrifically, painfully awkward and contrived "LOOK HOW EASY THE TRAIN IS" video with my nemesis Greg Picker.
But if anyone was going to suddenly be all over my life, it might as well be Matt Martin, because he seems like a total friggin sweetheart. I am weak for a hockey lisp, basically. Also - handsome.
Since this article about Matt popped up while I was working on this, I'll quote it: "Along with frequent linemates Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald, Martin exemplifies the approach the Islanders bring every night—work hard, create opportunities and never relent." We loooooooove our fourth line on the Island. Almost as much as they love each other. Matt is a prolific chirper on twitter, especially of his teammates:
Matt and Hammer overlapped on the Sound Tigers and basically started their NHL careers in earnest in the 10-11 season, so there's a lot of love there. <3 They also were roommates on the road as of the 11-12 season! Matt also roomed with Johnny in 10-11, which is a pretty great combo.
And he is friends with Kaylyn Kyle of the Canadian women's soccer NT! Which leads to fabulous exchanges such as:
Martin Remembers Draft Day - featuring Steven Stamkos, his Sarnia Sting teammate! This is so cute.
Show Stoppers: Matt Martin
On the Spot: Matt Martin - long, but really good, with some Stammer talk!
Go With the Flow - about hockey hair, also featuring Flow Champion Matt Moulson
As far as I can tell, Zeeker and Matt are two of only a handful of players that can be shipped more easily with each other than with Johnny. (Although still totally shippable with Johnny.) Also likely in a threesome with Colin. Who is sleeping at the foot of Johnny's bed and flirting heavily with Grabs. So. Make of that what you will. (Orgy is really the simplest explanation for this team, isn't it?)
Zeeker is, like the rest of his line, a tough, physical grinder that we depend on to change the energy of a game. But he's only 5'11" officially, so god knows how tall he actually is. Definitely a wee nugget, especially for a physical player. Zeeker is currently the only player with a regular roster spot who's younger than Johnny. But for fuck's sake we seriously have a couple guys to promote! (Ugh our prospects are delightful and I wanted to go into them too, but this got monstrously long so I restrained myself. But we're very proud of how deep our prospect pool is, and how young our best players are!)
Zeeker looks quite different when his helmet is covering his blond locks so it took me a while to realize how attractive he is, so now I'm all like "wow, just look at that seductive little puss."
He also might be my favorite player based solely on his love of Space Jam, which he has tweeted about on multiple occasions.
Most of what I know about Zeeker is that I am shipping him SO HARD with Matt Martin. They did a twitter video Q&A together and it was so incredibly adorable. (Also great: the way their shirts fit.)
They admit they're dating, they're adorable, they're visually appealing (height differences!!), they look out for each other on the ice... all I can do is make kitten noises at them.
Casey Cizikas mic'd up rookie camp
Cizikas taking advantage of opportunity
Seizing the moment
The Islanders organization, to be honest, is not great at providing fluff pieces. Or any sort of quality media coverage. One good thing about the move to Barclay's Center is that their media department have already taken us under their wing a bit (I think Alyonka misses hockey). A lot of these guys appear in the following video from BCTV, describing flow and beauties and chirps, and giving a lot of examples of the latter:
Dammit I would love to get into our beloved, hilarious goalie Evgeni Nabokov and his partner in crime, broadcaster Stan Fischler, but I should probably restrain myself a bit. I'll just say that while we get frustrated with Nabby when he lets in a buttload of playoff goals, he's a super important part of the team and all the guys say he's the funniest guy in the locker room. Stan Fischler is 81 years old and has loved hockey forever and is called the Maven cos he knows everything, and has a thick Brooklyn accent and makes me unbearably happy. And they're the absolute best pals.
For more Islanders material, I highly recommend Skates on a Plane, the blog of our PR guy. I actually think it's a pretty fantastic read for any hockey fan - it gives a lot of insight into the practicalities of the NHL, meal and travel arrangements, what sort of events they go to, how they deal with the media, in addition to stories about the players and their antics (including a bunch about bunny-owner Zenon Konopka from back when he was an Islander).
Another good source of Islanders stuff is IslesEmpire, pretty much my favorite tumblr. They do a great job covering the Isles really thoroughly, so it's also a good place to go to just sift through their tags for people you're interested in. :)
A guide I made to most of the players featured. Numbers of games played are in parentheses, if there isn't one then you can assume they played most of the season. LO means lockout.
I made a twitter highlights post... and then I made three more:
John Tavares NHL13 Cover Campaign
Additional Player Highlights
Player twitter handles, per Isles Empire:
John Tavares: @91Tavares
Matt Moulson: @MMoulson
Michael Grabner: @grabs40
Kyle Okposo: @bookerT2116
Colin McDonald: @ColinMcDonald13
Matt Martin: @mattymarts17
Casey Cizikas: @zeeker11
Thomas Hickey: @thomas_hickey14
Pierre-Marc Bouchard: @PMBouchard