In the beginning, Jeff Tambellini needed time. It was a situation that is beginning to feel all to similar to Islanders fans over the past few years. The team deals a few veterans after they feel they don’t have what it takes to make the playoffs and youth comes in. He was still green after putting the finishing touches on his college career and finishing up his first year in the AHL, but he still had a ton of promise.
No one expected that it would take almost four years, but it seems that finally, Jeff Tambellini is becoming something that Islanders fans and he himself can get used to.
Very similar to Andy Hilbert, Tambellini is a beast in the AHL, a sniper and offensive force that would even scare Jeff Hamilton. In the NHL however, Tambellini is a guy that has to do a bunch of things in order to be successful.
Once he realized, his job was on the line and even veterans the likes of Jon Sim where being targeted by the organization for various reasons, that’s when I think Tambellini realized he had nothing to lose and began to take the body and shoot with more confidence.
So no more excuses about Ted Nolan not playing him, no more excuses about what line he’s on.
It’s all up to him now and he knows it.
â€œFor the playoffs, (the games are) meaningless, but for each guy in this room, weâ€™re playing for respect, weâ€™re playing for jobs next year, weâ€™re playing for ice time,â€ winger Jeff Tambellini told Newsday. â€œThese are big games for us. No one is taking this lightly because this is a young group and weâ€™re all trying to prove ourselves and put our personal mark on this team.â€
Speaking of taking the body, Tambellini has has had no problem hitting players much bigger than him, which in turn has made him a much better player in corners, in the defensive end and on the powerplay. As a result, the guy has five goals in his last 16 games and has been on of the Islanders best players during that span, a far cry when he was barely noticeable at all.
Some would say that’s too little too late for the former first round pick, but with another year left on his contract and the team to get even younger next season, Tambellini, at least early in the year will get more ice-time due to his second half prowess.
My guess is he’ll be another Hilbert-clone, scoring about 10-15 goals a season that can play in all game situations, which may upset some Isles fans, but he will be a full-time NHLer next season and won’t ride the bench.
For him at the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.
We’ll see how much it helps the Islanders next season as well.
This post was written by Patrick Hickey, Jr. on April 6, 2009