New York Islanders

Garth Snow is looking like a genius three years after he traded Nino Niederreiter to the Minnesota Wild for Cal Clutterbuck.

By Justin Weiss

When the New York Islanders dealt Nino Niederreiter to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Cal Clutterbuck, Isles fans were in a frenzy.

Garth Snow had sent El Nino, one of the team’s top prospects and the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, to the Wild for Clutterbuck, a measly grinder who was set to become a free agent after the season.

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Understandably, the trade was met with a little shock and a whole lot of criticsm. “Why would [Snow] trade our top prospect for a fourth liner?” a fan asked on Facebook a day after the trade.

His question has been answered three years later.

Niederreiter, 23, had a negative attitude and an awful rookie season. He looked confused in the defensive zone and quite a few seasons away from exploding onto the scene.

Although he has put up some solid numbers with Minnesota this season, Clutterbuck’s influence with the Isles has far outweighed what Niederreiter has done with the Wild.

The MC² line, which consists of Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas, is the best fourth line in the league. Their impact on the Isles has been indescribable. No line in hockey generates as much momentum as the Isles’ fourth line. Very few create as many scoring chances as they do. Not many play as sound of a defensive game as the triumvirate does.

There’s a saying that goes “all guts, no glory.”

Well, if there’s any line that personifies the previous quote, it’s the Isles’ fourth line. And now, thanks to people such as analyst Don Cherry who called them the “best fourth line ever in hockey,” they get their due glory.

“We certainly build off the momentum when we’re generating line-after-line,” Islanders captain John Tavares told the media last season. (Even though it was said last season, it still rings true.) “They’ve been great for us this year, and they just do the right things, play hard, and obviously they have some skill and can make some plays.”

Clutterbuck, 28, has nine goals and three assists through 39 games this season. He’s a +6, and unlike when he came onto the Isles in 2013-14 and took many stupid penalties, he only has 10 PIM thus far.

His 161 hits pits him in fifth place in the league, while his CA60 ranks second on the team (behind Matt Martin and right before Casey Cizikas).

Nicknamed a “Bash Brother,” Clutterbuck had, at one point of the season, more goals than Sidney Crosby. An alternate captain, he has been a vocal on-ice leader.

Slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016-17 season, he has managed to dominate as a fourth liner and has made Snow look like an absolute genius.

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Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.