He was a defenseman in the OHL who went on to become a left win g in the NHL.
He was a member of Canada’s Under-18 gold medal winning team and was named MVP of junior hockey’s Top Prospects game. Yet, in the NHL, he has primarily been known as a fighter.
During the NHL lockout in late 2012, while other players were making their way to larger leagues in Russia and Sweden, Bissonnette played hockey for the Cardiff Devils in the United Kingdom.
And the same guy who has racked up 340 penalty minutes in 202 NHL games, has often talked to me in yoga pants, while rolling around a small mat on the locker room floor.
When the Phoenix Coyotes decided to part ways with the twitter-famous Bissonnette over the summer, they only sort of did so. After not signing a free agent contract with any other team, he was inked to a try out agreement with their AHL affiliate in Portland a few months ago. Thus, most figured he would eventually end up wearing a Coyotes sweater again at some point.
Yet, he was released by Portland and again looking for a job. Enter the Los Angeles Kings.
Mike Futa, Vice President of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel with the club, knows Bissonnette well. In fact, when Futa was GM of the Owen Sound, he traded for Bissonnette in 2004.
Earlier today, the Kings’ AHL affiliate in Manchester signed Bissonnette to a try out contract. His coach in Manchester will be Mike Stothers, the same guy who coached the aforementioned Owen Sound club.
“There is a familiarity with this,” Futa told MayorsManor. “He was a hard-working, character kid in junior. He’s really worked hard to forge himself a professional career. With him being released from his PTO [professional try out agreement] with Portland, he contacted me about an opportunity with us. I spoke to Dean [Lombardi] and Rob [Blake] about it and, obviously, there were some concerns with [Scott] Sabourin being injured in Manchester, having another guy to just kind of look after the little guys and be a good role model, along with [Josh Gratton] down there. Andy [Andreoff] is down there for another seven or eight days, but then he’ll be back with the big team. We had a long talk with Biz, and I had Stothers call Paul last night, just to make sure that he understood what his role would be. Basically, we wanted [to ensure] there weren’t any unrealistic expectations. We pride ourselves on that being a development ground for younger players. We didn’t want any gray area about what we will require from him, from a leadership standpoint. He signed a PTO and his attitude has been great. He drove two-and-half hours to get into Manchester last night and was on the ice with the guys this morning. It’s a good fit. But, again, it’s just a piece of the puzzle and we made it quite clear the twitter universe doesn’t need to hear anything about this. This is just about being a good teammate and being a great leader for those guys.”
Along those lines, was their discussion about this being a possible gateway opportunity to a deal in Los Angeles?
“Everybody down there is in that situation,” Futa noted. “There was really a discussion about his role with the Manchester Monarchs. This wasn’t about looking toward the big team roster. That being said, any kid down there, any-aged person, puts on a clinic – they are all an extension of the Los Angeles Kings and our family. If somebody down there is doing their job, we certainly don’t wish any kind of injuries upon the big club that [would potentially] create those opportunities… this move was done solely for making Manchester a safer ground with better leadership. Again, like any kid, and this falls into that category, if he has an excellent performance and shows his stuff, then we’re always going to be watching.”
Because some may try to parse those comments into something they weren’t intended to mean, we also asked Futa if it was fair to say this signing was different than the PTO for Jamie McBain? You may recall from our report on that deal at the time, it appeared McBain was destined for the Kings roster sooner, rather than later.
“Yes, this is a completely different scenario,” he replied. “That was… based on the numbers and the amount of cap space that we had, which required a defenseman [to fit] what we needed for a call up at that time. This is a void that we have down there. It provides an opportunity for a kid that has a relationship with myself, and more importantly with Mike Stothers. We just feel that we have a tremendous, young, group down there. Having another guy with some National Hockey League experience that can provide some positive – be even more positive, which is hard to imagine it being even more positive than the environment that they have down there already. [Bissonnette] is somebody who has worked hard to forge his career and I think he can be a good model for the guys down there, as well. He completely understands where we are going with this opportunity and it’s up to him to work hard to advance – either to extend the PTO or to provide himself an even better opportunity down there.”
As for that Owen Sound team of 10 years ago, there are a few interesting notes that always come up when thinking about that season. First, Futa won OHL Executive of the Year in 2004-05 after his team set a franchise record of 40-18-7-3 and finished second overall in the OHL regular season standings. It will also be remembered for the numbers of two forwards. Brad Richardson, then 19 years old, outscored a 17-year-old Bobby Ryan that season, 97 points (41 goals, 56 assists) to 89 points (37 goals, 52 assists).
Back to Bissonnette, though. Our Monarchs reporter, Andy Tonge, will be covering Manchester’s game on Friday, for what should be his debut with the team.
For even more on the man also known as Biz Nasty, see below.
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