"I'll fix it tomorrow," Chester promised Bossy.
Vindicating the Islanders' judgment, Bossy not only has been scoring goals at a remarkable pace, he also has played well defensively. "I was lazy on defense in the juniors," Bossy concedes. "It hurt my pride to go only 15th in the draft, and I've been working on my checking." He hasn't had to work on scoring. Bossy has the knack for getting open, and his wrist shot, while not particularly hard, is quick, well disguised and accurate. "It's a godsent power," he says. "Three-fourths of the time I don't even see where I'm shooting."
Bossy started the season well enough, scoring six goals in his first 11 games. Then he really got hot, reeling off 14 goals in the next 11. Inevitably, he became a marked man, and a seven-game goal-scoring streak finally ended a week ago in a 4-1 Islander win over Detroit, a game in which he was pounded by Red Wing tough guy Dan Maloney right after the opening face-off. Still, Bossy remains well ahead of the pace required to break Rick Martin's NHL rookie record of 44 goals. And Bossy's fast start makes him the leading candidate for the NHL Rookie of the Year award, which Trottier won in 1976 and Islander Defenseman Denis Potvin won in 1974.
Trottier has helped grease the way for Bossy's spectacular debut. A guitar-strumming native of the prairie town of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, Trottier is a neighborly sort, which is why he and his wife Nickie invited Bossy and his wife of three months, Lucy, to stay at their Long Island home at the start of training camp. The newcomers moved in for two weeks, and Trottier and Bossy hit it off so well that they became not only linemates but road-trip roommates, too. "Mike is conservative and easygoing and I'm the same way," says Trottier.
The budding friendship has not been hurt any by Trottier's considerable play-making skills. Quick and clever, the Islander star is often referred to as "little Bryan Trottier." In fact, Trottier is 5'11" and a solid 195-pounder who hits hard and is difficult to knock off his feet, which gives him an extra split second to whisk the puck to open teammates. And Bossy, of course, is the chief beneficiary of Trottier's crisp passes.
But Trottier insists, "Mike helps me as much as I help him. Because the other team has to concentrate on him, I've had more room to roam this season." Trottier, who scored 32 goals and 63 assists for a rookie-record 95 points in 1975-76 and followed that with 30 goals and 42 assists last season, has been moving at a fast clip, too. His biggest splurge came last month when he scored four times in a 9-0 rout of Atlanta. Like Bossy, Trottier is also pursuing a record—Phil Esposito's single-season total of 152 points.
The exploits of Trottier and Bossy might lead one to overlook Gillies, except that he is both the Islander captain and, at 6'3" and 220 pounds, a very visible and bruising performer. His commanding presence discourages the league tough guys from taking too many liberties with his linemates. He has a wicked slap shot and and holds the Islander single-season record of 34 goals—a record that Bossy or Trottier, or both, may well break by midseason.
Records aside, Gillies, Bossy and Trottier seem to be having as much fun off the ice as on it. This was raucously apparent when, after the tie with the Rockies in Denver, the three linemates returned to Colorado Springs in the back seat of a limousine—with Trottier in the center, of course. The three of them swapped jokes for a while and then began singing. They ran through some Johnny Cash favorites, did a Kenny Rogers number or two, and then moved on to other selections. Near the end of the 80-minute drive, Gillies chortled, "Hey, we're quite a truet, you know?"
The truet is quite a line, too.