Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shameless Plug

As an official "minion" (and damned good one at that) of the Lighthouse Group, one of my duties was to write an article about the state of the project and about Saturday's "day of certainty". Enjoy, courtesy of the Light Post!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Glimmer of Hope", or "Enjoy it while you can"?

"The Islanders are on the power play. And the bouncing puck. Moulson after it. Still loose, backhand, shot, score! JOHN TAVARES HAS HIS FIRST NHL GOAL!"

Ever since 7:05 p.m. on June 26, 2009, Islander fans have been waiting to hear that.

On a night where political tensions ran high, where paranoia was so thick and pronounced it could be cut with a knife, and where fans constantly wondered "whats next?", a 19 year old center gave 17, 000 in attendance a reason to believe again.

John Tavares, perhaps the most anticipated rookie in New York Islanders history, did something last night which nobody has been able to do since Shaun Bates in 2002: made me look down at the ice, raise my hands in euphoria, and be proud to be an Islander fan.

The sold out Coliseum was shaking, fans were chanting the phenom's name, and the good vibrations rang out around Islander country from Uniondale to Riverhead. However, there still was a feeling in the air that come 2015, moments like this could be a distant memory on Long Island.

Lighthouse Principle and Islanders owner Charles B. Wang held a press conference before the game last night to discuss the newly announced lease and the future of the project. It was clear that Wang is getting fed up with the Town of Hempstead and their games, as during his conference, he used words like "disgusted", "angry", and noted that "it's not like they (T.O.H.) are giving me many choices".

Newsday released information saying that the Town is now interested in meeting with Wang and his partner, Scott Rechler sometime this week to work on "scaling down the project". This has many fans skeptical, as this information came days before Wang's "date of certainty" (October 3rd), in which marks the start of a period in which he will listen to offers for the team. "If Murray was really serious," one fan last night told me, "why do you wait seven years to schedule a meeting to scale down the project?!"

It's this sentiment among fans and political pundits alike that creates the fear and paranoia in Islanders country. Could October 3, 2009 be the beginning of a glorious new future for the Islanders, or is it possible that that night will mark the beginning of the end of one of the most important parts of Long Island, the New York Islanders.

Only time will tell...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Let's Get One Thing Clear...

I DO NOT hate John Tavares...

Since the Islanders selected the 19 year old center from the London Knights, friends (knowing my man-crush of Victor Hedman and my recent boarding of the Matt Duchene bandwagon) have asked me if I will cheer for Tavares. My response: "as loud as I can".

Now, before I sound too much like a hypocrite, let me just say that I never once said that I wouldn't want a player like JT on my team. What I have said multiple times in the past is that there were to two ways to approach the draft: one which would appease the fans and bring a high-profile scorer to the Island, one which we haven't seen since the days of Pierre Turgeon, or a second, which bolstered the defensive corps for years to come. Clearly, Garth went with the popular choice.

My theory about rebuilding this team, which still hasn't changed since the draft, is that defense, especially in a system which encourages defenders to join the play in the offensive zone, should be a priority for the Isles. A six foot seven inch defenseman who has a great shot from the point and skates like the wind probably would fit better in Gordons system than a center whose biggest knock on him sonce day one has been his skating (or lackthere of).

Those of you who I've spoken to about this have probably grown tired of this argument, so I'll leave it at that.

I still feel that the smart choice for the Islanders ON the ice would have been Victor Hedman. However, OFF the ice, it's hard to deny that Garth made the right choice. Almost 500 fans lining up at IceWorks at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday just to get a glimpse at the first overall pick really says something. So too does the fact that more John Tavares memorabilia has been sold than that of all other Islanders players since the draft. Tavares-mania is sweeping Islanders country, and for the first time in quite some time, Islander fans have a reason to feel good.

Was John Tavares the right pick? Who can say for sure. We will be asking this question for years to come, as we all watch the draft class of '09 blossom. Do I feel he was the right pick? Personally, no. I think they should have gone with defense (duh!).

I don't know if John Tavares will lead the Isles to the promise land. What I do know, is that I have big concerns about how his game can translate into the NHL. Take this for what it's worth, but I can really see his skating becoming a big issue in establishing himself as a true NHL threat. There's no doubt that JT has huge upside, but given the hype since he was fourteen, plus concerns which are not only held by me, but also by NHL scouts who saw him every day this past year, I see him having huge bust POTENTIAL. Not certainty, but potential.

Boy, I hope I'm wrong...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rookie and Prospect Scrimmage

Just got back from Iceworks, where a scrimmage was held between two teams of Islanders prospects. A few quick notes from the outing...

  • I am absolutely falling in love with the depth at goalie which Garth and Ryan have built. Very impressed by Kevin Poullin in particular. Both Mikko Koskinen and Anders Nilsson are HUGE! My friend and I walked into Iceworks and the first thing we see is Frankenstein wearing blue goalie pads (turned out it was Mikko). It kind of reminds me of an old story where a certain new owner of a certain NHL franchise recommended putting a Sumo-Wrestler in net.
  • Before the next time Josh Bailey steps onto the rink, someone had better make him pee in a cup. Those of you who are expecting to see the same, thin-ish Josh Bailey from last year will be pleasantly suprised, 'cause someone's been hitting the gym.
  • Any Isles fan who hasn't been living under a rock knows the story of Casey Cizikas, who due to a tragic Rugby accident, was charged with manslaughter. His recent sentence of probation and community service clearly had no effect on his play. The kid was everywhere. It seemed that just about every time he was on the ice, he was in the middle of the play. I've got a good feeling that this may become one of the steals of this years draft.
  • While Cizikas was an absolute thrill to watch, I unfortunately could not say the same for John Tavares. Maybe it's just me trying to pick apart his game, but it looks to me like he needs to keep his feet moving. He was anything but spectacular today, staying off the scoresheet, and for the most part, out of the play. I'm not going to judge him based on this first time seeing him live, but I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled with "The Chosen One".
  • I've been a huge critic of some of the smaller defensemen Snow & co. have picked up over the past few years. I've constantly complained that size is needed to boost this D-corps, not more small, fast D-men. Boy, was I wrong! Guys like Aaron Ness and Calvin de Haan (who I am officially PSYCHED about) were probably the most entertaining to watch. Ness, in particular, has a great set of hands and looks like he can tape-to-tape pass through miles of traffic, and de Haan looks like a younger, thinner Tomas Kaberle. Very Exciting.
All in all, great job by the Islanders. You can already tell that with the excitement building around the young core this organization is putting together, this year may be a little different, and that better days are on the horizon.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Night at the Draft Party: Part One

Greetings from Erie, Pennsylvania!

This week, my new construction job (which I'm regretting taking more every day), has brought me to this little city on the shore of Lake Erie. Unfortunately, this is the second time in three weeks I've had to make the ten hour drive to a city which I've affectionately come to call "America's Armpit".

But this isn't about my new job or this hell-hole that I'll be staying at for the next week. This is all about the great job done by the Islanders this past weekend.

As a fan, the party was probably one of the coolest non-game events I've ever been to. It was a fans dream. There were locker room tours, interactive activities, and meet and greets with current and past players (Tim Jackman, Mike Bossy, Bob Nystrom, and Bryan Trottier).

My night started out with a quick trip to Gate 9, the Blog Box. I walked in on Stephen Herrmann of doing his online radio show, and joined in. We spoke mostly about this years draft (about who should be picked and who probably would be picked), but also got into last years draft and how it panned out. Most of our conversation centered around Tavares, however, whenever Victor Hedman was brought up, Stephen gave me an open mic. Check out the entire discussion at Great job done by Stephen and Tony.

After that, Iwalked down to the ice level where all the festivities were going on. I ran into Katrina from the Lighthouse Group. She asked me to participate in a little "experiment they were doing, in which my friend and I stood in front of a camera and talked about what the Lighthouse meant to us and why Long Island needs it. I basically spoke about how as a 22 year old "super-senior" college student, many of my friends are leaving to go find jobs off of Long Island because it's so expensive. Then, I spoke a little bit about how the Islanders are a part of Long Island, and that the Island needs the Islanders. After we were done, we were told that our testimony could be used for the next Lighthouse video or commericial. For more about this, check out the lightpost blog. Great job to everyone at the Lighthouse Group.

After my visit with the people from the Lighthouse and a *few* drinks later (hey, it was my only night without work the next day in two weeks, cut me some slack) the draft was about to begin. As everyone who knows me is well aware, I have a self-described "man crush" on Victor Hedman, and as you may have read on The Tiger Track, I had officially jumped on the Matt Duchene bandwagon. Secretly (or not so secretly), I was hoping for the Islanders to select one of these two players. However, roughly 9,999 people at the Coliseum felt otherwise.

As the big screen showed video presentations of the two said players, boos louder than those given to Darcy Tucker in 2002 were heard. Finally after about three minutes of booing, John Tavares' picture came upon the screen, and the place erupted. I wonder who everyone wanted?

I decided to grab one of the Coliseum's famous pretzel twists before the pick was made. While walking along the concourse to find an open snack stand, I noticed a man walking past me wearing a three piece suit. Turns out, Islanders Senior Vice President Chris Dey was in attendance. I very cordially asked him if he had any idea who Garth was picking, and with the sneakiest smile, he quickly responded "no idea". Note to self: next card game I have, be sure to invite Chris Dey, the dude has no poker face.

Considering I've been driving for over ten hours today, I'll stop here and tell you all about the rest of my night tomorrow. Thanks for listening.

*Quick note*: Good luck to my hockey team tonight, as they have the first round of the playoffs tonight. Go Ducks! Wish I could be there with ya.

Friday, June 26, 2009

T-Minus 4 Hours

It's officially been 78 days since I've last sat at this computer and have written about our favorite hockey team. Working 55-60 hours of construction a week will do that to you...

In less than four hours, the Islanders will name their newest player with the first overall pick in the draft, and in doing so will do one of two things: either 1) make ALMOST everyone in the building feel ecstatic, and more importantly, proud to be an Islanders fan, or 2) select someone not named John Tavares first overall, and Snow, Jankowski, and company will see a faint glow to the south from Montreal. That faint glow, of course, will be the burning of the Nassau Coliseum.

Anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about John Tavares. It's not that I don't love him as a player, but I'm more enamoured by the mammouth defenseman from Sweden, and have now officially joined the "Matt Duchene Man-Crush" bandwagon.

When asked on the way home from my rain-shortened workday how my perfect draft would pan out, I could only respond, "there's no way we can get all three?"

Who do I think the Isles WILL take? John Tavares. No question. He's been the consensus best available prospect this year. He's broken almost every scoring record in the OHL, and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Islanders great Mike Bossy. Not to mention, if the Islanders do not select him, you may not see a full seat for opening day this season.

Who do I think the Isles SHOULD take? Matt Duchene. True, you don't draft according to the system your coach runs, but a two-way center with blazing speed, phenomenal vision, great hands and a scoring touch is almost too good to pass up. He's being compared to the likes of Joe Sakic, and one of my all time favorites, Stevie Y. Of all three top prospects, I can see him having the bet career.

Who do I want? Victor Hedman. I'm not having this argument anymore. If you want to know why I'm so in love with Hedman, just read some of my earlier posts. You build your team from goaltender out, and with Mr. 2021 a huge question mark for next year, the Islanders really should booster up that D-line, because, let's face it...we are not signing J-Bo, Komi, or even (another favorite and LI boy) Rob Scuderi.

This draft will either make or break the Islanders in the future. If whomever they pick doesn't pan out, the second guessing will never end. Lets just hope for the sake and safety of everyone at the Coliseum, the pick's name starts with a T and rhymes with "Lavares".

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Mess This Up, Garth

Anyone who knows me has a pretty decent idea of where I stand on the whole Tavares/Hedman issue. Tavares may be a highly skilled sniper who will be a "quick fix" in putting people back in the seats at the Coliseum, but the bottom line is that a winning product on the ice is a time proven way to sell tickets, and to do that, the team needs to focus on defense, an issue which has plagued them all year. In adressing this need, I am going against the other 95% of Islander fans and claiming that with the 1st overall pick, the New York Islanders should pick Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.

Fans hear the comparison of Tavares to the likes of the great Islander, Mike Bossy, and immediately think that he will do the same thing that Bossy did in the 80's. People see how the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have saved their respective franchises, and that Tavares could potentially do the same. This all may be true, but think of it in this aspect...

The Islanders draft Tavares, so they try to make up for the lack of a big defenseman via free agency. Jay Bouwmeester is out of their reach, and Mike Komisarek signs a huge deal elsewhere. The Islanders may make some minor moves, such as bringing in someone like a Francois Beauchemin or trading up in the first round to grab someone like Oliver Ekmann-Larsen (notice there is NO mention of Matt Gilroy). This leaves the Islanders with a SLIGHTLY improved defense and a talented, yet extrememly young offensive core. Let's not even bring up the fact that Rick DiPietro is or isn't going to be healthy next year (the jury's still out on that one).

The Islanders have a lot which they can build upon on offense in the likes of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau, and Trent Hunter. On defense, however, you have quite possibly the best signing in the NHL last year in Mark Streit, Bruno Gervais, and for arguments sake, Brendan Witt as three guys you absolutely know you can count on. Do Islander fans really want to take a chance on Jack Hillen or another year of the chalk-for-bones play of Radek Martinek?

If the Islanders draft John Tavares, he may live up to the hype of his reputation, being the player that saves the franchise. However, if Garth Snow really wants to put the best team available on the ice five years from now, he won't listen to the fans in section 330 chanting "John Tavares, John Tavares". Instead, he will look to the Islanders teams of the past, teams with the defensive dominance of players like Denis Potvin and Ken Morrow, and maybe then he will realize that the right pick in this years draft is Victor Hedman.

Or than again, maybe he'll just trade down twice again...