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...

Monday, April 13, 2009

DiPietro Spotted on Crutches. Time for a Backup Plan!

As per Greg Logan, Islanders 2000 first overall draft pick and franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro has been spotted at the team's rehab facility under the use of crutches. This comes only a day removed from hearing coach Scott Gordon say of DiPietro after yesterday's season finale "He's upbeat. I don't know the specifics of his timetable, but he's been encouraged with the way things are going and he fully expects to be on the ice mid-summer and ready to go."

What does this mean for the franchise? The absence of the 6'1", 210 lb. goaltender was what many feel led to the Islanders finishing 30 out of 30 in the final NHL standings in 2009. DiPietro's chronic "lower body injuries" (knee and hip injuries) have caused him to miss virtually the entire 2008-09 season, as well as the conclusion to the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. Clearly, a healthy DiPietro is the key to a return to success for hockey on Long Island, and the question of his health is by far the biggest concern among Islander fans this offseason.

Should DiPietro have yet another setback this year, the Islanders do have a few choices at potential backup plans. The mostly solid play of backups Yann Danis and Joey MacDonald have warranted them credit by Islander fans, however, should DiPietro not return next year, don't expect to see either of them as the Isles' #1 in net in 2009-10. More likely, however, is the possibility of seeing the Islanders solve their need at a starting goaltender through this years free agency period. Below is a small list of potential suitors for the Islanders starting goaltender position should the need arise.

Craig Anderson. Florida's backup to Tomas Vokoun posted a solid 15-7-5 over 31 games with a .924 save percentage (3rd best in the league) and a 2.71 goals against average. He won four of his last five games of the 2008-09 season and has played consistent all year. Islanders fans will remember his solid play from last years "core of the four" game, when he shut out the Islanders on 53 shots (Anderson's 53 saves were an NHL record for amount of saves during a shutout). Anderson made $575,000 last season and is expected to get quite a raise through free agency, as many feel that Florida will up their price to keep Anderson. Overall, Anderson in an Isles jersey is wishful thinking, however his potential high price may drive the Isles away.

Scott Clemmensen. The Devils backup for Martin Broduer has been a major story of the NHL this year, and his play off the bench may lead to a connection with the NFL's Matt Cassell. The 31 year old Clemmensen played in 40 games this year, posting a record of 25-13-1 with 2 shutout victories, as well as finishing in the top 10 in save percentage (.917%, 9th) and goals against average (2.39, 7th). Clemmensen made a modest $500,000 this season, and, like Cassell, likely will make more durin the offseason. Temas may look at his wonderful run as Devils starting goaltender and see a slam dunk signing. Personally, I wouldn't touch Clemmensen, as I feel that he was purely in the right place at the right time. I can see, however, the Islanders possibly offering Clemmensen a contract, as he can be seen as a low risk, high reward type of signing.

Ty Conklin. Personally, the most intriguing of all potential free agent goaltenders the Islanders could land is Detroit's Ty Conklin. The 33 year old journeyman goaltender has played for five teams since the 2001-02 season. He finished 25-11-2 this season in 40 games played and posted 6 shutouts this season, the sixth best in the league. His solid play during the regular season is something that can really boost the Islanders into a possible playoff position next year. Conklin earned $750,000 this past season, and barring him leading the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup victory this year, Conklin likely will get a 1 year contract worth about the same as what he makes now. Of all potential suitors for Rick DiPietro's possible "replacement", I see Conklin as the most likely candidate.

Keel in mind that all this is speculation. It is very likely that DiPietro will be healthy for next season and could possibly be back to his usual form. However, should there be even one more minor setback, the Islanders need to jump at a backup plan to ensure they do not finish last again next year

Sunday, April 12, 2009

At Seasons End

With the end f Easter Sunday, so too will end the 2008-09 NHL regular season, and what a memorable one it has been. We have seen records fall, such as Washington's Mike Green setting the NHL goal record for a defenseman, and superstars playing in their prime, such as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgenni Malkin and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin. However, if you live out here in Islander Country, this season has been one to forget. 

With the conclusion of Saturday's matinee against the Flyers, the Islanders, already guaranteed a last place finish, looked like a team which had been through hell and back. The tone in the locker room was somber and melancholy, with both players and coaches not looking relieved to have this nightmare of a season over, but appearing as if the season took years of everyone's lives. When asked to explain his experience this year, rookie coach Scott Gordon elaborated that "the last few weeks of the season seemed like it lasted for a day, but the first few months lasted for years". 

There is no question that the season has worn on the players. When interviewed downstairs at the Coliseum, the common theme was "frustration". Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit, and Sean Bergenheim all expressed their feelings of frustration at the injuries which have plagued the season, and each of them indicated in some way that the future is bright for this young organization. 

Now we can all put this catastrophe of a season behind us. We can focus on things like draft lotteries, the AHL playoffs, making smart offseason pickups via the draft and free agency, and f course, rooting AGAINST the Rangers. The season may be over for the Islanders, but the organization will likely be very busy in the upcoming months. All I will say, on behalf of Islander fans everywhere, don't mess this one up!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Islanders Clinch Last Place

With last night's embarrassing 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders have secured last place. Why, you may ask, is everyone so excited in Islanders Country then? This loss secures the Islanders either the first or second overall pick in this years NHL Entry Draft.

This means that regardless of what happens in the remaining 2 games this season, the Isles will get the chance to draft the highly regarded prospects, John Tavares and Victor Hedman.

There's no question that one, if not both, of those talented young men is needed here on the Island. In the month of April, the Islanders are 1-4, giving up 24 goals and scoring only 10. The offensive upside of Tavares or the rock solid play of Hedman would be a warm welcome to the Coliseum, and some feel that with a smart offseason signing a few key free agents, plus a healthy Rick DiPietro, the Islanders MAY be a force to be reckoned with in 2009-10.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Different Team

With the 2008-09 season coming to a close, the New York Islanders can soon put this nightmare of a season behind them. They are currently last in the NHL in overall points, and are likely to secure a top two draft pick this year. This season has been one of slight ups and extreme downs, frustrating losses, and injuries galore. It seems that nobody is off limits when it comes to being bitten by the injury bug, including rookie phenom Kyle Okposo and defenseman Mark Streit. The duo, clearly the Isles best two players, recently went down with "lower body injuries", and are likely to miss the rest of the season, leaving the rest of the team in disarray and struggling for the identity they need.

The injuries to Streit and Okposo has led to a few open spots on the team. For the game Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders called up youngsters Jesse Joensuu, Mike Iggulden, and Mitch Fritz. The Islanders, with 10 players from Saturday's game playing some time in Bridgeport this year, looked and played like an AHL team. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are missing their star center Vincent Lecavalier, played even worse. The end result was probably the ugliest Islanders win of the season, a two one victory, which for the most part, put the crowd to sleep.

A gme like this can be looked at as something good for the Isles' future. Okposo, who got off to a slow start, but since January has been stellar, was sorely missed out on the ice. His strong skating was clearly absent. The lack of skill from the point on the power play was apparent in his absence. The team looked as if they had no identity.

This is what Okposo bring to the table every game; grit, determination, skill, and power. In short, Okposo is the face of the franchise.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Smell A Rat

At about 1:30 this morning, I was woken by a familiar noise. The cell phone sitting next to my bed flashed, vibrated, and sounded the familiar tune which signified a text message. Still half asleep, I opened up the phone and couldn't believe what I read:

Murray Gives Lighthouse Thumbs Down.

Was this a bad April Fools joke? The Lighthouse meeting held last week was such a success, how could it be shot down so fast? Convinced I was the victim of a bad prank, I responded to the text with two words: says who? What I read next put me into a full panic and led me to believe that this was no April Fools joke.


I immediately ran to my computer and went to, where I saw the article. "This is bad," I kept saying, "this is really bad."

To summarize what has transpired, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray has decided to officially declare her opposition of the Lighthouse Project. Her alternative: a fully renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which she says will create thousands of jobs for the struggling economy. The money to get this project going Murray states, will be federal stimulus dollars.

Wait, federal stimulus dollars?!?!

Renovating an old building, home to a struggling hockey franchise which struggles to bring in ten thousand people per game isn't exactly what I had in mind when I think about stimulus relief.

Murray says that the renovation will create thousands of jobs, thus saving Nassau. However, if she were to look at the center of the map of the Lighthouse, found here, she would see that on top of renovating the Coliseum, other PERMANENT jobs would be created. The apartments would need doormen, the convention center would need security. Are those TEMPORARY construction jobs more important than the proposed PERMANENT jobs? Shame on you Kate Murray.

Finally, one more thing, as an Islander fan, really bothered me. In a public statement, Murray stated that the county should "score the Coliseum's greatest victory since the Islanders 1984 Stanley Cup". For photos of that Stanley Cup victory, click here.

1984? Are you kidding me? If Kate Murray wants to appeal to Islander fans (a moot point by now), she should at least realize that the Isles LOST in five games to the Oilers. So thank you, Ms. Murray, not only for busting Islander fans' bubbles regarding the Lighthouse, but also pouring salt on our wounds.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Team with an Identity

On a mild Saturday night in Uniondale, the last place Islanders hosted the Philadelphia Flyers, a team who undoubtedly will be competing in this years Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders, on the other hand, were anything but. This Islander team, far removed from the glory days of the 1980's, has gone through injuries, trades, and call-ups, which when added together takes away from getting any kind of chemistry. For all intents and purposes, some may say this team is one without an identity.

After watching thegame Saturday, a fan could come up with a few ideas about the direction of this team and what to look for.

  1. This team plays physical. Even forgetting the fact tha there were four fights Saturday night, the Isles have become a team who throw their bodies around...a lot. With Jeff Tambellini turning from someone who backed off a play if he saw a shadow, turning into a hitting beast, plus with the timely shoves and such from Tim Jackman, Blake Comeau, and Nate Thompson, this team looks like it can be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
  2. Flashy plays pay off. Anyone who saw the game on Saturday is likely still in awe of Tambellini's spinning baseball swing goal. Aside from that freak-of-nature play, the Islanders have been playing with a lot more of a spotlight-stealing mentality. Before his injury, Sean Bergenheim was probably one of the teams best stick handlers, with an inate ability to bring the puck into the zone and work his way around defensemen. In his absence, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, and even Mark Streit have taken over and wowed the fans.
  3. Unpredicibility. While the move to put Brendan Witt in as the forst shooter in Saturdays shootout may not have worked the way he would have liked it, Coach Scott Gordon is showing that he will throw away convention if he thinks it will help him win a game. When asked why he put Witt, a stay-at-home defenseman in the shootout, he half-joked, "Why not?"
Put these three components together, and the Islander team which takes the ice next year could become very dangerous. The remaining potential playoff team who they still have to play this year (i.e. Montreal and Pittsburgh) need to watch out, because this Islander team has found its identity: they play the spoiler of the league, and seem to enjoy doing it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The 180th Lighthouse Meeting: Recap

"This project is the future of Long Island!"

"We cannot allow it NOT to happen!"

"We can make it happen!"

"Don't bet against us on Long Island!"

These were just some of the quotes from last nights 180th Lighthouse Developers Group Meeting that brought the nearly 200 people in attendance to their feet. The meeting which was hosted by Charles Wang, Scott Rechler, and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, and it was held as an open forum, town hall style meeting. Some issues discussed concerning the project included the economy, race, religion, traffic, zoning, transportation, and of course, hockey.

However, what it more than made up for in its ra-ra tone, it lacked in probably the major issue I personally attended: to hear the voice of the opposition.

We all knew Kate Murray wasn't going to be there. We all knew that a great deal of the people attending had one concern in mind: the Islanders. However, what I didn't expect was the lack of a voice against this project. As Doug from Isles Official's Outlook pointed out "This is a huge project, there HAS to be somebody against it!"

The lone family who came out to voice their opinion against the Lighthouse unfortunately didn't elaborate on why they felt the way they did. When a representative from the Building and Construction Trade on Long Island asked to the panel "what is holding this up", a voice from behind us shouted out, "I'm holding this up. I don't want this in my backyard!" Within five minutes after this was uttered, the family had left.

To me, it is unfortunate that the meeting was so one-sided. As one person put it, the atmosphere almost seemed more like that of a high school pep rally than anything else. The Lighthouse Group made great cases as to why the project needs to be done, but again, I personally felt that there needed to be a stronger opposition present, if only to show two sides of the coin.

All in all, the meeting went off without a hitch. With the exception of one supporter, nobody bashed Kate Murray, as Wang quickly pointed out that shouldn't be about politics, and the few times that the air got tense, such as when the representative from the NAACP asked why the original television commercials for the project had a lack minority representation, everyone was addressed with respect and understanding.

So now we wait once more. We'll wait until, "early-to-mid April to determine how the project is going", as Suozzi put it. We'll wait until the proposed October deadline to receive confirmation as to whether the project is going to happen or not. Supporters, if only for one night though, felt like this project can, and will, happen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lghthouse Meeting Tomorrow

I'm Rick Dipietro, and I'm an Islander...

Anyone who has been to a New York Islanders game in the past has heard the commercials over the P.A. system, which players announce their name, and that they are Islanders. Everyone who has been to a game this year also knows the teams slogan, "We're all Islanders". The point of all these campaign is to make us feel proud to be fans, proud of the Islanders heritage, and proud to be Long Islanders.

As Long Islanders, our pride is being tested.

The Nassau Coliseum, a once proud home to champions on the ice, stands in a now almost always empty parking lot in Hempstead. The building, once the home of the greatest American hockey dynasty of all time, now is the laughing stock of the NHL. The team which calls that building its home, along with their building, is a punchline in an NHL which has left those glory days of the 1980's far behind.

Make no mistake, this is not about the New York Islanders.

I'm Jason Blake, and I'm an Islander...

In these tough economic times, people are losing their jobs left and right. Some analysts even predict the losses could add up to 10% unemployment by Autumn if things don't turn around. People on Long Island are among the hardest hit of this economic emergency.

The approved Lighthouse project, first proposed by Charles Wang, would lift Long Island out of this tough economic rift almost immediately. The $4 billion project would create jobs in construction, retail, promotion, and landscaping, just to name a few. The area surrounding the Nassau Colisuem, which now is surrounded most prominantly by a Starbucks and Hofstra University, would be transormed into shops, restaraunts, and a convention center. The economic advantage of the Lighthouse is obvious.

I'm Bill Guerin, and I'm an Islander...

As wonderful a place Long Island is to live, it is a bit slow during the winter. During the summer, when residents and tourists alike are lounging at the beach, much is going on. However, in the winter, our home seems to be in a hibernated state.

With the Lighthouse project, something would almosts always be going on. A renevated Nassau Coliseum would bring in, aside from Islanders hockey, more concerts, and possibly one day, an NCAA Final Four tournament. With the success of the third Presidential debate at Hofstra this year, the new Convention Center could possibly host a Republican or Democratic National Convention for a future Presidential Election. The outdoor ice rinks located near the Coliseum could host high school and college hockey tournaments, and located on the northwest corner of the area would be the home of Nassau Counties first ever minor league baseball tam.

I'm Ryan Smyth, and I'm an Islander...

This isn't about keeping a hockey team on Long Island. It isn't about turning Hempstead into a "city-like area". This is about being Long Islander. It's about lifting Long Island out of the economic crisis that has swept the country. It's about giving Long Islanders a place to call their own.

Tomorrow night, March 26th, the Lighthouse Group will host a special event at the Long Island Marriot in Uniondale. All who want the Lighthouse to go through should come and show your support.

I'm Brian Walsh, and I'm a Long Islander, and I say meet me at the Marriot tomorrow night!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Real Heroes

I can remember being ten years old when Mike Piazza was traded from the Florida Marlins to the New York Mets. His second at bat was an RBI double, and I'll never forget the image of Jerry Seinfeld going crazy in his seat when Piazza recorded his first of many RBI's with the Mets. Soon after, whenever I would be asked who my hero was, I had one response: Mike Piazza. It's amazing how things have changed...

Yesterday afternoon, in Oakland, California, four policemen were fired upon by a parolee wanted on charges of parole violation. Upon the confrontation with police, the parolee, Lovelle Mixon, opened fire, killing three officers, and rendering a fourth braindead.

The fourth policeman, officer John Hege, is only alive right now because his family is still deciding whether to donate his organs or not.

Eleven years after Mike Piazza's first RBI as a Met, I have a somewhat different view of what a hero is. A hero isn't somebody who goes to work for six months of the year and plays a game for a living, it's the guy who works a double shift in the worst part of Brooklyn to make ends meet. A hero isn't somebody who gets drafted into the NFL, a hero is someone who is drafted into the armed forces. A hero doesn't wear his name and number on the back of his jersey, he wears it on his badge. Regardless of how humble, popular, and charismatic a player is, he is not a hero.

Here's to all the heroes who put everything on the line to serve and protect us. You don't get put on the cover of a video game, and you only get your name in the newspaper when something bad happens, but you are the ones who should be honored every day.

Those four police officers in Oakland gave the ultimate sacrifice for their city, and while much of the country is focusing on playoff races and March Madness, one fan salutes you.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Debate: Tavares/Hedman

13 games. That's all that remains of the Islanders 2008-09 campaign. It's been a tough one for all of us in Islanders country, with the injury bug making its permanent residence out on Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale, with the pain of being a last place team, and with the dark shadow of a possible move to Kansas City looming over the team.

That being said, there is reason for Islander fans to be optimistic...

There are two sides to every coin. The glass is half full. Every cloud has a silver lining. These are all things that fans should realize about finishing dead last in the standings this year. While the Islander fans have suffered through a year of bad losses, injuries, and for the most part, mediocrity at best, things will begin to look up this year. Even with the lottery system in place for the NHL draft, should the Isles end the season with the least amount of points, they will be guaranteed the chance to draft one of two potential franchise players: the record-breaking center from the Ontario Hockey League, John Tavares, or the stud defenseman from MoDo in Sweden, Victor Hedman.

The two have been competing for the honor of being the first overall draft pick this year, and given the Islanders situation, either one would be welcomed with open arms. With this in mind, one question remains: Who do the Islanders draft?

Tavares: John Tavares has been talked about since he was sixteen, being considerd the best offensive prospect to enter the draft since Sidney Crosby. His 72 goals in the 2006-07 season is the OHL record for most goals in a season, topping even the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

Why shoud the Islanders draft him? For starters, someone like Tavares can put fans in seats, something that the Islanders have had trouble doing for the past few years. On the ice, Tavares could combine with Isles rookie Kyle Okposo to have one of the freshest young offensive tandums, which could rival those of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes in Chicago, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in Los Angeles, and perhaps one day, Evgenni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.

: The 6'7, 225 lb Victor Hedman is easily the best defensive prospect in this years draft. His combination of size and speed is what sets him apart from all competition at his position. His strong play at his position has warranted comparisons to players like Niklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger.

Why should the Islanders draft him? In the post lockout NHL, defense has become increasingly important. It is no coincidence the past three Stanley Cup Champions have has well above average defenses. Teams who want to compete need to build their teams from the goal line out, and with the chronic injuries of Rick DiPietro, the Islanders need to compensate their lack of steady goaltending with solid defense.

Prediction: While both players would fit in easily with the young Islanders roster, the Islanders need more help on defense. With blossoming players such as Kyle Okposo, Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau, and Josh Bailey, the Islanders very well may be set at the forward position for years to come.

However, the Islanders defense, with few exceptions, needs a big boost. Brendan Witt isn't getting any younger, Radek Martinek is very injury prone, and players like Freddy Meyer, Bruno Gervais, and Jack Hillen lack the size that many feel the Islanders desperately need.

In short, don't look into the "Tavares hype" ans automatically assume that he is the perfect fit for the Islanders. He will be a very good NHL player, there is no denying that, but as almost any hockey coah will tell you, "defense wins". Victor Hedman can give the Islanders that boost on the blueline which may lift them to the next level.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Long Time Coming

In a game where Joey MacDonald played one of his better games this year, where Mike Iggulden made his NHL debut, and where the young talent of the Islanders made a huge push towards giving fans hope for the future, only one name was really talked about afterwards: Sean Bergenheim.

Bergenheim has been a fan favorite for years, but with his recent play, scoring two or more goals in three games the past two weeks, he may have lifted himself to a new level.

With the absence of Trent Hunter due to a fractured ankle, the Bill Guerin trade, and with Doug Weight for all intents and purposes out for the year, Bergenheim now leads the Isles with 14 goals. Bergenheim, however, will never be one to take away from the team. When asked by Greg Logan of Newsday what it was like to be tied with rookie Kyle Okposo for the team lead in goals, each at 13, Bergenheim replied with the status quo response "It's all about the team", however, he quickly corrected Logan by pointing out "I have 14, though."

The win Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils gave the Islanders a much needed win on home ice, but more importantly for Bergenheim, his first career hat-trick.

Bergenheim is showing now that he can be the 20 goal scorer that the Islanders thought he would be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. If he keeps this up, he very well may end up with not only the team lead in goals, but he could be the first of the "young talent" of the Islanders rebuild to score 20 goals this year.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Ode to a Captain"

Yesterday, at about 2:00 p.m., reported that Islanders captain Bill Guerin had finally been traded. The news did not shock many fans, as Guerin was a healthy scratch for the teams previous two games against Buffalo and Colorado. However, when fans learned that the Islanders would be receiving a conditional draft pick for the services of the two year captain, many fans, including myself initially, were very upset.

The details of the trade are as follows. Guerin is sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a fifth round pick in this years entry draft. However, if the Penguins make the playoffs, the pick becomes a fourth rounder. Likewise, if the Penguins advance to the second round of the playoffs and Guerin plays in 50% of the first round games, than the pick becomes a third rounder.

With rumors of a trade looming all weekend, and even Guerin confirming yesterday that there was a trade in place, many fans felt that the return for Guerin could have been higher, perhaps even a second round pick or a prospect. The Islanders made it pretty obvious that a trade for Guerin was imminent, and that the original deal (still believed to be to Washington) fell through at the last minute. This, at least to me, made the Islanders look a bit desperate to move their captain, and other teams may have seen that too. The Islanders couldn't get a deal done until Wednesday, the day of the Trade Deadline, and finally pushed the button on the Pittsburgh trade.

But we as fans should not look back today and remember Guerin's nearly two years as our captain and only remember this trade. We should remember the timely goals, the quick shots, and how he lead the team on and off the ice. Anyone who was fortunate enough to be in the locker room when Billy was giving an interview, talking with the media, or just with his teammates will definitely notice the void in that locker room for the remainder of the season.

So here's to you, Billy. During your tenure as Islanders captain, you did everything which was expected of you and more. Even in your last days on the Island, waiving your no-trade-clause to better the team that you play for, you set yourself apart from others in your never-ending devotion to the word "team". Your joking around, sense of humor, and timely one-liners will be missed during the post-game. Your game winners, your hard shot, and your work ethic will be missed on the ice. Your service to the community and charity work will not be forgotten. Here's to you, Bill Guerin, the Captain's Captain.

Good luck, and bring home that cup!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Value: Brendan Witt

At 3:00 p.m. today, March 4th, the NHL Trade Deadline will have come and gone. This being said, The final installment of "Trade Value", where readers are given in depth looks at potential trades, is given. For the final installment, we will focus on recently suspended defenseman Brendal Witt.

Brendan Witt has been one of the Islanders most valued players for the past few years. Never afraid to block a shot or get his hands dirty, he may come as one of the Islanders greatest assets.

However, this past season has not been a kind one for Witt. For most of the season, he has a had a +/- rating of at least a dismal -20. He has been quoted criticizing the Islanders new system under rookie head coach Scott Gordon, and his recent 5 game suspension for a questionable elbow may have lowered his stock.

What are the chances Witt will be moved? Probably not good. Witt has recently come out saying that he and coach Gordon have "no problem", and since a sit-down with the coach in January, his game has flourished, with Witt playing more like the shut-down defenseman he has been since coming to the Islanders.

A more likely defnseman for the Islanders to be shipped off would be Radek Martinek, a very similar-style defenseman to Witt, but with a far easier contract to deal (Martinek is making under $1 million this year). The two have a very similar game, and with Martinek's game also being improved this year after an "upper body injury" kept him out early in the year.

Prediction: Witt stays put on the Island, while the Isles ship off Martinek to a playoff contending team for either a mid-round draft pick or a mid to low-level defensive prospect.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Isles vs. Avs: "Live" Blog

Well, it seems like 14 inches of snow is just about the only thing that can keep me from the coliseum to watch the Islanders. With that in mind, I'm at home, watching the game on "Versus", and I'll give you some insight as to what I see and discuss some of the game storylines. I'll be back in between periods 1 & 2, then between 2 & 3.

*No Bill Guerin talk here tonight, unless he is traded mid-game*

7:43 The first period has ended, with the Islanders leading the Avalanche 1-0 on a dean McAmmond wrister from the high slot. Jon Sim recorded the only assist. Ryan Smyth makes his return to Coliseum ice tonight, facing his former team for the first time since leaving via free agency. The fans let him have it almost immediately, booing him every time he touched the puck.

With all the bad weather today, it looks like most people had the same idea as me in staying home. Watching the game, it seems that there is only a handful of people attending tonight's game, maybe even as little as three or four thousand.

According to Chris Botta, Trent Hunter is out tonight with what is being called a "lower body injury". When the information is made available, I will explain what exactly a "lower body injury" means.

The game is starting up again. More updates will come in betwen periods 2 and 3.

8:35 The second period was filled with action, starting off with a Ryan Smyth goal from the right end of the goal crease. It was vintage Smyth, and it tied the game up at one.

Jesse Joensuu, who is playing in his first NHL game, scored a "working mans goal", crashing in from the high slot and picking up the rebound from Jon Sim. However, the Islanders were not done yet. Bruno Gervais, on a pass from Sim and Blake Comeau, put one home later in the period to make he score 3-1 in favor of the Isles.

We think that something may be wrong with the Coliseum goal horn, as it sounded when Ryan Smyth scored on Yann Danis. That's right, the visiting team scores and the home crowd goal horn goes off. I wonder if someone up there still thinks Smyth is playing for the blue and orange.

A quick update on Trent Hunter: according to Dee Karl, the 7th woman, Hunter suffered his "lower body injury" during warm-ups, and it is believed to be an ankle injury. Still no word on the duration of time he may miss or exactly what happened.

The third period is starting momentarily. I will be back then for the wrap up and post game analysis.

9:26 The Islanders have defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Third period goals were as follows: for the Avalanche, Ryan Smyth scored his second of the game on a wraparound. For the Islanders, Jeff Tambellini received a great drop pass from Mark Streit in the offensive zone and ripped one past Andrew Raycroft of the Avalanche to seal the two goal lead and the game.

Jon sim had his best game as an Islander tonight. His 3 assists doubled the amount he had put forth this season, and he now has 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points in 49 games played. His efforts in tonights game have earned him the contests first star honors.

Overall, a good effort put forth to put away the struggling Colorado team. The Islanders next game is Thursday, March 5, against the New York Rangers.

The Waiting Game

The Bill Guerin situation is still very much alive, going on 40 hours since he was pulled from the lineup against the Buffalo Sabres, leading everyone and their grandmother to begin trade talks. However, after being told Saturday night that we would get an official statement from the team Sunday (yesterday) morning, we are once again left in the dark.

According to Chris Botta at, the Islanders sent text messages out to the media saying that "there will be no news tonight", and "there is no timetable for any announcements". While this may lead many people to think that a potential trade is dead, it is more likely now that the potential trade partner, which Guerin is aware of, is playing hard ball. Since the trade is likely to either the Montreal Canadiens or the Washington Capitals, salary may need to be cut to take on the remaining $1 million of Guerin's contract.

General Manager Garth Snow has until the trade deadline, Wednesday at 3:00 p.m., to make a trade happen, and if it cannot be done, a lot will be said about the relationship between Guerin and coach Scott Gordon. You may remember Newsday's Greg Logan reporting yesterday of the rocky relationship between the two lately, mostly due to Gordon's new system, which doesn't cater well to "older" players, and the coaches commitment to playing his youngsters such as Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielson, and Blake Comeau. For more on this story, click here.

Reports of frustration from the Guerin camp have been surfacing lately, including one from TSN quoting "...Guerin has become frustrated by the ongoing uncertainty and has done nothing to complicate or stall the trade from going through." We still don't know who the mystery trade partner is, nor do we know what the return for Guerin would be, as the general consensus is that it may be less than originally expected (take that second round pick and run!), and there is only speculation about what could be holding up the deal.

What we do know, however, is that Guerin will not dress for tonight's game against the Colorado Avalanche. 21 year old Jesse Joensuu has been called up from the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Soundtigers, to fill in for the captain in limbo. Joensuu, a 6-4 right wing from Finland has been one of the talks of the town in Bridgeport, recording 17 goals and 13 assists this season for the 'Tigers. Check back later for more updates!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Night in the Blog Box: The Bill Guerin Sweepstakes

The fact that the Islanders started to play like a team on a mission wasn't even mentioned last night. Nor was the fact that young defenseman Andy McDonald played his first NHL game, and didn't even play half bad. No, the entire buzz surrounded one thing: the potential departure of Bill Guerin.

The night had started off like any other, with light discussions and conversations about the nights game, the big story: Andy McDonald's first game. About five minutes into the game, we could tell that something was wrong up in the blog box. The Islanders were a man short, and when captain Bill Guerin couldn't be found, we all searched the internet and phones frantically to see what had happened. Guerin had taken practice shots in the pre-game skate, yet the fact that he had not come out to play meant only one thing to us: TRADE!

The blog box was abuzz with questions, constant text messaging to fans and friends, and debates about what the trade could be. By the end of the night, we had learned the potential buyers in the "Bill Guerin Sweepstakes" were Montreal, New Jersey, Boston, and Washington (it had been confirmed that the Islanders had not one, but two scouts in Saturday's Boston/Washington game, perhaps one for each team?).

The team and coach were mum about the Guerin situation. Coach Scott Gordon would not comment on Stan Fischler's inquiry to what would happen to the captain beyond a joking "What, you don't want to talk about the hockey game?" Even players such as Kyle Okposo, Sean Bergenheim, and Yann Danis couldn't commit anything of use to reporters, except that the Guerin situation had not affected the game.

We all left the locker room a little disappointed, and very confused, about what the organization would do with a trade. We had more questions than we knew what to do with "Who is the trading partner?", "Will Billy wave his no-trade claus?", "What can the Isles get in return?". However, we left being told that a formal announcement would be given from the team tomorrow (sunday) morning.

Fast forward to today. It is now 6:00 p.m. and we know little more than we did last night.
  • 23 hours ago, Bill Guerin was taken off the ice and was a healthy scratch for last nights game against Buffalo.
  • Guerin has admitted that if the trade was"right", we would waive his no trade clause.
  • The potential buyers for the veteran right wing are (in order of likelihood) The Montreal Canadiens, The Washington Capitols (although The Washington Post denies that the Caps are a contender), and I see the New Jersey Devils and possibly even the Florida Panthers as EXTREME darkhorses (if you heard Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe last night during the game, you understand where I'm going with this).
So what could the Isles get for Guerin? The general consensus is that a draft pick plus a prospect is the likely return for Billy's services. If the trade goes up to Montreal, I'm thinking possibly a second round pick OR defenseman Ryan O'Byrne. If he winds up in Washington, expect the Caps to dump salary and try to push veteran forward Michael Nylander and a conditional draft pick, or as Doug from Isles Official's Outlook is dead set on: the young and talented defenseman Kyle Alzner. However, don't be shocked if it is forward Jay Beagle.

Hopefully we'll know more within the next couple of hours. The Islanders still have yet to formally make a statement, and as soon as there is one, we'll be back to comment and give you the run-down.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Isles Down Devils, 4-0

David vs. Goliath. Luke vs. Vader. Napoleon vs. the Russians. No matter how you look at it, this was the uphill battle the Islanders faced in taking on the Atlantic Division leader: the New Jersey Devils.

How did the Islanders respond? They spit in the beasts face, gaining the lead not even ten minutes into the first period on a Sean Bergenheim goal, and never looking back.

The full sixty-minute effort the Islanders put forth was one of the best they had this year, with goals from Jon Sim, rookie Kyle Okposo, and captain Bill Guerin. As Coach Scott Gordon put it, "they put in a great effort...New Jersey's a good team to have this kind of game against".

The great effort came one day after the Islanders traded away struggling center Mike Comrie and young defenseman Chris Campoli to Ottowa for veteran journeyman Dean McHammond and a first round draft pick. While the players no doubt will miss their teammates, they understand that its the nature of the beast. "It's part of the business," noted Mark Streit, "there's really nothing you can do about it." Bergenheim echoed Streit's sentiments, "we lost two good guys (via trade, but maybe guys can get more ice time now."

All in all, a great game put forth to take down the divisions best team. The Islanders play next at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 5th, at 7 p.m.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ranger Hangover Strikes Again

It has become one of the most telling signs over the years that one of the most heated rivalries in professional sports is still alive and well. It has driven Islander players, coaches, and fans alike mad throughout the years, and it has struck again. The "Ranger Hangover" lives.

Credit the rivalry, the amount of emotion put into the games, or just plain coincidence that it always happens, but there is no denying the Islanders struggles following games against the Broadway Blueshirts. The Islanders and Rangers have played five games this year, and the Islanders have lost each of their following games with the exception of one, a 4-2 New Years Eve matinee against the Florida Panthers.

While the buzz following the game was all about this frustrating phenomena, Coach Scott Gordon noted that that nights loss could be attributed to one thing: "we weren't sharp." The coach also noted that "bad decisions" with the puck and "sloppy play" hurt the Islanders chances of making the game competitive.

When asked by Stan Fischler if the "Ranger Hangover" had any effect on the game, the consensus was that it did not. "Results speak for themselves", noted defenseman Mark Streit, "(the Ranger Hangover) could be a good excuse, but we need to play better". Forward Andy Hilbert seconed Streit's notion by adding "our whole game was off".

This was the Islanders worst loss in quite some time. They have been in nearly every game which they have played for the past month, and as Coach Gordon put it, "We played a poor game which we haven't had in a while."

T.O.H. Night: Don't forget to come out to the Coliseum Saturday night for Town of Heamstead Night. A reminder to all fans, wear white to the game as the Islanders are pushing for a "white-out" in the stands.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

It seems the injury bug has bitten Islander Country once more. During the game at the Rock Wednesday in New Jersey, Doug Weight suffered a knee injury identified as a MCL sprain and is expected to miss the next six weeks. What does this mean for the Islanders?

First off, on the ice, this is huge loss. While healthy, Weight has been one of the Isles most consistent forwards, netting 9 goals and 26 assists for 35 points in 44 games. His play on the first line with captain Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie has been one of the few bright spots during this season.

From a front office standpoint, this has to be devastating to the organization. Weight was one of the few players many feel could bring in true value via trade. Teams would be looking for a veteran center who is playoff tested to make the push for the postseason, and Weight fit that part perfectly. Weight is 38 years old, and with a leg injury like this, anything is possible. Either way, the Isles are looking at the remainder of the season without their best veteran center.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trade Value, Part Two: Bill Guerin

With the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching, many players will find themselves in new homes. Among those player could be numerous New York Islanders. This week, the discussion of whom may be given the boot goes to Isles captain Bill Guerin.

The 6'2", 220 lb right winger from Worcester, MA was signed by the Islanders on July 5, 2007, and to everyone surprise (including his own), was made captain of the Islanders immediately. His impact was felt right away last year as he led the team in goals (23) and game winning goals (5). He has reached two major accolades with the Islanders, being the first player to score a hat trick with six different teams on October 18, 2007 in Washington, and scored his 400th career NHL goal in a game against Toronto on December 26, 2008.

Guerin may be a good player for the Islanders to ship off this year. He is a proven goal scorer, a natural born leader, and can really put an already established team over the top. His strong hands and quick shot could be something that a borderline playoff team may feel can push them into the next level.

However, there is a problem. Guerin has a no-trade clause which would prevent him from being moved unless he agrees to the deal. It is well known that Guerin loves the Island and would like to stay, but if the right team comes and gives the Islanders a deal, Guerin very well could up-and-leave for a Stanley Cup contender.

Adding to the complications of a deal like this happening is the Islanders salary cap room. Guerin is owed $4,000,000 this year. The Islanders are already close enough to the cap floor, and moving Guerin, along with possibly another player or two could prove costly to the Islanders, as they would be penalized for being under the salary cap.

We all know about the trade rumors which had Guerin going to the Rangers in return for underachieving forward Peter Prucha. While this particular trade would never happen, perhaps a similar deal, which could have Guerin going to a Stanley Cup contender for a mid level prospect and a draft pick could be in the cards.

Prediction: With Guerin's no-trade clause and his large salary, it will be hard for the Islanders to ship him off, however, if the chance comes up for him to play for a Cup contender late in his, career, he may take the chance. Bottom line, Bill Guerin finishes the year on the Island.

Be sure to ceck back next week as the possibility of trading Doug Weight is discussed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This is Starting to Get Ridiculous

Fan: (noun) - an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.: a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin.

A fan is someone who sticks with their team through thick and thin. A fan is someone who goes to the games and cheers for the team to succeed. All a fan cares about is winning.

There aren't many fans on Long Island.

Last night, at the Islanders 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, I had yet another heated discussion with someone who claims to be an Islander fan. The conversation was good spirited in nature, talking about the pro's and con's of the rebuild, the effectiveness of Coach Gordon's system, and what the future may hold for the Islanders. However, when the letter was brought up, I heard something that sent me up the wall...

"I can't tell if I want them (the Islanders) to win this game or not".

The reasoning for his predicament: two words that at this point in the season, I'm starting to get a little sick of: John Tavares.

Everybody who has been to a game at the Nassau Coliseum this year knows who John Tavares is. The young center playing for the London Knights of the OHL is the likely first overall pick in this summers upcoming draft. He has put up amazing numbers in the OHL and helped lead Canada to a gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Chamionship in Ottawa this past December. To sum it up, John Tavares may be the next big thing in the NHL.

I have spoken to many people who feel that this season is lost and that the Isles need to move on. This may be true. However, being a Mets and Jets fan (as if the Isles weren't torture enough) this past year has taught me something: no matter how bad things may get, you NEVER root against your team.

Depsite the fact that rooting for your team to lose shows people how bad a fan you are, there is no reason to think that he will turn the organization into a Stanley Cup contender next year. everyone makes the case that he can do for Long Island what Sidney Crosby did for Pittsburgh. There is a legitimate point here, but people are forgetting one major thing: Crosby played with one of the greatest all time NHL players his first year, Mario Lemieux. The Islanders don't have a Lemieux to put Tavares with his first year, and this may cause Tavares to take longer to develop than some people think. Let me tell you right now, Islander fans are setting themselves up to be disapointed. To put such pressure on an 18 year old kid who hasn't even been drafted yet is unfair to the player, the organization, and the rest of the fans.

Let me close by speaking directly to the "fans" who are rooting for losses. We don't need you as fans. Root for the team to lose now, but don't come back. One player does not make the team, and IF John Tavares is drafted, you will show up to the Coliseum wearing your new #91 jerseys, feeling optimistic about winning a Stanley Cup next year, and when it doesn't happen, you'll leave again, feeling cheated. You'll say "he's a bust", "we should've drafted Hedman", or "I'm done with this team". You'll quickly show us who the real fans are. You root for the player rather than the team. You are typical New York fans, and we don't need you.

So, to all of you who can't wait till next year, either get on the train now, or get off forever, because as the late Herb Brooks once said: "the name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back!"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Trade Value, Part One: Mike Comrie

As we all know, the NHL Trade Deadline is set for March 4th, 2009. With the Islanders being committed to Garth Snow's rebuild, along with the dismal season they are having, it is almost understood that they will be sellers this year. That being said, every week until the week of the Trade Deadline, I will present the case both for and against trading certain players which experts feel could be shopped within the next month. We begin with perhaps one of the fans least favorite active players, Mike Comrie.

Comrie was signed by the Islanders on July 5, 2007. Having a great post-season the year before with the Senators, Comrie was seen as a hot commodity that offseason. This led to extremely high expectations for the Edmonton, AB, Canada native, and for a brief time, he lived up to those expectations, as he became just the fourth player to four or more goals over his first two games with a new team.

Comrie has slowed down lately, with many fans seeing him as a bust. In 32 games this year, he has 7 goals and 11 assists for a respectful 18 points, however nowhere near the "first line center" numbers the Islanders thought they were getting in 2007.

There is very little argument between fans and experts alike that Comrie will be traded. His speed doesn't fit into coach Scott Gordon's overspeed system, he makes very bad no-look passes in the neutral zone (any hockey player will tell you that unless your name is Wayne Gretzky, that's a big no-no), and he tries to be too fancy with the puck. However, he has made a small case for himself as of late, playing very well centering youngster's Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau during the end of December, but that, like all "good" things, came to an end. He also had a good game against Florida on January 31st, with a goal and assist, earning him the games third star honor.

With all of this being said, Comrie should never have been brought in as a first line center. He came off a very good post-season playing with Ottawa, centering Mike Fisher, whom we can all agree was on fire during that stretch. Comrie is a good complementary player who would probably fit in very well on a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, who have expressed interest all year in aquiring a second line center for Martin Havlat to play with. Chicago, who just missed out on a playoff spot last year, will be looking to put their team over the top, and perhaps that would be the perfect fit for Comrie. He would be playing on a team which wouldn't rely on him to be the primary scorer (something which has haunted him for the past two years), and the change of scenery may be just what he needs to get it back in gear.

Assuming Comrie keeps on this pace on the Island, I don't think anything other than a second or possibly even third round draft will be given up for Comrie, which will be a steal for any team looking for a second or third line center.

Prediction: Comrie will be shopped on or before March 4th, with the Islanders bringing in a mid-level draft pick for a draft which is supposed to be the deepest in years.

Check back next week for part two of four as captain Bill Guerin is discussed as being potential trade bait.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

That Makes a Streak

Lets face it, with five wins since the start of December, the New York Islanders are the laughing stock of the NHL. With their first win in December coming on the 26th, many fans were ready to officially throw in the towel for the 2008-09 season. However, a New Years Eve matinee against the Florida Panthers which led to an impressive 4-2 win, some diehards wondered if maybe luck was changing on the Island.

That lasted for about two and a half days.

The Isles' January wasn't much better than their December, collecting three wins, all on the last three games of the month. The last of those wins, a very solid (dare I say impressive) win over, once again, the Florida Panthers, featured a great game by the "Kid Line" of Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, and Josh Bailey, a very good 60 minutes played by backstop Yann Danis, and a highlight reel goal by Bill Guerin which I was sure would be a top play on Sportcenter that night.

The last win of January gave the Isles a three game winning streak for the second time this year. The last time they accomplished that feat was November 13th through the 17th when they swept the Senators in a home-in-home series and when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout. And with the way the team has played as of late, perhaps this may be just what the boys need to turn it around.

With the "Kid Line" playing as well as they have, forwards Trent Hunter, Andy Hilbert, and Doug Weight all back from IR, plus Yann Danis holding down the fort until Joey MacDonald returns from his groin injury, there is no reason to not be optimistic about the month of February.

But then again, they are the Islanders.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yanni to the Rescue

Rick DiPietro: Out for the season
Joey MacDonald: Out 2-4 weeks
Wade Dubielewicz: Claimed off waivers by Columbus

If you think these three headlines would have knocked out the weren't alone.

Misfortune has a major theme of this season, with the injury bug pretty much living in Uniondale this year. Having pretty much your entire defensive squad missing action at one time or another is not acceptable, but it's something fans could live with. Having Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielson, Sean Bergenheim, and Trent Hunter (the nucleus of Garth Snow's "rebuild") all miss time on the disabled list isn't exctly what Garth had in mind for the first year of the rebuild, but what are you going to do?

However, when you're franchise goalie and his backup go down, plus the backup plan for that go down the drain via waivers...that's just plain unlucky.

That is the exact situation the Islanders found themselves in this past week, when backup to the backup Yann Danis was thrown in net against five straight tough opponents: the Rangers, Bruins, Devils, Capitals, and the Ducks. How did he respond? With solid play in each game, but no win, until last night...

In by far his best game of the season, a 2-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks, Danis weathered 40 shots and only allowed 1 goal all night, a B.S. shot by young Bobby Ryan which Danis clearly could have had. Danis stood on his head in goal against a offensively superior Anaheim team which threw onto the ice offensive juggernaut Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan, who is making a strong bid for the Calder Trophy, the NHL's rookie of the year award.

However, Danis' play last night was only half the story. When word came out that the Islanders had passed up picking up both Curtis Sanford from Vancouver and Dany Sabourin from Edmonton on waivers, Danis knew that the team was his for now.

Coach Scott Gordon had a one-on-one with him before the Anaheim game last night, and as Gordon put it, "I told him that he needs to make the most out of his situation...he may never have a chance like this again". With the faith Gordon has shown in Danis by giving him this opportunity, it shows that this organization believes in him, and that for now, Yann Danis will be the last line of defense for the New York Islanders.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who Didn't See That Coming?

"After extensive consultation we feel this decision is in the best interest for Rick and the team. This will allow Rick ample time to make a full recovery for next year". -Garth Snow

While many fans and insiders felt that this was coming, it still felt like being punched in the gut. With all the injury issues the Isles have faced this year, this one has to be the most devastating. The New York Islanders' franchise goaltender, Rick DiPietro is out for the year.

Injuries are nothing new for DiPietro. Every Islander fan remembers on March 13, 2007, when Ricky went out to play the puck and collided with Montreal Canadien Steve Begin. Dipietro was diagnosed with a concussion, but played four games later. It wasn't until a game against the New York Rangers, where he recieved a second concussion and was set down for the rest of the regular season. This was not the end of DiPietro's injury issues, however. During the 2007 offseason, he had surgury to fox a torn labrum in his hip.

After the surgury, it appeared as if he was good to go. However, during the 2008 All-Star game skills competition, which he took place in, he was heard saying during the game "ow, my (expletive) hip". This injury would not keep him out though. It wasn't until the Isles were eliminated from playoff contention that DiPietro announced that he was to have surgury to repair his damaged hip.

And now there's the most recent injury. DiPietro had surgury to repair his left meniscus during the summer fo 2008, a surgury which has led him to play only five games during the year before being officially shut down yesterday.

What does this mean for the organization? DiPietro, having signed a 15 year, $67.5 million contract in 2006, has the longest contract in NHL history. Already showing that he may have serious injury problems for the rest of his career, what do the Islanders do? Should they show good faith and stick with DiPietro, or should they play it safe, and via the draft or free agency pick up a backup plan? I think it's clear that current DiPietro backup Joey MacDonald isn't the answer, as he has looked shaky at many points as DiPietro's replacement.

The Islanders have a lot on their plate. Add up being dead last in points in the NHL, regular low attendance at the Nassau Coliseum, and the threat of a potenial move off of Long Island, the last thing they needed to worry about was Rick DiPietro's health over the next 13 years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Close, But No Cigar

Positives to take out of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at the Coliseum:
  1. The Isles finally scored on the powerplay, something which has haunted them all season long.
  2. Solid defensive play against a high powered Washington Capitals team.
  3. Good play by emergency call-ups Kurtis McLean (in for Trent Hunter) and Jack Hillen (in for Chris Campoli).
  4. Three out of the Islanders last four games have been great efforts against playoff caliber teams.
  5. Blake Comeau has set himself apart from the pack as someone who will deliver the big hit along the boards at any point in the game.
Negatives to take out of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at the Coliseum:
  1. The Islanders need to stop taking bad penalties. Even though it was a questionable call (at best) on Brendan Witt for slashing Alex Ovechkin during the overtime period, it's still a bad penalty to take.
  2. More quality shots need to be taken. Even though the shot totals for the Islanders have been averaging around 25 per game, many of them have been taken from poor angles or low percentage areas of the ice.
  3. With the exception of Okposo's power-play goal late in the third period, the Isles couldn't finish on an offensive play if their lives depended on it. Missed nets, hit posts, and poor passing has led to only one goal per game for four straight home games.
If the Islanders have any interest in securing two points this month, they need to start finishing plays and getting on the scoreboard. Their defense, despite being depleted with injury, has played very well. Over the last four games, they have given up three or less goals each game to the Rangers, Bruins, Devils, ad Capitals, four explosive offensive teams. If the Islanders can simply start putting the puck in the net and the defense plays as well as it has around backup goaltender Yann Danis, the wins will come.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Sloppy Second" Costs Isles Game

What a change 48 hours makes. On thursday nights loss to Boston, the Islanders looked like a team who utilized speed, knew how to minimize mistakes, and for lack of better words, play hockey.

"We came out and didn't play three periods" was the mantra coming from coach Gordon after the game. Not only did the Isles not play a full game, but the second period where the Devils scored two goals to make it 3-0 may have been the sloppiest period of pro hockey I have ever seen. The period started out with the Nate Thompson taking a boarding penalty which soon led to the Devils showing everyone in the Coliseum how to work the puck on the power play. Withing 40 seconds of being on the power play, Zach Parise wristed one right past a sprawled out Yann Danis to put the Devs up for good.

It wasn't just the goals that made this period painful on a level that I can't describe, it was the small things. Whiffed passes into the middle of the ice, being outskated by New Jersey, lackof pressure in both the offensive and defensive zone, and taking shots from bad shooting lanes. Do they realize that you don't get points for shooting the puck into the goalies chest? Hmmm.

Overall, a much better effort is needed to win. Skating is the most important aspect in Scottt Gordons system, and if the Islanders don't want to go 0-for-January, things have to change very soon.

***ATTN. Gary Bettman: This is not Sean Avery writing this blog, please don't suspend me from NHL activity for saying "sloppy seconds" during the title.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Luke Schenn

Being an Islander fan, it seems almost inevitable that you should expect to see a long list of players at season's end who spent time on the IR. a little more than halfway through the 2008-09 season, we have seen key defensive players such as Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek, Chris Campoli, Andy Sutton, Freddy Meyer and of course, Rick Dipietro (can anybody say 2021???) spend time away from the team due to injury. That being said, I think a look back at the 2008 NHL entry draft is in order.

I was at work on the night of June 20, 2008. I had no access to the coverage on VS. and believe me, I was not too happy about this. I had a friend who was home watching text message me the results as they happened, and with the first four picks, there were no surprises: Stamkos to Tampa, Doughty to L.A., Bogosian to Atlanta, and Pietrangelo to St. Louis. I can remember the ten minutes the Islanders had to make their pick seemed like hours. Finally, I get a text which made me scratch my head and wonder if I was dreaming: "Isles trade down". It turns out that they had traded draft picks with Toronto. The next text I got felt like I had been kicked right in the gut: "Leafs take Schenn".

I can honestly say that right after seeing this I didn't want to even think about hockey until training camp in September. All I kept saying to myself was "How do you pass on Schenn? How do you pass on Schenn?" It had seemed like a perfect fit.

They clearly weren't going to land one of the big three defensemen (Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo), and it seemed a kid like Schenn would be a great fit. He's a hard hitting, shut down defenseman who has the potential to be compared to the likes of Deion Phanuef. In his first year on the Island, he could have learned from Brendan Witt, a veteran, shut down defenseman as well. Myself, being a huge believer in building your team with defense, saw this as a home run, but sadly it was not to be.

Flash forward four months later. Five of the Islanders defensemen, including the top pair of Witt and Martinek, have spent time injured. Who is to say that someone like Luke Schenn (who by the way, has been an absolute rock on defense for Toronto, and who leads all rookies with an average of oer 28 shifts per game) could definately step up and get some decent (cough) ice time, perhaps even as a second line defenseman. Instead, they have mixed and matched their top pair depending on the opponent and situation.

The Isles traded down once more, this time exchanging picks with the Nashville Predators, and with the ninth overall pick, they select Josh Bailey...wait, Josh Bailey??? "Who is Josh Bailey?", I thought to myself, still shocked at the turn of events which left me with a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the night and into early morning the next day. I was all ready to set up my own defensive lines with Schenn included, and instead, I was left feeling cheated.

Schenn may not put up the flashy offesnsive numbers that stat lovers look at, but he is definately a force to reckon with in the NHL. It's the small things he does which is quickly making him a fan favorite in Toronto, such as smart defensive play and timely hits in the corners which the fans up there can't get enough of. With all of the injuries the Isles have suffered thus far, there is no question that Schenn would have made a name for himself here on the island.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not ment to say anything bad about first round pick Josh Bailey. In fact, I am a strong believer that he may be the steal of the draft, and he has already made his impact this year.. And the thought of Kirill Petrov, a pick which was a result of one of the mentioned trades, playing in the NHL is an exciting one. In fact, with some of the picks the Isles made in the second and third round, including Aaron Ness and Corey Trevino, I feel that they may have had one of the better drafts this year. I am simply saying that given the situation the Islanders are in with their defense being as injury prone as they are, picking a potential stud shut down defenseman could have been a wise choice. But then again, hindsight is 50/50.

Moral Victory?

There was never really any doubt going into Thursday nights game that it would be an uphill battle for the Islanders. With the Isles going 0-for-2009 thus far, goaltender Joey MacDonald going down with a groin injury two days prior, plus the mighty Boston Bruins coming to town, things did not look very promising. The Bruins have been tops in the East for quite some time, and their explosive offense, plus rock steady defense led by Zdeno Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas gave everyone the impression that it would be a bad day to don the blue and orange. Well, everyone was wrong...

What came about was 60 minutes of hockey which resembled nothing of the 7-2 debacle in Boston on Black Friday, the last time these two teams met. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The Islanders skated with the Bruins for a full 60 minutes, established a forecheck early on in the game, and more surprisingly, threw their bodies around all over the ice. While it helped that three of Boston's best forwards (Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, and Patrice Bergeron) did not play, the Isles minimized mistakes, moved the puck well in the zone, applied offensive and defensive pressure for a full 60 minutes, which is essential to Gordan's overspeed philosophy.

All of that aside though, the most encouraging sight of the night was the play of Kyle Okposo. Late in the first period, he took a nasty puck to the face. However, during the second period, he returned wearing a full visor and sporting a nasty bump on his right lower jaw. That didn't stop him though, as he bowled over Bruins for the rest of the game. After the game, when asked by Stan Fischler why he didn't take the rest of the game off, he simply shrugged, smiled and said "it's a hockey game".

There's no such thing as a "moral victory" in professional sports. "Win-win situations" do not apply to pro atheletes. However, 2-1 loss to Boston is as close as you get. With Yann Danis coming up huge for the Islanders several times during the game, plus a well skated game, the Islanders can take a few positive away from this game.