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.