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.