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.