Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Predictions

Predictions for the upcoming NHL season are starting to surface in various print and online publications. Much like last year, the early consensus has the Islanders finishing last in the division, last in the conference, and last in the Academy Award voting for Best Live Action Short Film. You know, any excuse to put the Islanders last. Here's why I don't care:

  1. Garth Snow has once again put together a team that can thrive under the leadership of Ted Nolan.
  2. Making predictions is mostly a worthless exercise. I suppose it takes up column space. It can even be informative and entertaining. But, in the end, predictions have very little value.
Let's look at point #2 first. One of my favorite stories from last year's baseball season is a prime example of the futility of making predictions. ESPN.com published the predictions of its baseball experts for the 2006 postseason right after the regular season ended. Nineteen experts participated, including all of the big names: Gammons, Neyer, Olney, Kurkjian, Karabell, Stark, etc. Not a single one of them picked either the Tigers or the Cardinals to even make it to the World Series. Not a single one of them picked Detroit to make it out of the Division Series. Only one of them picked St. Louis to advance to the NLCS. It was the biggest prognostication whitewash I've ever seen. The baseball gods said, "Ha!" And it continues to amuse me to this day.

I know there are some Islander fans who are upset at the lack of respect being shown for the team as indicated by the various last-place predictions. I say forget about the predictions. Let's just drop the puck and see what happens.

Which brings us to point #1. Ted Nolan's reputation is based on his ability to get the most out of his players. Fedotenko, Comrie, and Vasicek are precisely the kinds of players whose talents should best be served by a coach who knows how to motivate individuals (which, by the way, was one of Al Arbour's great strengths as a coach). There are certain players who simply will not fulfill their potential without the proper environment. We've had to watch several of them struggle on Long Island when it was the wrong environment. I'm expecting good things from this group. But I'm certainly not going to make any predictions!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The New Uniforms, Part II


islanders.nhl.com

Well, they're here. Initial reaction: Not what I wanted. Don't totally hate them. The official site has additional pictures and more articles than you'll need.

The good:

  • The crest remains untouched and sits prominently in the center of the jersey
  • Horizontal stripes are retained at the bottom of the jersey
  • No trendy, slanted, unnecessarily modern font is used for the numbering and lettering
  • Numbers and letters have a traditional looking, one-color border
The bad:
  • Overall, its a very busy look
  • No switch back to royal blue
  • I don't hate the numbers on the front, but given the choice I would probably leave them off. Apparently the broadcasters appreciate them. That either makes a lot of sense or it's a long way to go for a justification.
  • The orange upper-arm accents just aren't necessary. They do look much better on the blue jersey than the white, and in that case they remind me of a traditional design worn by a lot of college teams and the Red Wings. In the picture of Brendan Witt in profile on the official site, I even kind of like the orange upper arms. But I only like them from the side.
  • The horizontal stripes that ring the bottom of the jersey could be thicker.
Okay, I'm just going to do this once and then I'll let it rest. What follows are some quick modifications I made to the new look. In the first photo, I removed the orange upper-arm panels from both jerseys as well as the front number on the white jersey. In the second one, I gave the same treatment to Brendan Witt. I left the shoulder piping alone because it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would.






It's just a much cleaner look in my opinion. I always thought that the Islanders looked very powerful wearing a clean, white sweater. The orange sleeves detract from that. And I like orange. I was happy they used it as the primary color for the now defunct 3rd jerseys. I might have taken a different approach to the rest of that design, too, but it would have definitely been based on orange. With the white jerseys now being worn on the road, I don't mind the added color as much. But if the league ever switches back to white at home, I'd really like to see a change.

Finally, just a thought on how the organization presented the unveiling online. As you may know, the home page of the Islanders features five main news stories. Today, all five touted the new uniforms and were chock-full of testimonials and marketing talking points. It did seem like the team came out with all of its guns blazing in anticipation of backlash against the new design. A quick survey of Internet chatter suggests fan reviews are very mixed, which is to be expected, but opinions weigh in favor of a less busy and more traditional look. For now, I get the feeling that a lot of us are wondering why the team seems to go out of its way to give us exactly what we don't want. The decision to give us what we do want seems so simple. But when you're in the business of selling hockey, do you please the existing fan base, or try whatever you can to widen it?

The Islanders, I'm sure, spent a lot of time on this.
In the organization's best case scenario, a "new and exciting" design translates to increased merchandising revenue. The team just has a different point of view than the longtime fan, which is typified by this statement: "The Islanders’ newest jersey design combines the heritage of the team with its magnificent logo, along with a unique trendy appeal." For people like me, heritage is important. Trendy never even enters the picture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Two-Minute Minors

Posts under the "Two-Minute Minors" heading will give me the opportunity to catch up on some quick-hit items that aren't related and don't necessarily demand their own posts.

Brent Sutter


It will be strange to see Brent Sutter behind the bench in New Jersey this year. When the Islanders began looking for a new coach during the 2005-06 season, I was really hoping they could somehow lure old #21 back to Long Island. But none of the comments coming out of Red Deer suggested that the timing was right, and I quickly gave up on the idea of seeing Brent back with the Islanders. Fortunately, we have Ted Nolan. I hope he has a long and distinguished career with the Islanders. That being said, I'd like to see the day when this particular Sutter finds his way back to the organization. Perhaps after Ted wins a Stanley Cup and retires with nothing more to accomplish.

Mike Milbury

I was glad to see that Mike will be replacing Brett Hull on NBC's NHL telecasts for the upcoming season. Mike always had interesting things to say and gave frank answers to questions that many coaches and GMs would have deflected with clich├ęs. There were times when Mike was the only reason that the media paid any attention to the Islanders. That, of course, simply calls attention to the poor performance of the team under Mike's leadership. I'm looking forward to being entertained by Mr. Milbury without having his commentary inextricably linked to the fortunes of the team.

WFAN

SportsRadio 66 WFAN has announced that Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton will take over as permanent hosts of the morning drive show. I'm not sold on Esiason as an everyday, four-hours-a-day, go-to personality, but I'm curious to see how he does. All I know about Carton is what I've read in the papers the last few days. I find it odd that WFAN hired someone who has been criticized on more than one occasion for exactly the type of comments that resulted in Don Imus getting fired. But my real disappointment here is that the station didn't choose to pair Boomer with Chris Carlin. In the parade of guest hosts that covered the morning shift this summer, I found Carlin to be the most entertaining and pleasant to listen to. I imagine he will continue to have a significant role at the station. Maybe he will be the update guy on Esiason and Carton in the Morning. Carlin would surely add a worthwhile element to the show.

Now to bring this back around to the Islanders, WFAN's new morning show is being characterized as sports-focused and in line with the rest of the station's programming day. Here's to hoping that it's a hockey friendly show. To me, that means that hockey isn't only discussed when Gary Bettman hands out a 20+ game suspension.