Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two-Minute Minors for 12/17/09

Jeff Klein, writing in the Times off last night's 2-1 Islanders win at Madison Square Garden:

"Wednesday’s game was not the first time Tavares had set foot in the Garden. That happened on Nov. 28, when he and his Islanders teammate Matt Moulson watched Moulson’s brother play for Cornell against Boston University. No one recognized him at that game, he said."

I had wondered if Tavares would go to that game with Moulson, and figured he would seeing as how it was through Chris Moulson that Tavares and Matt Moulson became acquainted. At the time, I didn't ask Moulson if Tavares was going with him because a) I already felt like asking him whether he was going bordered on too personal, and b) I swore to myself I would make it through my first conversation with Moulson without mentioning Tavares.

But it's nice to know now that they did make it to the game, even if they didn't actually get to see Chris play (he wasn't in the lineup).


In Ottawa, Chris Campoli has now gone from power play point man to healthy scratch to...fourth-line winger? (Ottawa Sun via Rotoworld)


Let's give the Islander credit for this. It's the middle of December and they're still gripping onto this season with all five fingers on both gloves. Despite a thin defense and inconsistent scoring, there are still multiple reasons to watch them day in and day out. You couldn't say that about some Islander teams in the last 15 years, nor could you say it about a lot of NHL teams with this kind of roster.

As this week has shown us, expect more highs and lows. And if the season is going to gradually turn one way or the other from a winning/losing standpoint, I'd still be surprised to see them start winning more consistently than losing more consistently.

But I can also see this team taking that perception as a challenge and pushing themselves to remain prominent in the Eastern Conference's messy lower half. If they can do that at least through the Olympic break, I don't think it's lowering expectations too much to consider it an accomplishment. Not for a fan, anyway. The goal in the locker room should always be to solidify eighth, then climb into seventh, and so on.


Kudos to Blake Comeau for being in the thick of things once again. It should be easier for him playing with Tavares and Moulson. But, like Moulson has done, you still have to produce.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning's More Fun When You Win; DiPietro Aches—No Fun at All

Blake Comeau has been universally praised, and rightfully so, for his performance in Saturday night's 3-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins. He capped of a solid game by delivering a near-exquisite backhand pass to Frans Nielsen that resulted in a breakaway game-winning goal for the Dean of Danes.

Yet, my lasting memory of that game, apart from Rob Schremp attempting to pole dance on Mark Streit, is a replay that shows there's always room for improvement—even when your play impressed people all game long and you created the OT winner.

From the view behind the play, what you saw on Nielsen's goal was that Comeau didn't follow up his pass by going strong to the net. Instead, he glided in and watched to see what would become of Nielsen's attempt. In doing so, Comeau allowed two Bruins to get between him and the play.

By going hard to the net, Comeau would have been in position to pounce on a rebound if Nielsen didn't convert. He also could have given Tim Thomas something else to think about, either as a second option for Nielsen or as a distraction.

As it turned out, the additional options weren't necessary because Nielsen took care of business. And I'll also grant that the speed with which Nielsen attacked the goal may have precluded Comeau from being a realistic second option. But he still could have put himself in position to compete for a rebound.

Anyway, my point here isn't to kill Comeau. It's that this Islanders team has already taken a step forward in its development this season, and learning from plays like this one is what will help them take the next step forward. Being relentless and taking nothing for granted goes a long way toward winning more games. I have confidence that this is the type of play Scott Gordon doesn't leave on the cutting room floor after he reviews game tape.

By the way, John Tavares demonstrated what I'm talking about on the Islanders' second goal. After making his no-look backhand pass out front to Matt Moulson, Tavares continued skating around the back of the net and came out on the other side. If Moulson hadn't been able to get a shot off right away, Tavares was wide open at the far post for an easy tap-in.


All tightness aside, were the Islanders seriously going to let Rick DiPietro back into the goalie rotation after only three rehab appearances? I realize they have to operate within the framework of conditioning assignment restrictions, but for the amount of time he's been away, how could three appearances have been considered sufficient for him to return to game action at the NHL level? I would think five games, minimum, would be more on the mark. He hasn't even played five periods yet.

I may have said this before, but I'm at the point where I feel nothing but bad for DiPietro. For someone with so much talent and drive to be unable to use these attributes because of physical problems—well, I can just imagine the emotional ache that goes with it. Some will say, "What does he care? He's raking in $4.5 per year into the 2020s regardless." I assure you, that's not enough for DiPietro.

We're past the point of worrying too much about the impact of his injuries on the Islanders. As shown by Dwayne Roloson this season, there is life after DiPietro. Or between DiPietro injuries. Even the long ones. It would just be a shame to see him never quite make it back. We're probably a long way from that happening, but the return has been anything but smooth. It's only natural to think about it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moulson 12, Moulson 13, Moulson 14

Just a quick hit to say congratulations to Matt Moulson on his first career hat trick. And in a big road win to boot.

It wasn't quite Mario's five goals five ways, but there was something special about this hat trick. Moulson scored on a booming slap shot from above the circles, a deke on the goalie, and a deflection. This is no one-trick pony scorer.

It's so easy to root for this guy to do well, and I continue to be thrilled as he continues to make his mark on the NHL. With all the talk on tonight's Point Blank chat about locking him up, I couldn't help but think that Moulson is one guy I can't wait to see get paid.

And, yes, he still reminds of me Ryan Smyth out there.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Disappointing Tie for Cornell; Trivino Makes a Point

In a Red-Hot contest before a (legitimate) sold-out crowd of 18,200 at Madison Square Garden, Cornell and BU played to an exciting 3-3 draw Saturday night.

For the 10,000+ members of the Lynah Faithful in attendance, it was hard not to walk away feeling that their team came out on the short end of the tie. This was a great opportunity for Cornell—to avenge the 6-3 loss to BU at this event two years ago, and to earn a feather in their beanies for taking down the defending national champion, even if this year's version of the Terriers struggled out of the gate and must come from behind to get back in both the Hockey East and Frozen Four races.

Cornell, despite its storied history and a recent decade of strong results, always seems to be standing just outside the velvet rope of the NCAA Elite Hockey Club. A win over BU certainly could have helped mitigate that perception.

When Cornell jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside five and a half minutes on goals by Sean Whitney (Ryan's brother) and Locke Jillson (not Jeff's brother) and BU appeared a little sluggish, thoughts of a blowout even bubbled up in the Big Red end of the arena.

But midway through the game, the Cornell offense slipped into a state of satisfaction and its effective cycle mostly sputtered and then disappeared. The open shots the Big Red did get were harmless snap shots from outside the dots. Meanwhile, BU came alive and showed that with Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Connolly, and Nick Bonino, there's still plenty of talent left at BU.

By the end of the second period, Cornell still held a 3-1 lead thanks to a Blake Gallagher tally despite being outshot 19-11. Goaltender Ben Scrivens probably should have stopped the BU goal, but overall was far more composed and effective than in his Garden start two years ago.

In the third, the ice continued to tilt the wrong way for the Big Red. The Terriers made it 3-2 at the 4:03 mark when Bonino looked for Connolly on a 2-on-1 and saw his pass deflect past Scrivens off Cornell defenseman Brendan Nash's stick.

In an ending that only an Islanders fan could appreciate, Cornell found itself down two men with 1:58 remaining and a one-goal lead. To up the ante, BU head coach Jack Parker pulled goalie Grant Rollheiser, giving his team a 6-on-3 advantage for 38 seconds. Cornell actually survived that onslaught.

But with Brandon Nash just out of the box, the Terriers converted the 6-on-4. Connolly followed up a Vinny Saponari shot that Scrivens appeared to have stopped. If Scrivens did squeeze the puck at some point, he didn't get it long enough to satisfy the referee. Connolly found the loose puck and poked it home with the ref pointing emphatically the whole way. The play was followed by a discussion amongst the officials, but the goal stood.

In overtime, the Cornell offense re-ignited, generating numerous good scoring chances. But nothing got by Rollheiser or Scrivens. Final shot totals: BU 35, Cornell 17.

For the record, no riots followed the game ending in a tie.

Ah, yes, there is more to this story. Do you think it's good or bad that I did that entire recap without mentioning 2008 Islanders 2nd Round Draft Pick, #10, Corey Trivino? It's neither, really—just building the suspense. Here, then, are my impressions of Trivino...

For a while, it was looking as though the theme of this report was shaping up to be that Trivino didn't strike me as particularly special. To be honest, that never changed. But leaving it at that would be seriously shortchanging his play.

Early on, the best thing I could say about Trivino was that he wasn't afraid to play physical hockey. At 6-1, 180 lbs, he looks lanky out there. But his lack of a large frame didn't stop him from going shoulder to shoulder along the boards. Other than that, there just wasn't much to say.

On the skill side, Trivino, made a nice rush up the middle from the blue line in the first period and got off a good, hard wrister that Scrivens stopped. Unfortunately, the play led to the breakaway on which Jillson scored Cornell's second goal.

Trivino saw time on BU's second power play unit, but didn't get appear on the penalty kill.

It was around the time that BU started taking control of the play that I started noticing Trivino more and more. Midway through the second, he went into the corner in the defensive zone, did some dirty work, and came out with the puck. It was a gritty play that made me smile a little even though I was rooting for the other side.

Trivino almost got on the scoreboard with about four minutes left in the second. He came out of the corner to find the puck headed his way on a nice cross-ice feed to the right post and an open short side. But his backhand deflection went wide.

By the third period, it seemed like Trivino was on the ice every other shift. This was helped by the fact that BU had four of its seven power play opportunities in the third (box score says three of six—still trying to figure out the disparity). On those power plays, he was a focal point stationed in the right faceoff circle and being fed constantly.

What impressed me the most, however, was that Coach Parker leaned on Trivino heavily down the stretch in the faceoff circle. In the final ten minutes of regulation and in the overtime, Trivino took, and won, a number of key draws in both zones. For the game, he finished 11-6 on faceoffs while taking the second most after Bonino, who was 14-14. Trivino had three shots on goal and was -1.

Was Trivno a star in this game? No. Did he look like a special player? Not necessarily. But he's 19 years old and not John Tavares. He's a college sophomore and he definitely has the chance to develop into a solid prospect. He needs to get a little bigger. And I think he'll benefit from staying in school and becoming a team leader in a year or two.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Isles Impressive in 3-2 Win Over Pens: Live Blog DOA; Quick Hit with Moulson

Today's live blog is brought to you on tape delay. See why below. I decided to carry on as though I were live anyway because I needed the practice. As for the value of still posting it nine hours later? Well, I'll leave that to you to decide. I know I always appreciate the opportunity to go back and see the game through someone else's eyes whether or not I've already seen it myself.

In other news, I finally got the chance to talk to Matt Moulson this afternoon, although only under the chaotic circumstances of an open locker room with victory music blaring and players scrambling to pack their equipment for a quick turnaround tomorrow in New Jersey.

I had a more extensive interview planned out, and maybe I can get back to that one day because I'm really interested in hearing what he has to say about playing at an Ivy League school, playing in the ECAC, what the exact events were that brought him to the Islanders, and more. But given that we were just over 24 hours away from his alma mater, with his brother Chris on the roster, facing off at Madison Square Garden, I just went right for the most pressing issues:

Will he have a chance to get to the Garden Saturday night to see Cornell take on BU?
I'm not sure, I think so. As of now, yeah.

Does he talk to his brother about breaking into Cornell's starting lineup and what advice might he be giving him (Chris Moulson did see action in Cornell's 6-0 win over Brown on 11/14)?
Yeah, I talk to him. I try to talk almost every day to him. He's working hard. Hopefully he'll get a chance and I think he's probably a better player than me, so, hopefully he just needs a chance and he'll get in there and do well.

Is he (Matt) still in touch with his college coach, Mike Schafer?
Yeah, I talk to him every now and then. Talk to him and e-mail.

What kind of contributions did Coach Schafer make to his development as a player?
I learned how to play solid both ways when I was there and the importance of working hard and discipline. A lot of discipline.

What does he think about so many other Cornellians such as Byron Bitz, Ryan O'Byrne, Douglas Murray, Ryan Vesce and last year Mike Iggulden all contributing or better at the NHL level?
Yeah, I think it's good for the program. Guys have done well out there. Hopefully we can keep it going.

Moulson also shared with me that his mom made the trip into New York and said, "I'm sure I'll be over there (at the Garden)."

One thing that I forgot to mention to Matt Moulson was that Chris's bio page at still says that Matt plays for Manchester. Let's get someone on that!

I just want to thank Matt for taking the time to answer some slightly unusual questions--unusual, at least, for a post-game following a big win over the conference leader. And based on his scouting report, maybe Garth Snow, Ryan Jankowski, and the staff should keep an eye open for another Moulson.

And, now, for your time-traveling entertainment...

Plausibly Live Blog 11/27/09: Islanders 3, Penguins 2

Good afternoon and welcome to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Today the 9-9-7 Islanders host the 17-8-0 (how pure) defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time this season. The first meeting was a 4-3 shootout loss for the Islander in their first game of the season on October 3rd.

It's very Pittsburghy here today at the Coliseum, but that's something we've grown accustomed to when a division/geographic rival comes calling and good seats are easy to come by.

Today's first jumpout stat of the day: John Tavares leads all rookies in points, goals, and power play goals. That's the way it was supposed to be, and it's so satisfying to see things play out that way. Tavares does need to watch out for James van Riemsdyk of the Flyers who sits only two points back while playing in six fewer games.

Rule #1 of live blogging: Never show up for a game with a laptop you're bringing the first time. You might have connectivity problems that prevent you from delivering on your promised first live blog of the season. Sigh.

From here, we'll be covering this one more traditionally, or as that most annoying of creatures, the "plausibly" live blog.

This one got off to a rousing start with Tim Jackman and Derek Engelland squaring off at center ice just 13 seconds into the game. This fight had legs with both combatants standing tall to the fight's conclusion. Jackman had the stronger reserve and the better leverage at the end, scoring the decision.

Post-fight, the Islanders opened up the game strong on offense with both the Bergenheim-Nielsen-Okposo and Moulson-Tavares-Hunter lines generating good scoring chances in the opening 90 seconds. Nice passing among the first threesome ending with an Okposo shot, but he was unable to cash in.

If you're going to face a 4-on-4 with the Penguins, do it with Malkin in the box. 2:55 in, the Pens star and Andy SUtton went off for coincidental minors: the Paul Stewart special, two for hooking, two for diving.

12:45 left in wide open first period, Sean Bergenheim sent a wrister just wide from the off-wing raising a chours of oohs from the crowd.

Dwayne Roloson has looked a split-second late on a couple of shots, but a post and some off-target shooting have kept this one scoreless. He did get a shoulder on a tough Sergei Gonchar shot earier in the period.

The Islanders opened the scoring with 10:55 left in the first. A Mark Streit slapper from the left point sat on the doorstep for Josh Bailey to slam home before Brent Johnson could close the open side. Freddy Meyer had the secondary assist.

The first Islanders power play went by the boards with only a post hit by Jon Sim raising the excitement level in the building. I'd like to see Matt Moulson back on that first unit.

6:31 the Islanders get their first test on the penalty kill against Malkin, Crosby, and Bill Guerin. The first good scoring chance, however, goes to Okposo who had plenty of time to set up a shot from the right circle but couldn't beat Johnson.

Roloson looking sharper during the kill, stopping a hard shot with traffic in front.

Okay, so far this has been kind of a hybrid live blog/notes for later entry. From here on, we're going full-bore delayed live blog...

3:12 Park looks short-side top corner from the bottom of the left circle and gets a piece of the iron. On an earlier shift, he and Thompson each went high and wide on shots from a similar spot.

2:36 Malkin rushes down the right wing and shovels a sharp-angle backhnd off of Roloson's body and into the net. Tied 1-1.


20:00 4th line starts the second period for the Isles.

18:50 Gritty work and strong moves by Okposo to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

18:05 Nearly a highlight reel goal by Tavares but his chip from in close after a nifty deke goes just over the top.

16:37 Isles to the power play.

16:32 Hooking call on Hunter evens up the man power.

16:01 Thompson goes hard to the net to follow up on a Park shot but can't knock the rebound past Johnson.

15:05 Good effort by Gervais to clean up in front of his own net, but he goes off the ice favoring one foot.

14:10 Tambellini throws his weight around with a nice hit along the end boards in the offensive zone.

12:48 Too much rebound left by Roloson + not enough defense covering the front of the net = easy goal for Matt Cooke. Pens lead 2-1.

10:15 The 4th line displays excellent puck control in the offensive zone, but their hard work is offset by an inability to get off anything close to a dangerous shot.

9:15 Bergenheim's low, hard wrister rebounds toward Nielsen but Johnson beats him to the loose puck.

6:41 Hillen takes a borderline interference call along the boards just inside the defensive zone.

6:00 Park comes in shorthanded with some room but his wrist shot goes well wide.

5:36 Potential game-changing moment as Andy Sutton takes a double minor for highsticking. Pittsburgh will start with 55 seconds of 5-on-3 time.

4:30 Hillen comes out of the box and gathers in the puck at the blue line to come in on a breakaway. He got Johnson to go down, but couldn't get the puck by him into the open net. Rebound to Nielsen who also misses the open net from a sharp angle.

1:36 Isles kill off the Sutton penalties to the delight of the home fans. Let's see if the Isles can use this as their own game-changing moment.

1:10 Okposo back on a line with Tavares with Moulson.

0:20 That puts Bergenheim, Nielsen, and Hunter together for the final shift.


20:00 4th line out again to defend against Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko.

19:30 Attempted wraparound and subsequent rebound attempt by the Pens comes much closer to being a goal than it should have.

18:57 New lines remain in effect here at the start of the second.

18:36 Bergenheim, probably the Isles best forward tonight, rips a wrister from the left dot past Johnson. Tied 2-2. Assists to Nielsen and Hunter.

17:50 Thompson gets called for boarding. Staal takes on Thompson, who takes his time before fully engaging. No clear winner except for the Isles as Staal picks up an Instigator penalty and is gone for virtually the rest of regulation. Both get fighting majors, so Thompson will sit for seven.

14:30 Good sustained pressure by the top line. Hard, low shot from the point by Gervais results in the desired rebound. No goal, but the shift results in a bench minor to Pittsburgh. Isles to the power play.

13:30 Nielsen, Bailey, and Hunter out first with Streit and Okposo at the points.

13:00 Now it's Tavares and Moulson up front with Sim parking himself in front of the net.

12:35 Hunter, Nielsen, and Tavares will get the last man-up shift. Bergenheim had been out there for the faceoff but was called back. If the Isles get another power play, maybe Bergenheim or Tambellini get a shift.

11:23 It seems like the Islanders are causing a lot of problems in front of Johnson but since Bailey's goal just haven't been able to capitalize.

6:12 The new (old) top line comes through. Meyer wrists one in from the point with Moulson screening. Tavares pounces on the rebound and Johnson has no chance to stop him. Isles lead 3-2. Okposo with the second assist.

5:07 Prediction: the Islanders will be shorthanded before this period ends.

4:05 Third line wants in...nearly increases the lead but Sim is stopped twice, once by Johnson sliding across the goal line to get back in position.

2:10 Isles doing a good job keeping pressure on the Pens and moving forward.

0:00 Impressive third period by the Isles and a really good win over a dangerous team. Isles win 3-2.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Watch This Space

Whoa, hey, there's a blog here.

First of all, a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving to everyone.

Now, here's what to come...

Friday: The long overdue first live blog of the season from Islanders Outsider. The Isles take on the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins featuring Matt Cooke, Mike Rupp, Chris Kunitz, and some other guys at 2 PM at the Coliseum. You bring the rubber, we'll bring the Roloson.

Saturday: Red Hot Hockey returns! Two years ago, this blog took you rinkside for a look at the renewal of the Cornell-BU hockey rivalry. Saturday night the Big Red and the Terriers meet again at Madison Square Garden in front of a packed house of current students and alumni. Cornell will seek to avenge a 6-3 loss in the last go-round. The matchup should be a little more even this year. Cornell has a more seasoned team and a top-ten ranking (#4, 6, or 7 depending on the poll—got polls? Yeah, we got'em.). Defending National Champion BU has struggled out of the gate with an overall 4-7-2 start (2-6-1 in Hockey East). But you can never count out a Jack Parker team, especially this early in the going.

Cornell defeated Colgate 4-2 last night at Lynah Rink to move its overall record to 6-2, 5-2 in ECAC conference play. Leading the Big Red in scoring is senior forward Blake Gallagher with 8 goals and 6 assists in 8 games. Cornell, normally a low-scoring, defensive-minded squad, has been lighting it up this year to the tune of 4.12 goals per game. Backing up the offense, senior goaltender Ben Scrivens sports a .927 save percentage to go along with a 2.01 GAA.

An added bonus to this year's contest is the presence of Islanders 2008 2nd round draft pick Corey Trivino on the BU roster. The sophomore currently sits tied for 4th in scoring on the Terriers with 2 goals and 5 assists in 12 games. Trivino is +2 with no penalty minutes and a 96-95 record on faceoffs. He will be watched. He likely will not be interviewed.

And for further intrigue, we have the Moulson question. #23 in your program for the Big Red is freshman forward Chris Moulson. He may have a connection to an Islander. Or two. However, Chris has yet to see any ice time so far this season on a deep and talented Cornell team. So the big question is, will big brother Matt (a four-year star at Cornell) and pal John be making the trip to the Garden?

The Isles have a 1:00 game in NJ on Saturday, so the opportunity is certainly there. My intent was to do a piece on the elder Moulson, with the emphasis on his college career and what brought him to where he is today. Part of that was to include talking about his brother and this game in particular. Required, then, would be talking to Matt. Been working on that. Still working. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, have a great holiday and get ready for some great hockey this weekend.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About

I don't know if there are any Bonnie Raitt fans in the Islander locker room, but it sure seems like they've been singing that refrain lately. Just over two weeks ago, I had nothing more to say about this team. (Okay, to be honest, I did have some things to say about breaking up the top line, burying Jeff Tambellini in the press box, and Bruno Gervais not playing with Mark Streit—but work craziness and a childcare crisis have buried me far away from the press box.)

But seemingly out of nowhere, the Islanders have won three in a row against three of the top teams in the conference. They are giving their fans and the rest of the league something to talk about.

At 4-4-5, the Islanders have reached the magical false .500 mark. Those 5 OT losses don't look nearly as bad when coupled with four regulation wins. The 13 points put the Isles on the cusp of the playoff picture.

What does this mean? It means that Scott Gordon and his coaching staff have demonstrated the ability to get something out of this team in its current constitution. It doesn't mean that the Isles will still be knocking on the door come March. But a season that was quickly slipping away into oblivion, for the time being, is interesting and fun again. And, furthermore, there is more reason
—at least an impressive three-game winning streak's worthto believe that with a deeper roster, Gordon and company can be serious players in this league.

And if you want something to talk about, look no further than Tambellini. Released from nosebleed purgatory seven games ago, the lost action hero has re-emerged with his scoring touch at the NHL level. With two multi-goal games, including a hat trick Saturday night against Buffalo, Tambellini is now tied for the team lead in goals. Bold for how unlikely it was that we would ever be able to say that, and how fun it is to say it now.

And to anyone who might minimize the hat trick due to the nature of the third goal, I would offer two suggestions:

  1. When there is a loose puck in front of a gaping net, you take no chances even if it the puck is most likely on its way in already.
  2. If it were up to Kyle Okposo, he would have done whatever was necessary to make that Tambellini's goal.
Also, count me in as one who was shocked that Tambellini wasn't named 1st star. Giving it to Martin Biron in recognition of the shutout and his 200th career win was nice, but the fans would have appreciated the opportunity to laud Tambellini more.

Several Islanders have emphasized how much they're enjoying coming to the rink this year due to the camaraderie that has built among the players. How much more fun are they having now that they're winning? They're certainly not a difficult team to root for.

And that's your fun hat trick for the evening.

As for me, I'm looking forward to talking more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Losering (Yes, More Whiskeytown)

"And, of course, sadly, the Islanders lost to the Los Angeles Kings 2-1."
--Sports update Tuesday morning on WRXP

The Kings weren't built in a year, nor will the Islanders be. But, oh (and woe), the losing. The beginning of a new season has optimism programmed into it, regardless of whether the team finished 3rd or 30th the previous year. Even if you know in your heart that the bottom five is overwhelmingly more likely than the top 16, there is always the hope that things will click this year—that the development of the next generation of Islanders will take a leap forward instead of a step.

And then four games go by without a win.

Suddenly you are awakened from your October honeymoon by the cold reality that if the ship is ever going to be headed in the right direction, it is still hanging around the pier looking for a clear lane.

The Islanders are not in an adjustment period. They are not off to a slow start. They are still dangerously thin on talent. They have shown an ability to compete, but not a sustainable one.

They have not shown a knack for winning when the game is on the line and a win is in reach.

The second half of last year was productive in that it resulted in John Tavares becoming an Islander. It was not, however, enjoyable.

Could it be that, not even at the midpoint Of October, we are already in the position in having to endure a season the way we endured that second half '08-'09?

The thought of it seems insufferable. But it is painfully obvious that the Islanders need another high lottery pick. We want these guys to be good because they're our guys. But most of them are never going to be as good as we want them to be.

For the Islanders to enjoy success in the standings this year, the following would have to happen (forget about Kyle Okposo, John Taveras, and Mark Streit—you know what they are and you can just enjoy them):
  • Trent Hunter would need to go 25-25-50.
  • Josh Bailey would need to go 15-25-40.
  • Frans Nielsen would need to 15-30-45.
  • Doug Weight would need to stay healthy and perform at the same level he did when healthy last year.
  • The team would have to get its goals against per game under 2.90, at least.
  • A defenseman other than Streit would need to score double-digit goals.

How many of those things are likely to happen?

Streit had 16 goals last year. Do you know how many goals the other six defenseman on the Islanders' roster had last year? 16. Granted neither Andy Sutton nor Freddy Meyer played in as many as 30 games. But Streit cannot be the only offensive threat from the blue line.

Hunter is already missing several weeks of games due to a pec injury. Weight has been in and out of the lineup with a groislander injury (did you already do that one, Dom?). And Bailey has looked nothing like a player who's going to sniff 15 goals or 40 points.

So my optimism bubble has burst early this year. The good thing is that they have virtually an entire season to prove me wrong, or get the difference-maker draft pick they have to have again.

But right now I don't care for the pain and the drudgery of another season with little to cheer about. I have losing fatigue. I'm actually thinking about steering my son toward the Yankees. Or, you know, Civil War battle re-enactments. Those plans always turn out exactly how they built 'em.

Friday, October 9, 2009

10/08/09: Senators 3, Islanders 2, OT

A few quick thoughts off last night's game...

  • According to The Daily News hockey page, the Islanders game last night in Ottawa did not happen. If you look hard enough on the hockey page of The New York Times, you at least can find a link to an AP article.
  • You still get the feeling that Matt Moulson needs to put up a point per game in order to stick. But there's a good chance he'll do what Mike Iggulden did last year—start to tail off after a fast start. Then what? Do the Islanders have any inclination to invest some time in him? Or is he only here so they can see what they have while other guys are healing or establishing their claims to spots in the lineup. It will be interesting to watch. But the guy that skates to the front of the net on the power play and then bangs home the nifty feed from the vet behind the net? I like that guy.
  • The team that gathered around Scott Gordon during a timeout toward the end of last night's third period displayed all the right body language. The players looked engaged, hungry, and ready to win. That being said...
  • At the conclusion of regulation in each of the first two games, I thought to myself, "All right, a point against the defending champs," and "Okay, a point on the road." In each case, shortly thereafter, I felt like a point was no longer good enough. This team has made a lot of progress in learning how to play together. Next up: learning how to win together.
  • Before this season, having Kyle Okposo on the team provided a sense of optimism. Getting John Tavares through the lottery also created optimism. After two games of them playing together, having both of them should make you downright giddy.
  • I'm not thrilled about going into Boston two days after the Bruins got smoked. But they're off to a slow start, so maybe the Bear will remain Smokey.
  • The Islanders currently sit one point out of a playoff spot and four points off the division lead. (What, too early?)
Note on the blog: The two blog rolls (Blog Box and Additional) are horribly out of date. A lot has changed since last season. My apologies to those of you who have moved. I will get to updating the links as soon as I can—probably after my son learns to sit up on his own. (Don't worry, he's a fast learner.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Islanders Milking It (Updated)

Warning: This will not go down as one of the more insightful posts in the history of Islanders Outsider. Anyway...

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I like to point out sightings of Islanders presence near the places that I work and live (i.e., not Long Island).

This morning, as I was approaching my office building in midtown Manhattan, I noticed a Tuscan Brand dairy truck parked on a street corner. There was nothing particularly unusual about the white truck with the red Tuscan lettering on the side—except that affixed to each side of the truck, near the cab, was a placard that immediately caught my eye.

The matching placards featured an Islanders logo with the words OFFICIAL PARTNER below it. Is this one of those things that I'm just not aware of due to spending limited time on the Island? Are Islanders-branded dairy trucks a common sight east of the RFK Triboro Bridge (I'll take both names, thank you)? Are there other vehicles roaming the LIE with official partner designations?

I don't know, this may seem mundane to some. But seeing Islanders logos on the side of a milk truck in NYC certainly provided an unusual start to my day.

Anyone have any knowledge of the nature of this partnership? I'd like to guess that the Islanders and Tuscan work together to promote healthy eating and drinking in the schools. Or maybe Tuscan simply supplies milk for the Coliseum (which wouldn't necessarily have much to do with the Islanders).

Can you tell that five days off between Game ONe and Game Two is too long? OK, let's get back to figuring out who sits in favor of Weight and Comeau on Thursday. Right now I'd have to lean toward Recker and Tamby. But Sim may also want to double-check the lineup.

Update 1: One spot cleared: Recker sent to Bridgeport

Update 2: Later on today I saw a guy wearing an Islanders hat at the same intersection where the Tuscan truck was parked. I've obviously discovered the nexus for Islanders presence in Manhattan. Feed the fever!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yesterday's News... what I have been readin' (title hat tip to Whiskeytown)

Wang and Rechler Play Hardball

In comments at yesterday's announcement of a lease agreement between the Lighthouse Development Group and Nassau County for the development of the 77-acre Coliseum Property, the developers declared that they are no longer open to suggestions for changes to the scope of the project from the Town of Hempstead.

For months now, Charles Wang has insisted that he is willing to consider such changes if the town would just sit down with him and say what those changes might be. This is an unfortunate turn in strategy because it eliminates a significant pathway to making the Lighthouse, in one form or another, a reality. It was the prospect of such discussions that always caused me to believe that this project would eventually get done. With the option of negotiating the development eliminated, I'm far less optimistic. It was the one major chip that Wang and Scott Rechler could offer, and it has now been pulled off the table.

Not that you can really blame them. The impression one gets is that the town board could go on for at least another year doing what they're (not) doing without realizing that engaging in such a negotiation had become critical. With Wang's deadline of certainty for the project scheduled to pass tomorrow, he had to make a bold statement to acknowledge the lack of progress. Yes, Wang is playing by his own rules, which don't always seem conducive to helping the cause he professes to care so much about. But anyone who has followed his style over the last ten years know this wasn't going to go any other way.

Weight Named Captain

I'm a little turned off by the trend of handing over the leadership reins of a team to the young star before he's old enough to rent a car. So I'm pleased to see the Islanders (players or coach/GM) not do something showy like name Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, or even John Tavares captain at this juncture. On the other hand, in addition to all the other things Islanders fans are starving for, I'd like to see the team with a captain who's going to be around for more than a couple of seasons.

Obviously, then, the player vote that awarded the captaincy to Doug Weight leaves me with mixed feelings. His tenure could be as short as six months. But when you consider the makeup of the team, as well as the makeup of the player, it's clear that Weight is the best man for job right now. The fact that Weight is so enthusiastic about his service makes the choice all the more appealing.

That Kyle Okposo received an 'A' ahead of someone like Trent Hunter did cause me to raise an eyebrow. While I understand the inclination to give the younger players representation in the team's leadership structure, and I've stated previously that the team already seemed to gravitate to Okposo in his first full year, I'd rather see a more veteran presence in that role while Okposo focuses completely on being the best player he can be. Will it really affect his development? Nah, probably not. But I'm all for the idea of guys putting in their years of service as a way to earn such an honor. To that end, I'd prefer to see Mark Streit take over from Weight before seeing a Bailey, Okposo, or Tavares ascend to the captaincy.

Matt Moulson and the Roster

This year, the role of former Cornell Big Red player who has toiled mostly in the minors but now has his best chance to stick in the NHL will played by Matt Moulson, following on the heels of the successful, yet ultimately fruitless, stint of Mike Iggulden. Congratulations to Matt for making the squad and appearing to be the recipient of a plum line assignment. Point Blank has Moulson playing alongside Tavares and Okposo at today's practice. He sure picked the right guy to have chemistry with.

Despite his impressive preseason, Moulson has his work cut out for him if he wants to stick. Today's practice included five full lines of forwards and the news from Mr. Botta that Weight is possible for tomorrow's opener. Who would have to lose their spot once everyone is healthy to guarantee that Moulson remains an Islander?

Well, Rob Schremp is certainly going to get his shot once he's had time to acclimate or he would not have been brought in. That leaves Jon Sim, Jeff Tambellini, Joel Rechlicz, Nate Thompson, and Tim Jackman as possible bubble players. And precedent would suggest that Blake Comeau hasn't quite won full immunity yet.

But Thompson tends to play. Jackman could sit here or there, but seems fairly well entrenched. Rechlicz will no doubt see his time in the press box and in Bridgeport. For Sim and Tambellini, it's all about performance. Sim has added the pressure of not necessarily being part of this club's future plans. But it would be fun to watch both him and Tambellini make lineup decisions more difficult. It's remarkable how much competition there is on a consensus 15th place team.

The Opener

Ha, wouldn't you know it. The season opener (at home!) against the defending champs with their two all-world stars. The debut of the team's first #1 overall draft pick since Rick DiPietro. Catching up with old friends for a welcome night of hockey. And I won't be there. Or, probably, see very much of the game. Such is life!

But I hope everyone in attendance and watching at home has much to cheer about!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Schremp Quotes from Newsday

I had to laugh a little at the quotes from team brass in Katie Strang's Newsday article about the Islanders claiming Rob Schremp off waivers. This is what you want to hear about the gifted player with upside who has yet to fulfill his potential:

"He's a highly skilled, offensively gifted player with great vision. He's at an age where he is still maturing as a hockey player and a person, so there's upside there for our organization," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "To take a chance on a player like this, it seemed like it was a no-brainer to claim Rob."

This, not so much:
"He's got incredible skill," Gordon said. "On a breakaway, he can make a lacrosse-style goal. His hands are really good."

Let's not start out by setting expectations so low that a trick shot is one of Schremp's main selling points. Leave the scoop-n-shovel to the NCAA kids and the minor leaguers. We want to see if Schremp can actually cut it as an NHL regular without being known as a one-shot wonder who encourages labels of immature and unprofessional to be cast the Islanders' way.

On the other hand, he would probably get along really well with John Tavares's uncle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schremp Will Try to Make It on the Island

The Islanders have claimed 23-year-old Rob Schremp off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Schremp, described in the club's press release as a left wing, is more commonly known as a highly skilled centerman who has yet to break through at the NHL level. Schremp has logged seven games total in the NHL, accumulating 3 assists, all in four games last season.

In the AHL, Schremp has been a steady scorer with totals of 47-124-171 in 216 games with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Springfield Falcons. The Syracuse, NY, product also made his mark in the OHL. As a junior player, Schremp piled up 154 goals and 230 assists for 384 points in 247 games as a member of the Mississauga Ice Dogs and the London Knights. His final season in junior hockey resulted in a 145-point season on 57 goals and 88 assists, in 57 games.

The Oilers drafted Schremp with the 25th overall pick in the 2004 draft.

With the Islanders already short a few regulars up front, this is precisely the kind of opportunity that could allow Schremp to prove that his minor league feats can translate to the NHL. There is little risk for the team, which suddenly has an interesting replacement to look at while Franz Nielsen recovers from his knee injury and Doug Weight gets back up to speed after nursing a groin. While of the classic criticisms of Schremp may play out, this is the perfect time to see if there's something there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The NHL Protects Its Players

Dear Sidney Crosby,

We are pleased to inform you that can proceed with the 2009-10 NHL season with a clear head: Pascal Morency has been suspended. You can look forward to October 3rd's contest against the New York Islanders without fear. Morency and his antics have been taken care of. You and the rest of your NHL colleagues can go about your business. We have you covered.

Best wishes for a smashing season,
The NHL Head of Discipline

To be fair, the rule by which Morency was suspended for a total of ten games does aim to protect players. But it also protects the league's image (whatever that is). But all you need to know is that Kyle Okposo had several cuts on his face and minor swelling. Dion Phaneuf caused those injuries to the head with a textbook (read:rulebook) charge. Phaneuf has been cleared of wrongdoing and faces no discipline. So, Sid, you and your brethren are not as protected as you think. And it's absurd.

Hoping for some amped up coverage of the Isles in The Daily News this year? Well, that particular news organization could teach another news organization a thing or two about how to redesign a Web site. You can actually still read The Daily News online. But here's what you can't do: go to the Islanders page. Because there isn't one. Here's the nav bar on the Sports home page:

And try to find an article on the Islanders on the Hockey home page. The only reference currently there is to Mark Feinsand's wonderful column from the Summary Essay Series about growing up an Isles fan and taking his son to his first game. Otherwise, you wouldn't know there are two other hockey teams about to begin their seasons.

Speaking of Newsday, nice to see Greg Logan's name pop up in the byline of some Jets articles over the past several days. It was disappointing to find out that Greg's exit from the Islanders beat was not by his own wishes. I hope he is finding his new assignments to be satisfying, but he will be missed at the Coliseum and On the Islanders Beat.


MSG+ will carry tomorrow night's preseason home game against the Devils. No word on whether the Calgary radio guys will be doing the broadcast.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Islanders Season Preview on Illegal Curve

Illegal Curve has posted its 2009-10 Islanders Season Preview. Please head over to read some thoughts on the upcoming season from IC's David, as well as from Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey, Paul from Islanders Blogger, and yours truly.

My thanks as always to Illegal Curve for asking me to participate. They're a great crew with a top-notch site and it's always a pleasure to work with them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Morency Suspended, Phaneuf Not

Point Blank has the news that Pascal Morency has been suspended indefinitely for his role in the post Phaneuf hit action, ostensibly to keep him out of Saturday's rematch.

Via Kukla's Korner, Elliotte Friedman twitters that Dion Phaneuf will not be suspended for the crushing hit on Kyle Okposo last night because a review determined that the hit "wasn’t late, was not targeting head, did not launch or leave feet before collision."

So at least we have this week's explanation.

Here's a comment I made on the previous post that I want to "promote to the main page" (copyright Lighthouse Hockey):

...These things always come down to judgment and perception. I'm not so quick to dismiss the charge call. Rule 43.1 states:"Charging shall mean the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.

"Stu Hackel of The New York Times estimates that Phaneuf lined up Okposo from 45 away. Stu's take on the incident is definitely worth a read.

So many want to assign blame to Okposo for having his head down. The sequence suggests that having his head down may have been an unforunate byproduct of the contact with Dawes. But, setting that aside, if Okposo is expected to be responsible for knowing where Phaneuf is on the ice, is it too much to ask for Phaneuf to be responsible for knowing where Okposo's head is when he hits him? And make every effort to take him off the puck without attempting to destroy him?

I'd like to further add that one of the reasons Islanders fans are so upset about this incident is that they know concussions are like a cat having nine lives, and Okposo just lost one of his lives. But the truth is, with concussions a hockey player doesn't really get nine lives; he may only get three or four. The thought of Okposo being on the road to the devastating effects of multiple concussions before his career has barely started is almost too much to bear.

By the way, when does the statute of limitations run out on comparing every neutral zone, questionable, skate-and head-shaking hit to Scott Stevens? What Stevens was able to do doesn't necessarily legitimize anything that any other player does today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Okposo Carted Off on Stretcher; Isles Lead 3-2 Midway Through

Hold your breath, Islanders fans. Just past the five-minute mark of tonight's preseason game in Calgary, Kyle Okposo absorbed a hit from Dion Phaneuf and didn't get off the ice. He left the playing surface immobilized on a stretcher. No replays of the hit were made available on the streaming broadcast.

The Islanders lead 3-2 on goals by Trevor Smith, Blake Comeau, and Matt Moulson on the power play. Martin Biron played the first half of the game and has now given way to Kevin Poulin. It's a testy affair and promises to get even testier down the stretch.

Update on Okposo to follow when available.

Update: Chris Botta reports that Okposo called his father to say that he's all right. That, of course, pending a medical update from someone other than Okposo.

Point Blank also links to video of the hit on Fanhouse. Phaneuf is simply the next in a too-long line of guys who has no respect for the amount of damage he can inflict on another human being. You can't let up in the heat of the action? Of course you can, especially in an early preseason game. Phaneuf could have played the body any number of ways without taking the livelihood of a promising young player in his hands.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hockeyville Coverage on GHL, LH

The venerable hockey history blog will be providing in-depth coverage this weekend of the Hockeyville festivities in Terrace, BC. This year's participants in Hockeyville are the Vancouver Canucks and, of course, your New York Islanders.

GHL's Joe Pelletier will be covering the events, which include visits by Don Cherry and the Stanley Cup and culminate in Monday night's game, for his own site, The Hockey News, and the Islanders.

I'm sure you can look forward to some great historical pieces on both franchises, as well as live coverage, photos, and interviews from Hockeyville 2009. GHL may be the best place to follow the Islanders during their first weekend of training camp—don't miss it!

Update: And how could I forget that Lighthouse Hockey will also have a man on the scene!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sillinger's Long Journey Comes to an End

On a conference call with nearly two dozen hockey writers today, Mike Sillinger seemed at peace with his injury-induced retirement from the NHL. His heart may still have several years of hockey juice left, but his body has reached the end of its functional NHL life.

Sillinger, speaking from his home in Regina, Sask., revealed that microfracture resurfacing surgery aimed at sparing the remaining cartilage in his hip failed to do so. Down to bone on bone, he now sports a titanium joint and bone in his hip.

Sillinger said that he knew going in that the surgery doesn't always work. The hip replacement does not preclude him from attempting a comeback, but Sillinger sees no need to play the hero and risk his future health even though he currently feels wonderful.

When asked to recall his most lasting memories from his time on Long Island, Sillinger said, "My time on Long Island was fantastic." He then pointed to making the playoffs his first year and his 1,000th NHL game as standout memories.

Of the latter, Sillinger said, "The organization was first class. It was a day and a game I'll never forget."

Sillinger also spoke of what it was like to join the Islanders, noting that he didn't know what to expect because he had spent most of his career in the Western Conference. Talking to friends like Trevor Linden and Adrian Aucoin encouraged him. They, and others, all said that he was going to a great place with a good bunch of guys.

Garth Snow added that "Mike is good at many different things as a hockey player." The Islanders GM said that the team would attempt to fill the holes left behind with the group it currently has, but Sillinger's are big shoes to fill. Snow continued, "We were very fortunate that Mike was part of our organization. And there will be a lasting effect, especially the impression he's made on our younger players.

As for his future, Sillinger said, "I'm going to take a step back and enjoy the next few months. I'm very fortunate I don't have to rush into anything." He did admit to being a little jealous of buddy Doug Weight, who signed back on with the Islanders and will have the opportunity to play with what Sillinger called "a great young team."

Due to his travels, Sillinger could carelessly be referred to as a journeyman player. But his journey was one that will be highly respected by all who came into contact with him during a distinguished career.

Additional quotes from Mike Sillinger on the day he announced his retirement:

"I think my wife dreaded the trade deadline more than I did."

"In this game, when you feel sorry for yourself, someone is going to take your job pretty quick."

"I'm so thankful to every organization I played for."

For more quotes from Sillinger and Snow, check out Lighthouse Hockey.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why SNY May Not Be an Option for Point Blank

As Islanders fans everywhere mourn the potential loss of Islanders Point Blank, they have offered no shortage of fix-it schemes to keep alive the best source of insider news, analysis, and storytelling the Islanders community has ever had.

One of the most popular suggestions is that Point Blank operator Chris Botta contact SNY about moving the blog to SNY.TV's blog network, which has Matt Cerrone's wildly successful MetsBlog as its flagship.

Last September, I wrote the following:

"If Chris Botta's new Islanders Point Blank blog (site not yet active) is as promised, 24/7 coverage (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then the Islanders community is in for a treat. Botta can do for the Islanders what Matt Cerrone has done for the Mets, but with the credibility and contacts in place from the very start."
Mission accomplished.

Obviously, Point Blank, from the perspective of content, is a perfect fit for SNY, which lacks an Islanders blog. But do we really think that the network is going to offer Chris the kind of compensation that would allow him to continue blogging full time and still take care of his family? Unfortunately, I don't see it—not in this economic climate, not with major partners at SNY having lost $700 million. Someone is going to have to prove how the network could make enough money from Point Blank to consider footing the bill for its resources AND paying the writer an acceptable salary.

Then there's this.

A while back I contacted a significant figure at SNY about them not having an Islanders blog to see what the site's interest would be in adding one (not even mine, necessarily—it would take a good crew of bloggers contributing, assuming they weren't paying much, if at all). Here's what he told me:
"As of now, they only have interest in a Rangers blog, which, frankly, isn't doing very much traffic, so I think hockey is taking a back seat."

Of course, at the time, no one was talking about the Islanders blog being Point Blank, with its impressive traffic, engaged community, and international reputation for excellence.

Anyway, that's what we're up against as far as the SNY option for Point Blank.

Whatever happens, I wish Chris the best of luck and hope we continue to hear from him, whether in a professional capacity or at his pleasure.

If I'm being totally honest, I'll tell you that Point Blank made things difficult for those of us who do this on a part-time basis. It was a challenge to have anything meaningful to say and not feel pushed to the margins in the shadow of the constant and exceptional coverage that Point Blank provided. Trying to keep up was never even a consideration.

That being said, I hope along with everyone else that the challenge continues. It would be a shame to have something so good go away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tavares Officially an Islander

Press releases from NHL teams show up frequently. Many of them are yawnful (I'm allowed to make up words 'cause I don't sleep much these days). Occasionally, a press release gets you pumped up.

Such is the case with today's news that John Tavares has signed his three-year NHL entry level contract with the Islanders. Kudos to both sides for getting this relatively simple negotation completed before anyone really had the chance to ask, "Hey, how come Tavares isn't signed yet?"

Smooth sailing. Island breezes. All good things in this summer of expectations.

General Manager Garth Snow on the signing:

It's an exciting time for the Islanders organization as we develop our young talent into a contender. John provides another important piece to help us achieve our ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup.

Tavares comments:
I'm excited to officially become a part of the New York Islanders organization and begin my professional career this upcoming season. I look forward to joining the Islanders and be part of a team that's ultimate goal is to bring the Stanley Cup back to Long Island.

In other news, B.D. Gallof has a first-hand report on the Islanders' interest in free agent forward Alex Tanguay. According to Tanguay's agent, Bob Sauve, any presumed interest does not exist.

Snow seems to be deadly serious about letting his young forwards sink or swim this season while letting the signed veterans find their place among the future leaders of the team.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Draft Reflection; Free Agency Day 2

In the days leading up to the draft, Garth Snow was already being lauded for his handling of the first selection. By not tipping his hand at all, he was keeping the Islanders squarely in the spotlight league-wide, while simultaneously piquing the interest of the fan base. Upon converting the tap-in of actually selecting Tavares, Snow has continued to receive praise.

In the end, the most important thing is that John Tavares ended up in an Islanders uniform. But Snow's approach to selecting the sorely needed goal scorer does carry at least one potential negative consequence. By allowing Matt Duchene and Victor Hedman to be 1B and 1C to Tavares' 1A, Snow has inextricably linked the three players in the minds of many fans. These fans will be following the careers of Duchene and Hedman the same way they follow Luongo, Gaborik, Spezza, Heatley, and every other could've-should've-been.

Indeed, when you weigh it, it's a small risk for the crowning moment the Islanders were able to orchestrate on the evening of June 26th. 10,000 fans roaring their approval isn't often achieved in June. And the solution to all that could ill? Tavares goes out and pots 40 a year for at least the next decade. How hard could that be?

The great thing about the draft being over is that it's finally starting to feel like Tavares is really an Islander. Even if you were 100% sure that the Islanders would draft him, there was something uncomfortable about the relationship, fostered no doubt by members of the media intent on making it uncomfortable. But there was a sense that even if the Islanders drafted Tavares, he wouldn't really be theirs. At best, he was a loaner, conscripted to Uniondale according to the rules.

Now, that feeling has completely drained away. What remains is a potential star for Islanders fans to enjoy free from paranoia about Tavares bolting, snowballing, or blowing away like a leaf.


On day 2 of the 2009 free agency period the Islanders have focused on organizational depth. The newest Islanders/Sound Tigers are goalie Scott Munroe, left wing Jeremy Reich, and defenseman Brett Westgarth. Details provided by the team:

Munroe, an undrafted goalie from Moose Jaw, SASK, has been a part of the Philadelphia Flyers organization for the past four seasons. He received his first call-up to the National Hockey League last year with the Flyers. The 27-year-old net-minder posted a career year last season with a record of 31-19-0-4, a save percentage of .926 and four shutouts. Munroe led the Phantoms to the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons. During the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, Munroe made 65 saves in a five overtime contest against the Albany River Rats to earn the victory in the longest game in American Hockey League history.

Reich has played in a total of 99 NHL games scoring two goals and four assists while compiling 161 penalty minutes. The Craik, SASK native has been a part of the Boston Bruins organization for the past three years and played under Islanders head coach Scott Gordon his first two seasons with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Last season, the 6-1, 196 pound left wing, served as the team captain of Providence, setting single-season career high numbers of 21 goals and 13 assists for 34 points in 76 games. Reich was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round (39th overall)of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.

Westgarth played the last three seasons in the AHL. Last year, the 6-2, 215 pound defenseman played for the Worcester Sharks, AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, scoring nine points (2 goals and 7 assists) while totaling 137 penalty minutes. Westgarth, a native of Amhertsburg, ON, is a Princeton University graduate who skated for the Tigers from 2002-2007 where he compiled four goals and 20 assists for 24 points.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roloson Signed to Two-Year Deal

Greg Logan reports on his Newsday blog that the Islanders have signed veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson to a two-year contract worth $5 million.

At first glance, this is a fine solution to the questionable status of Rick DiPietro for the upcoming season. Once given the job, Roloson was very solid in Edmonton last year and can fill the gap until DiPietro is ready to fully carry the load again or, in the worst-case scenario, one of Nate Lawson, Mikko Koskinen, or Anders Nilsson is ready to step in.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stuck Between a Radek and a Park Place

I'm going to start off with something on the personal side today, both because it affects this blog and might be a minor source of amusement to some.

This time of year is challenging for a hockey blogger, especially one that covers a non playoff team. The last game was over a month ago. The draft and free agency are over a month away. The news surrounding the Islanders is far from uplifting. Any excitement raised by the expectation of adding a world-class player in June is mitigated by the increasingly murky future of the franchise.

If you're like me, you're growing weary of Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray being the most significant figure in all matters related to your favorite hockey team. And I don't say that to discourage the many talented bloggers out there who continue to pound away at that story. It is a necessary evil. As a fan community we are fortunate to have multiple resources digging away at Lighthouse (non) developments.

But back to my original point, which was that this time of year requires a little extra effort. During the season, topics for discussion nearly write themselves, at the very least, every day there's a game and often on the days in between.

Normally I would spend this time of year coming up with different approaches to providing content: looking back at past players, clearing the notebook of quotes I never got to post, analyzing the fan base and readership through Web metrics, etc.

This spring is a little different. Okay, way different.

My wife and I are expecting our first child shortly. We've simultaneously been going through the process of finding a house, negotiating, trying to encourage the bank to move things along as fast possible, nailing down a closing date, etc. If you can help it, I don't recommend preparing for a new baby, buying a house, and preparing to move all at the same time. (Note: if it's a baby you want, though, become an Islanders blogger—that seems to work.)

Here's where we get to the slightly amusing (I hope), Islanders-themed part. The baby is due about a week before the draft. A few days ago, he was nearly granted an early exemption (that's not the amusing part).

As I was making my way to the hospital, one of the many things running through my head was that we still hadn't settled on a name. My wife later told me that thought was also going through her mind.

We've pored over hundreds of names, restricting ourselves to a finite set of first initials based on loved ones we've lost and want to honor. This goes for both the first and middle names.

Out of our search and discussion, two of the choices that have emerged as possiblities for the middle name are Radek and Park.

Though you may find it hard to believe, those names emerged with no influence from me. It was my wife who first put a star next to them (metaphorically). She has certainly heard of Radek Martinek and Richard Park, but I can assure you that neither popped into her head when she made note of the names.

So there I was the other day heading to the hospital in the back of a cab, which of course got stuck in traffic on the FDR, thinking, "Oh my God, my son is going to end up being named Something Radek Rosenblatt or Something Park Rosenblatt, and all of my blogger friends are going to make fun of me!"

Well, as you already know, we've had a little more time to contemplate things. I'd say, at this point, the chances are remote that Radek or Park makes the final cut (though I do think they are both kind of cool). My wife, at least, has more time to think, as she is now on bed rest. We hope that the little guy waits a while longer before declaring free agency.

We wouldn't want him to miss the combine.


Oh, what the heck, one Lighthouse comment. As many of you know, Chris Botta asserted yesterday that the Town of Hempstead will take no action on the Lighthouse prior to Charles Wang's season-opener deadline for finding out where the project stands. At that point, the Islanders' owner can either call his own bluff, or take the teeth out of any further negotiating tactics he might employ. I expect him to do the former, and immediately begin exploring all avenues for ridding himself of the Hempstead and, possibly, the Islanders.

The funny (ha, ha) thing, of course, is that it has seemed all along that Ms. Murray was striving to make sure that the Lighthouse had no impact on the upcoming election and her legacy. Now, for many Nassau residents, the Lighthouse is the mother of all campaign issues. But with the Democratic party yet to announce its candidate to oppose the incumbent, and no perceived enthusiasm over the chances of any one particular candidate, it appears that those hopeful for a change in leadership, and subsequent change in the fortunes of the Lighthouse project, will have an uphill battle to fight.

The grasping-at-straws alternative is to hope that, once re-elected, Ms. Murray herself has a change in attitude toward the project, when it no longer directly impacts her next term in office. But there's always another term, and another office.


Despite the substantial amount of time we've spent discussing the merits of keeping Joey MacDonald or Yann Danis, it's hardly surprising that neither is expected to return, as anticipated by Greg Logan. According to Logan, a Danis encore remains a remote possiblilty if he's willing to settle for a two-way deal. If not, I'm satisfied to see the depth chart at Bridgeport remain in the hands of Nate Lawson and Peter Mannino.

The success of this move is predicated by the Islanders actually going out and getting a goalie like Craig Anderson to backfill Rick DiPietro. Anderson is variously being referred to as a 1A or 1B goaltender. I don't know whether to split the difference and call him a 1A.5, or just see how he likes being called Chico.

The Isles should still bring in a third veteran goalie for training camp, just in case the 1A.5 ends up being the only #1. I'd rather see Lawson and Mannino continue to play in the AHL next year than serve as a sparsely used NHL backup.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whose Pick Is It Anyway?

On Monday Greg Logan wrote in his Newsday blog about Garth Snow receiving advice (unsolicited) for handling the No. 1 overall pick in this June's draft. As part of the discussion, Logan quoted Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber from an appearance on TSN's The Reporters. In a segment called, "Thumbs up, thumbs down," Farber said:

"My thumb is down to the New York Islanders, who have decided to poll fans about what to do with the number one draft choice. There are great hockey scouts right there, and they know what they're doing. This is an insult - one, to your scouts. Garth Snow's team is going to look at John Tavares, maybe make him number one, or the tall drink of water from Sweden named Victor Hedman. But if you are listening to your fans, it's an insult because you're pandering people who don't know what they're doing. It was Marv Levy who once said, 'If you start listening to fans, you end up sitting with them.' Listening is a bad idea."

Most Islanders fans know that this quote is a backdoor to a shortcut to an unnecessary conclusion. The submission of fan opinions on the number one draft choice is merely a method by which to enter them in a contest for a trip to the draft. But, once again, it is left to us to make sure that the rest of the NHL community understands the larger, and more accurate, picture.

No one has said that Garth Snow is going to listen to the fans—not in this contest, and not on the many Internet message boards where the vast majority of Islanders fans have already voiced their preference for John Tavares.

Even if Snow himself did say, "What better way to allow our fans to voice their opinion," in the announcement of the contest, it's making a Dominik Hasek-sized stretch to surmise that Snow is taking fan opinions into consideration when he evaluates the top prospects.

The Islanders have already announced the first two winners of the contest. You know what they haven't announced? Any results from the submissions.

Furthermore, I don't know how you can suggest that the scouts are taking offense at any of this. It's marketing and public relations only. The scouts know this. Snow and Charles Wang have heralded their scouting staff over and over and repeatedly stated that the staff is in charge of this process.

If there's one thing I strongly believe, it's that Snow will make what he believes is the right choice regardless of what public opinion says. I don't think the boos that rained down at last year's draft party when Snow traded down from 5 to 7 to 9 and then drafted someone virtually no one in the crowd had considered have changed him one bit. He will risk getting booed all over again to make what he feels is the right choice. And it will be based on Ryan Jankowski's feedback, not ours.

(P.S. I know Lighthouse Hockey already did this, but I had it saved in progress so I'm setting it free anyway!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Power

Any of you Islanders fans watching the Penguins-Capitals series? Are you, perhaps, more locked into that one than, say, Hurricanes-Bruins? (I'll choose that one simply because the two Western Conference series introduce some time zone issues.) I know I am, and it's so obvious why I'm tuning in:

Star Power.

At 2-1, the series is now competitive. But even if Washington had won Game 3, pushing the series toward disappointing, it still would have had drawing power. Sure, it would be even more special if the Ovechkin-Crosby-Malkin troika were battling with a Conference Championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. But each time I tune in for one of these games I feel like I'm watching NHL history unfolding. It's a treat to watch three such unusually talented players, perhaps not even yet in their primes, duel and dash and dish on the same ice. When the series is over, I fully expect someone to post a highlight video on You Tube with "Duel of the Fates" as the soundtrack.

But let's get back to the intended theme here.

Star Power.

The most-you-could-ask-for scenario for the Islanders and this draft is to have John Tavares turn on his Star Power. It doesn't even have to be of the same magnitude with which Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin shine.

But just imagine hockey fans throughout the world tuning in to watch an Islanders playoff game because they want to see Tavares perform.

We don't yet know if Tavares is capable of being that kind of draw. And, if he is, we certainly have no assurance that it will be Islanders' games to which he draws people. The Pens and Caps could go the next ten years without a Cup and they would still be compelling—even more so if they remain in the mix.

I would certainly give Tavares and the rest of the young Islanders another year to get their NHL legs.

Two years from now, the roster needs to include Star Power along with the right mix to make it to this stage of the playoffs. The Islanders need to make NHL fans want to watch.


Potvin Dumped

Speaking of star power, one former Islanders star is out of work. Via Kukla's Korner, Denis Potvin has been let go as the Florida Panthers' TV color analyst. The Panthers are paring their broadcast team down to three. Steve Goldstein and Billy Lindsay will handle the TV work, while Randy Moller goes solo on the radio.

Potvin, who had been with the team for its entire existence, was caught off guard by the dismissal. From Steve Gorten's blog in the Sun-Sentinel: "You come to a point where you figure you're a lifer with a company or a group. That's not the case anymore. I was surprised. I was not expecting it."

The Panthers assured the Hall-of-Famer that the decision was neither personal nor performance-based. Still, that has to be a tough puck to swallow after 15 years with an organization.

Potvin has a son still in high school and is not sure of his next move, though he would like to continue in broadcasting.


Congratulations to the U.S. Men's National Team for reaching the medal round at the World Championship. Yesterday's 3-2 quarterfinal win over Finland sets up a semifinal matchup on Friday with the defending champion squad from Russia. Team USA hadn't beaten Finland at an IIHF event since the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. Kyle Okposo contributed an assist to the victory.


I thought this was a cool picture, so here's the cover of the 2008-09 End of Season Media Guide...

(This post was originally published at