Saturday, February 28, 2009

Streit Appreciation Day

Many of us sounded the call once before this year leading up to the All-Star break. But, in these dog days of February, with little to be measured by game results and visions of ping pong balls dancing in our heads, let us pay tribute to the revelation that is Mark Streit.

I will point to two moments from last night's game, one a shift in thinking and one a display of skill. You can add your appreciation as you wish.

With a little over ten minutes remaining and the Islanders trailing 4-2, it was apparent that Streit had eleveated his game to another level. You could practically see the thought process play out before your eyes...

I'm the leading scorer on this team...I'm going to take over and get this done...Hop on board, boys, here comes your offense.

Streit is aggressive from the backline both by nature and by role. But down by two goals with half a period left to play, that was not enough. He needed to force the play more, pinch more, rush more, and risk more. Not only was he willing to do it, he was capable. There was your adjustment in thinking.

With a little over eight and a half minutes remaining, Bruno Gervais sent a pass across to Streit at the left point. Streit had some space in front of him, so he drifted in toward the top of the left circle while preparing to take a slap shot. He had a decent look, with Josh Bailey and Pavel Kubina providing a screen halfway between the puck and Vesa Toskala in the Toronto net. Streit has the shot to score from there.

He didn't shoot. He faked. He drifted a little more. He got a clearer path for his shot. He got Toskala to move. Then he put the puck right through Toskala and into the back of the net.

It was an exquisite goal. In a moment of insanity, I found myself thinking, Maybe this guy should be a forward. But I quickly corrected myself. Streit's defense is just fine, thank you, and he's probably more dangerous attacking from the top of the offensive zone where all of his options are open. He can boom the slap shot by your goaltender or carve up your forwards and your defensemen on the way to the net. And he can finish.

You can break that goal down to the elements that add up to what a special player Streit is. He had the vision to see it. The patience to try it. And the skill to execute it.

With just over three minutes remaining, Jon Sim tied the game on an assist from Streit. The Islanders would go on to lose in a shootout. Streit looked a little gassed at the end of regulation on his way to playing 31:31 and with the Isles down two defensemen. It's not the totally happy recap, but it is an opportunity to express appreciation for a player that you get to watch for four more years.

Guerin Opens the Door
Streit's presence may become even more substantial next week as the Islanders shed themslves of other veterans at the trade deadline. Chris Botta reported last night on Islanders Point Blank that the Isles have cleared a path to trade captain Bill Guerin, who has a no movement clause. As expected, it is a narrow path, as Guerin still controls where he can go and it's up to Garth Snow to make it work with the few teams to which Guerin would be willing to go (previously speculated here as Boston, NYR, New Jersey, and Philly—Mr. Botta expands this to other eastern teams, including Montreal, Buffalo, Washington, and the very intriguing Pittsburgh). But it seems more and more like this is going to be a very young team for the final five weeks of the season.

The Shootout
If you had Nielsen with the deke to the backhand, Tambellini with the mid-range wrister over the glove, and Okposo with the in-tight drag to the backhand, well, you would have split the jackpot with thousands of other people. It's not that anyone can score in the shootout every time. And it's not as if these guys have been around long enough that it's like the goalie is sitting on their fastball. And if ever there was a time to work on things in a game situation, it's now. But at some point soon, these guys will need to work in some different moves.

(This post was originally published at on February 27, 2009)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Witt Suspension Results in Ironic Press Release



Uniondale, NY, February 27, 2009 – The National Hockey League has suspended Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt for five games, without pay, as a result of an elbowing incident during NHL game #910 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Hockey League announced today.

“We are disappointed to lose a player of Brendan’s caliber and character for this period of time, but we understand the League’s concerns regarding hits to the head,” said Islanders General Manager Garth Snow.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Witt will forfeit $74,372.75. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

At 2:21 of the third period, Witt delivered a blow to the head area of Toronto forward Niklas Hagman. Hagman was injured on the play and did not return to the game. Officials assessed Witt a major penalty for elbowing and game misconduct on the play.

Witt will miss Saturday’s game against Buffalo, March 2 against Colorado, March 5 against the New York Rangers, March 7 against New Jersey and March 8 against Phoenix. He will be eligible to return March 10 at Toronto.


Blue emphasis (mine) = Don't bet the farm on it. Of course, there's nothing the Islanders could do in this situation but play it straight and carry on as though Witt will definitely be around to miss all those games. Tough spot to be in and I certainly wouldn't read anything into it. It's just interesting to note some of the challenges of communicating with the public.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Small Step for Wang

One giant leap for Wangkind?

The tricky part about following the progress of a project like the Lighthouse is that there are so few milestones that you can really sink your teeth into. That's why when months go by without discernible progress, it's easy to suspect the worst. Add a dash of Kansas City and a sprinkle of Saskatoon, and all hell breaks loose—even when there are assurances that everyone is taking care of their business.

It's also why days like yesterday seem like major victories, when in reality they are merely single, positive steps up the ladder to the lantern room. In all fairness, the Lighthouse Development Group made sure that yesterday's town meeting actually climbed two rungs.

For those of you that may not have the time to follow, or make sense of, this complicated process, the Town of Hempstead voted 6-0 yesterday to adopt the final scope of the Draft General Environmental Impact Study. In plain English, as I understand it, that means that the Town Board accepted the developers' proposal of the range of environmental issues that pertain to this land development project and need to be addressed.

Under typical circumstances, that would have been yesterday's big news. Once the final scope was adopted, the developers would then have to prepare the Environmental Impact Study to state how the project actually impacts the environment and how they propose to manage the environmental concerns. Having no interest in delaying any further, the Lighthouse Development Group, led by Islanders owner Charles Wang and real estate developer Scott Rechler, submitted the completed studies the very same day. You can read as much of the document, in all its thousands of pages, here, if you so choose.

So what's next? Here is the sequence of steps as reported by Nick Giglia of Let There Be Light(house), who spoke at yesterday's meeting in support of the Lighthouse Project:

  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Submitted (Lighthouse/Town of Hempstead) - DONE as of this afternoon
  • Review period and public comments (Town of Hempstead)
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement and Scope (Town of Hempstead)
  • Approval of Property Divisions (Nassau County Planning Commission)
  • Re-zoning Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Lease Negotiations (Nassau County)
  • Building Permits Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Shovels in the Ground

As you can see, there's still a lot of work to be done before the earth starts moving. But progress is progress. Now we enter another waiting period, so don't be surprised if the quiet time leads to more speculation that the train has gone off the rails. That began today with a focus on the fact that Wang and Rechler will not be footing the bill for the Lighthouse on their own, and there's debate about how easy it will be to round up investors in the current economic climate.

In the meantime, Wang was feeling good enough about the day's events to go on the record with Newsday's Eden Laikin about a number of issues that have occupied Islanders fans and watchers over the last couple of months. Wang admitted that scheduling an exhibition game in Kansas City was a purposeful tactic in what has been a mostly amicable tug of war with the Town of Hempstead. He also expressed his right to keep his options for locating the team open should the deal sour (including an out in the lease), but spoke even more forcefully of his desire to see the Lighthouse through.

(This post was originally published at on February 25, 2009.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big House Hat Trick for Islanders Owners

The Daily News reports that Paul Greenwood and Stephen Walsh, two members of the so-called Gang of Four ownership group that did Islanders fans no favors, were arrested on charges of securities fraud today. The charges accuse the Gang of Two of using investment funds from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to purchase such things as horses and luxury apartments for their own gain. The two universities are seeking the return of $114 million. This marks the third time that Islanders owners have faced significant fraud charges in that last 15 years. John Spano and Sanjay Kumar are already serving jail time. It's enough to make you wary of anyone with enough money to buy a professional sports franchise. Or, in Spano's case, not enough.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Saturday Post-Game Extra

With another two days to go before the Isles take the ice again in Pittsburgh, we have the opportunity to leisurely bathe ourselves in the glory of Saturday night's 4-0 win over the Devils. To that end, here are some closing thoughts...

  • First of all, this game was a joy to watch. The Isles were good, almost from top to bottom. This was not a case of the Devils not showing up or having an off night. They were simply beaten, soundly, in all three zones nearly all night long.

  • The Devils had their opportunities, but Yann Danis wasn't having any of it. He was that half step quick enough and in position for every threat. You could say that Danis is also in position to put to rest the question of who should be the Isles' backup next season. But, if he keeps playing like this, he may think about shooting a little higher than NHL backup. Perhaps Yann should keep one eye on what teams are thin in goal and the other on Rick DiPietro's recovery. Danis, by the way, is from Lafontaine, Quebec. That either makes me think he's destined to be an Islander or he's destined to replace the injured Ryan Miller in Buffalo.

  • Funny story about Danis: After the game, he was given a puck in the locker room that was labeled "1st NHL Shutout." He quickly protested (with a smile) that it was not his first NHL shutout, but his first Islanders shutout. Indeed, Danis shut out the Thrashers 2-0 in his October 2005 NHL debut with Montreal.

  • Chris Botta pulled this quote from Sean Bergenheim after another good effort by the young Finn:
    “I want to make it work here, on Long Island, with the Islanders,” Bergenheim told us after tonight’s 4-0 win over New Jersey. “I really like to live on Long Island and I want to stay here. I consider this my home now. The Islanders drafted me into the NHL and I have never forgotten that and never will. It’s important to me that my NHL career takes the next step as an Islander.”
    When I spoke of disappointment in Chris Campoli wanting to leave, it was because I'd really like to see more players have Bergenheim's attitude. Like Campoli, Bergenheim's quest to establish himself has been a bumpy ride. But Bergenheim still wants to be part of the solution rather than look for where the ice might be greener. I understand that Campoli may believe that his career couldn't take the next step as an Islander. But it's still refreshing to hear that a player even has some loyalty to the organization that drafted him, let alone hear him express that loyalty.

  • At the risk of going overboard with the Okposo accolades, he has now reached the point where I look for him to do something special every time he's on the ice. Remember the days when you just couldn't wait for Bossy's next shift? Or Pierre's? Or Ziggy's? It's nice to have that feeling again.

  • Finally, here's a message from Katrina Doell, blog administrator of The Light Post, about tomorrow's Town of Hempstead public meeting:
    There are few times throughout the process of getting the Lighthouse done that the thousands of supporters who have written letters, called our office, or met with us directly can publicly show their support. Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24, is one of those times.

    At the Town of Hempstead public meeting at 10:30 a.m. at the Bennett Pavillion at Town Hall, the Town Board will vote to adopt a scope of studies for the project. The Lighthouse Development Group has conducted these studies and they can be submitted as soon as possible after the scope is adopted.

    This is a step forward. This is a step toward bringing the tax revenues, jobs, careers, and countless opportunities Long Island needs right to your backyard.

    I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow.


The Campoli Trade: A Disappointing Success

Two things disappointment about me the Campoli-Comrie trade. First, I was disappointed that the Islanders completed and announced the deal at a time when I wouldn't be near a computer for about six hours. Woe is me. Cry me a river. I mean, please, cry a river for me.

Second, and more significant, it's disappointing that Chris Campoli did not want to be part of the solution here. I don't say that with any intention of maligning a good guy for his play, his attitude, or his desire to seek a trade. But when you have a young player you drafted, who does seem to fit what the organization is doing, and has a chance to be part of the organization's turnaround, it's disappointing that he couldn't find a way to make it work.

Quotes from the coach indicate that he challenged Campoli to be better. Gordon has tried this motivational tactic with other players, and seen positive results. However, some players don't respond to being challenged. Or, worse, they respond negatively. It's up to Gordon to figure out whether his motivational style is appropriate for everyone. He may need to take a page from the master, Al Arbour, who was known for adapting his motivational techniques to get the most out of each individual.

I share Islesblogger's concern that multiple players have seen fit to express their dissatisfaction with playing under Scott Gordon. For now, we will have to cling to the idea that weeding out those players is simply a tollgate in the process of launching Islanders 8.0 (version number debatable).

Campoli could have been a useful player for the Islanders for years to come. They will get on just fine without him. If he does elevate his game with Ottawa or another team in the future, you can't ask the Islanders how they have replaced a player who never reached that level with them. All indications are that they would have been happy to keep Campoli for at least his next contract. Once a player asks to be traded, he is no longer the same asset with the same potential or the same future.

Gordon really is getting the opportunity to create this team from his own mold. Let's hope Garth Snow can find enough willing pieces of raw material. Remember, at the AHL level, not many players are going to complain about the system or seek a trade because they think they need a change. They are subservient to the opportunity to prove themselves. That's not the case in the big leagues.

Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Mark Streit, and Trent Hunter are the first wave of players that must buy in and accept any challenge put forth by the coach. So far, so good.

All things considered, the trade itself is not a disappointment. Jack Hillen has as much potential to be Campoli as Campoli has to be better than what he has been to this point. We've already discussed how accumulating more draft picks is in the Islanders' best interest. Adding a top-30 pick for a player you can replace looks just about right.

The trade did leave me wondering if the Islanders had burned two trade chips for the price of one return asset, but I imagine that if Snow could have turned Campoli into a first-rounder and Mike Comrie into something with more of a future than Dean McAmmond, he would have done so. We'll probably never know if Snow needed to include Comrie, or if he insisted on it. Either way, if Snow's goal was to get a first-rounder at reasonable cost, considering all the circumstances, he succeeded.

(This post was originally published at on February 21, 2009.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Live Blog 2/21/09: Devils 0, Islanders 4, Final

1:00 We'll call it a blog here.

1:45 Goal to Guerin on assists from Nielsen and Okposo Streit. Gionta still in the box.

2:08 Guerin rips one from the point that finds its way in. May have been deflected. Isles lead 4-0. Talk about a strong finish.

2:42 Gordon takes a timeout as Gionta goes to the box for hooking. 5-on-3 for the Isles here.

3:00 Assists to Comeau and Nielsen on the goal. Okposo paid for it a little bit following the faceoff. He went down in the corner for a few seconds and was holding a towel to his face on the bench.

3:53 Unless, of course, they score. Okposo with the power play goal. Isles lead 3-0.

4:25 Martinek being attended to by the training staff for a minor cut. The good news is the cut resulted from a Clarkson high stick and the Isles will finish out most of the remaining time on the power play.

5:04 Jackman's forecheck created a turnover, but he couldn't control it enough to get a scoring chance.

6:05 Witt getting another opportunity with the man advantage, but the puck control has been lacking and he hasn't had the chance to set up in front of the net. Not much to write about on that power play.

7:34 Okposo draws another penalty. Isles will try the power play one more time.

8:44 The forecheck remains strong.

13:10 Isles are doing a better job of keeping the Devils from gaining all the momentum.

13:44 Through two periods, McAmmond won five faceoffs and lost only one. Hilbert, Bailey, and Nielsen combined to win three and lose 20. Yikes.

14:18 Good coverage against the Devils' rush results in a pass going harmless through the slot untouched.

16:25 Clarkson was right on Yann's doorstep but couldn't get his stick on a deflection.

16:35 That Devils shot just made the kid below me jump up in his seat, but Danis was all over it.

18:31 Just a minute and a half into the third and it feels like the Islanders are playing a prevent defense.

19:12 First threat to the lead denied. Danis hold his ground on a Devils chance in close.

20:00 Let's see how this latest incarnation of the Islanders roster handles the two-goal third period lead. They'll start this one off shorthanded for another 13 seconds.


1:47 Danis slides across the crease under control to meet a Clarkson one-timer. The ensuing pressure from the Devils results in a hooking penalty on Hillen.

4:45 Danis gets nice and square to a Parise shot and the rebound goes flying well out of danger.

7:49 Good pressure from the Jackman-Hilbert-Tambellini line results in a couple of scoring chances but no goals.

9:20 McAmmond gets off a good shot from the slot off a feed from Sim but Clemmensen handles it.

11:15 Sim pounces on a loose puck in the offensive zone and backhands it by Clemmensen. Isles lead 2-0.

12:45 Okposo left his man in the dust along the left boards but couldn't connect on a pass to the crease.

15:40 Sim came in on a break and his shot left a rebound that no one could control.

16:30 Great pass from Nielsen behind the net to Bailey in the slot, but he can't beat Clemmensen with the one-timer.

17:30 Good D from Streit to prevent a shorthanded chance.

18:01 Streit moves in from the point to one-time a feed from Guerin, but Clemmensen stones him.

18:31 Zubrus cross checks Okposo, Isles to the power play. Hilbert getting time on the PP with Guerin and Hunter.

19:26 Danis makes two good early saves, not giving up a rebound off a point shot by White, and then getting in front of an Elias shot after the faceoff.


0:03 Danis stops a partial break to end the period. Much better effort by the Islanders tonight in front of strong play by Danis.

4:52 Danis gets enough of a Zajac shot to deflect it over the net. Zajac was all alone in the slot.

7:13 Neat little dish from Okposo to Streit just inside the blue line leads to a good shot, but kicked away by Clemmensen with the left skate.

8:54 It was initially thought that Andy Hilbert would be centering Bill Guerin and Jon Sim with Dean McAmmond taking 4th-line duties. In fact, it is McAmmond between Guerin and Sim, while Hilbert is playing with Tim Jackman and Jeff Tambellini.

9:33 Kate Murray just delivered a video message promoting the Town of Hempstead. I have no idea what she said due to the booing.

10:37 Okposo just flashed some more of his blossoming offensive prowess with a spin-o-rama as he darted in from the left side. Clemmensen made the save.

12:47 Katrina Doell of the Lighthouse Development Group and blog administrator of The Light Post just stopped by with a fresh batch of sparkling white Lighthouse t-shirts. Katrina does a fantastic job promoting the project.

16:10 Streit out of the box leads a rush, feeds Bergie for a one-timer that beats Clemmensen. Great goal. Isles lead 1-0.

16:40 Danis looked sharp denying Langenbrunner toward the end of the kill.

16:59 Nice takeaway by Nielsen and a clear.

18:18 Streit goes off for hooking. Hilbert and Bergenheim started the kill, then replaced by Okposo and Comeau. Now Nielsen and Jackman.

19:15 Bergenheim has had two early chances. On the second one his shot off Clemmensen resulted in juicy rebound and wide-open net, but Bergie managed to put the put-back into the goalie's outstretched arm along the ice. Just needed to lift it a little more there.

20:00 Yann Danis is in goal tonight. Witt and Martinek will start on defense. Up front, the Bergenheim-Nielsen-Hunter line opens the game.

Mr. Clavin has received his expected chorus of boos while entering for the ceremonial faceoff.



Good evening and welcome to Town of Hempstead Night at Nassau Coliseum. To answer the $4 billion question, tonight's ceremonial puck drop will be performed by...Don Clavin, Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes. I'm not sure choosing the tax guy was the best way to avoid provoking a hostile reaction to the local government representative, but we'll see how it goes.

For you followers of the casualty statistics, the Islanders are listing the man games lost to injury at 384. And don't forget the 5 man games lost to illness (not inlcuded in the 384).

I've spotted my first message-to-Kate-Murray t-shirt on this night of white, but unfortunately I couldn't get a good read on it.

For you ex-Islanders followers, Chris Campoli debuted for Ottawa this afternoon with two assists in over 23 minutes of ice time in a 5-3 loss to Montreal. Mike Comrie did not register a point for the Sens. By the way, Ottawa is second to last in the Eastern Conference in goals scored.

I have to say, the early returns for the white-out don't look too promising. Perhaps the enthusiasm of the crowd will make up for it.

Newcomer Dean McAmmond is wearing #37 for the Isles.

For any newcomers, after these pregame notes the newest entries will appear at the top of the blog. Timestamps refer to the time remaining in the period.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Islanders vs Rangers Live Chat

Doug Davidson of Official's Outlook is hosting another live chat tonight during the game between the Isles and Rangers at Madison Square Garden. You can participate over there or right here at Islanders Outsider. The chat will involve Islanders bloggers from the Blog Box and beyond. I will be in and out tonight, but I will try to at least stop by the chat and say hello, if not more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trade Deadline Coverage at Illegal Curve

Illegal Curve has updated its Trade Deadline Central page with detailed recaps of the needs and assets of every team in the NHL. My thanks to Richard and the IC Team for inviting me to provide the Islanders content, and for adding a link to my follow-up coverage when Doug Weight went down after the original submission. I'm sure it was no easy task to request and collect material for 30 teams. The page will be updated with supplemental article lilnks as new rumors surface and trades are completed.

And, in case you missed it, Illegal Curve recently published its Broadcast Rankings, which rank all 30 NHL television broadcast teams. Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe fared rather well. Hmm...that story seems to be missing now. It still shows up in my news reader, though, so I can tell you that Howie and Billy came in fourth overall. They finished behind the Dallas team of Ralph Strangis/Daryl Reaugh, New Jersey's Doc Emrick and Chico Resch, and Buffalo's Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neale. Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti claimed the fifth spot.

Teddy Update: Here's Let Teddy Win!'s post on the Presidents Race at the Coliseum with links to the local coverage and photo gallery.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Isles-Pens Intrigue: New Coach, Teddy at the Coliseum

No, not that Teddy. We'll get to that story in a second. But first...

Monday's afternoon tilt between the Islanders and Penguins will likely see a spike in media attention. The plummeting Pens have fired head coach Michel Therrien. His replacement, at least for the time
being, actually has some experience coaching at Nassau Coliseum. Dan Bylsma, who had been manning the bench for Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate, was an assistant for the Isles during the 2005-06 season. You can count on national media from both Canada and the U.S. descending on Uniondale to get Sidney Crosby's take on the move.

If that isn't sideshow enough, the Islanders are honoring Presidents Day by bringing in the competitors from the Washington Nationals' Presidents Race to compete on the Coliseum ice. The big question, of course, is whether the change in venue and surface will benefit Teddy Roosevelt, who, to this point, is winless in his career. President Roosevelt will be joined by Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln for a race around the rink during the second intermission. Will Teddy win?

Pay a visit to Let Teddy Win! for more on the history of this event.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Weight Injury and What It Means for the Deadline

The sprained MCL that Doug Weight suffered Wednesday at New Jersey has significantly altered the outlook of the trade deadline for the Islanders. Before the injury, I (and probably everyone else) had the team's assets ranked as follows in terms of trade value:

1. Doug Weight
2. Brendan Witt
3. Mike Comrie
4. Bill Guerin

Guerin, though his perceived value may be higher than Witt's or Comrie's, ranks behind those two because his no-movement clause makes it more difficult for the Islanders to leverage his value.

But the loss of Weight from the picture doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else simply moves up a spot. Witt does become the most marketable trade chip. Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, and a few others are said to be intent on adding a defenseman. Just realize that Witt is hardly the only one available. After that, things become somewhat muddled.

If the Islanders were going to bring back a potentially useful young player, such as the oft-mentioned Marc Methot, it would have been for Weight. Comrie doesn't just take Weight's place in that kind of deal. You can pretty much eliminate the idea of the Islanders acquiring someone who is ready to step in now or next year—except for one scenario, which I'll get to shortly. What will be interesting to watch is how Scott Gordon uses Comrie over the next couple of weeks. Will the Islanders decide that they need Comrie to help fill the void left by Weight? Or will they use the injury as an opportunity to give another Sound Tiger a promotion? Ben Walter, Jeremy Colliton, and Kurtis McLean could all get another look. Depending on how they perform, Comrie could be deemed more or less expendable. If it's more, then the question is whether the return is worth the paperwork.

Weight's injury also impacts Guerin's status. Suppose Weight had stayed healthy and the Islanders decided to move him. That may have resulted in Guerin being more likely to waive his no-movement clause (unless they had some agreement by which Guerin agreed to stick around for the benefit of Weight's left-behind family—you know how tight those guys are). With Weight not going anywhere, Guerin has more incentive to stick around. And without the perceived obligation to convert the movable asset, Weight, into something of value, it's much less complicated for the Islanders to entertain another a year of Weight's skills, leadership, and infectious personality. You know the old saying: where there's Weight, there's Guerin. (Yet Smoke hasn't gotten a sniff all season.)

Based on all that, I think there's a new entry in the rankings that comes above Guerin, and maybe above Comrie. (A certain former PR exec already stole my thunder a little on this, but I'm going to proceed anyway.) This scenario assumes that Garth Snow has his heart set on continuing to fill out his draft-day coffers. With less depth (or height) in his stack of chips, he may have to make a tough decision on a young player who hasn't quite hit his stride yet. The new expendable asset is...the Upside Kids. Chris Campoli, Sean Bergenheim, and, to a lesser extent, Bruno Gervais, Jeff Tambellini (lots of you would pack for him), and even Blake Comeau (lots would howl).

Certainly, the last three may have more value to the Islanders as themselves than as trade bait. But if they have reached their ceiling for usefulness, then there's no reason why Snow shouldn't try something else with them. Campoli and Bergenheim, while potentially able to bring back a worthwhile pick, could be used another way—in an even swap for another young player who hasn't quite gotten over the hump in his current organization. I wouldn't be thrilled to see the Islanders taking on projects at this stage of the franchise's development curve, but if the project comes with size, toughness, or finishing ability, then trading one of the Upside Kids for someone else's upside kid might be a good gamble.

So let's revise the rankings:

1. Witt
2. Upside Kids
3. Comrie
4. Guerin

(This post was originally published at on February 13, 2009.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Okposo Should Shoot for the Calder

Right now, on February 10th, Kyle Okposo has had a satisfactory rookie season in the NHL. It started off a little rough, with the Islanders' best prospect making less of an impact for the team than most had hoped. Then Okposo suffered a wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup for 13 games. One started to get the feeling that 2008-09 would basically go down as a lost year of development—or, at least, a disappointing one.

Then, after returning from the injury and listening to his coach implore him to do more than play as if he were just happy to be in the NHL, Okposo took an important step forward. He emerged as the considerable talent that coaches, scouts, fans, and the Islanders had made him out to be.

When you watch Okposo now, you see him trying the things that he's probably been able to do all his life, but seemed hesitant to try over roughly the first forty games of his NHL career. It's as if he remembered that he is special, and not just another winger skating up and down when his line is called. Whether it's a quick bit of stickhandling to create an extra foot of space, a swift and sneaky extra stride to beat his man to the puck, or a push of his tenacity-boost button to simply not be denied, Okposo has demonstrated the combination of skill and confidence that we associate with star players.

Okposo should set two goals to pursue for the remainder of the season. The first is to maintain the elevated level of play that saw him post six points in a five-game stretch from the end of January to the beginning of February. By becoming a consistent performer, he can establish himself as a go-to guy on a team that sorely needs one.

The second goal is strongly correlated with the first one, but goes a step further. Through his play, Okposo should force people—fans and media—to put him in the mix for the Calder Trophy. He's not going to win it. But he was certainly in the discussion when the season started. His rough start removed him from that discussion. He has 30 games to get back there starting tonight at home against the Kings. It will be tough with Versteeg, Ryan, Wheeler, Mason, Berglund, and a few others setting a strong pace. But, again, the goal isn't for Okposo to win the race. It's to make people remember and notice that he is in that class.

Okposo has ten goals and nine assists in 39 games played this season. Let's set an ambitious but reasonable bar for the rest of the way. How does 12 goals and 12 assists over the final 30 games sound? That would result in a 43-point season in 69 games. That's a good mark for a 20-year-old to launch a career from if you ask me.

(This post was originally published at on February 10, 2009.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Islanders Children's Foundation Event Auctions

The Islanders Children's Foundation raises money for charities that focus on education, youth hockey development, and health.

For the next few weeks, you can contribute to the Foundation by bidding on any of three special event auction items.

Sticks out of the Hands Auction:
The highest bidders will receive two tickets to attend the February 28th Islanders game as well as the opportunity to take the stick out of the hand of the Islander player they bid on as they get off the ice post game.

Private Skating Event on the Coliseum Ice:
The highest bidder for this auction item will receive the following: 1 Hour of private ice time for a group of 12 people following the 2/28 game, 12 tickets to the Islanders game on 2/28, and a visit from a special Islanders guest during the post game skate. (Winner must provide their own skates for participants. Additional game tickets can be purchased once auction is closed.)

Islanders Team Photo Opportunity: The winner of this auction will be invited down to the Nassau Coliseum prior to the Islanders practice and join the team for the end of season photo. The winner will receive a framed copy of the photo that will be autographed by members of the 2008-2009 team. Winner must be available on Friday, March 6th.

Click here if you wish to read more about these auction items, view the items, or place a bid.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Buzz on Gordon's Sandbox

For those of you who don't already know, I'm filling in for B.D. Gallof as the Islanders blogger on HockeyBuzz for at least the rest of this season. I still haven't figured out exactly how I'm going to manage the content in both places, but I don't intend to let this blog die.

I imagine there will be many times when the content will be mirrored from one place to the other. I respect that some people may prefer to read here, so this arrangement will work out well for you. On these occasions, I will probably post there first, and then re-run the content here on a delay. We'll see how that works out. Thanks so much to all that have supported this blog, and I hope you stay with me one way or another.

Here's the latest (and first), originally published at

During the first period of the Islanders' 3-2 loss to Florida, I expressed both my disagreement with Scott Gordon's decision to start
Joey MacDonald and my ambivalence over how much the decision really mattered. To sum up, I don't see how you deny Yann Danis the opportunity to keep rolling and to test how long he can maintain a streak of solid/winning play. The ambivalence comes from the idea that at this stage of this season, the winning doesn't matter, and Gordon is going to use MacDonald down the stretch anyway. So why not last night?

The overriding issue is that Gordon is free to play around (tinker toys?) with no fear of significant consequences. He isn't going to blow a playoff run, and he isn't going to lose his job.

The only possible dangers I see are Gordon hindering a young player's development or alienating the veteran players to the extent that the club atmosphere suffers. Let's look at these two dangers a little more closely.

Perhaps the prime example of Gordon being able to see what he has without worrying about consequences is his use of Kyle Okposo on the point during power plays. Did anyone imagine at any point until the coach put him there that Okposo would play the point? I certainly didn't.

But more to the point, what is the point of him being there? Does anyone envision that being his long-term role? I certainly don't. Which begs the question, Why put him there now? Wouldn't Okposo be better served, in this, a year of organizational development, by gaining experience down low where we all assume he will eventually be?

Maybe Gordon sees something and Okposo will be a fixture on the point for years to come. The coach has also explained that he views Streit as the sole point man, while Okposo and Doug Weight are really positioned more along the half wall. But it seems to me that both forwards spend plenty of time just inside the blue line with the man advantage.

We've seen Okposo blast a well placed one-timer home while playing point. We've also seen him rip a trio of one-timers wide of the net. Gordon is playing a delicate game of balancing what's good for the team right now and what's good for its future. Right now, he doesn't have many options to put alongside Streit on the power play. There's really no one else. So maybe Okposo is there only out of necessity. But if Gordon isn't intent on Okposo being in that spot next year, I'd rather see Chris Campoli (when Streit returns), Radek Martinek, Jack Hillen, or even a playmaker like Frans Nielsen on the point.

That being said, Okposo is showing himself to be every bit the professional both physically and mentally. He will not be ruined by playing out of place for a while.

As for the idea that the clubhouse could be poisoned by vets made unhappy by reduced roles, that's only a concern if the poison trickles down from the vets to the kids. That's not going to happen with Bill Guerin and Doug Weight around. And if they're not around? Then there's no problem to be had.

But those two have done everything the team has asked them to do, and been everything they've been asked to be. This team can continue to develop with Guerin and Weight in the fold for the rest of this year and next year.

By letting Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Nielsen, and Trent Hunter feed off each other, Gordon has created a level of enthusiasm that his older players are forced to match.

Just as Gordon challenged Okposo not to be content with simply being there, the coach has challenged the rest of the young players to make it their team as much as it is Guerin's and Weight's. That is a significant step in the development of the team. Don't forget it.

I imagine that Gordon will continue to make the occasional small decision that leaves us scratching our heads. But let him have his sandbox for the rest of the year. That's where kids learn to play.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gordon Calls MacDonald's Number—What Would You Have Done?

I suppose I can allow for the idea that if the remainder of this season is to be about seeing what you have, then there's no reason to stick with axioms like riding the hot goalie.

Scott Gordon faces few consequences for the decisions he makes the rest of the way. If his feeling was that it's time to get Joey MacDonald back in the action, I can accept that reasoning. Gordon will obviously be using MacDonald the rest of the way, so why not start now?

Yet, I can't completely convince myself that the coach made the correct decision tonight. If it were me, and I say this without the benefit of having a dynamic with either player, I would have sent Yann Danis out there again. Let him complete his run, as far as it goes.

I say this halfway through the first period with the Islanders trailing Florida 1-0. MacDonald may stone them the rest of the way. Again, it doesn't really matter. The Islanders are not in desperate need of a win—or a loss, if that's what you're looking for.

But sometimes you just have to go with a feeling. Tonight, mine would have been to go with Danis.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Delayed Live Blog: Lightning 1, Islanders 3, Final

I have some time to sit down in front of the TV and the computer for tonight's game against Tampa Bay. I'm not sure how the entire evening will pan out, so I'm not going to do a full live blog. Instead, I'll post some thoughts from time to time as the game progresses and we'll see where things lead.

First Period Notes

The power play at least showed good patience and generated a couple of quality scoring chances, if not a quantity of chances. On the first PP, the Weight-Streit-Park-Comrie-Guerin line created a good, open shot for Park at the bottom of the right circle, but he was unable to beat Karri Ramo. I do have to wonder how long it will be before Jeff Tambellini gets another crack at the lineup.

Vinny Lecavalier did a good job of neutralizing Tim Jackman in their tussle. Just holding Jackman off for the majority of the fight almost proved to be a good strategy, as both players tired and the Tampa Bay captain found on opportunity to get back to throwing punches. But Lecavalier really only got in one more good shot before the linesmen broke it up.

Bill Guerin leaving with a lower-leg injury after absorbing the brunt of a Mark Streit shot could have implications as the trade deadline approaches. I'll have more on that at Illegal Curve in the very near future. Of course, Guerin could reappear for the second period and make this a non-issue.

One thing you certainly don't have to worry about with Yann Danis is whether he has a quick glove.

Kyle Okposo is continuing to show all he is capable of with and without the puck.

Second Period

This has nothing to do with the run of play, but my vote for next captain of the Islanders is Trent Hunter. I was just reminded of that when he rang one off the iron early in the 2nd Period.

I don't know what to think of Nate Thompson. Scott Gordon obviously likes him. He does bring something to table, particularly on a team at this stage of its development. But I can't help think that in a couple of years, if things go according to plan, guys like Thompson will have a much harder time find a spot in the lineup.

Guerin is indeed back on the ice, so now we can focus on just the normal speculation surrounding the likelihood of his departure. But not right now, not right here (second tease).

There's that guy Hunter I was talking about getting a dirty-deflection power play goal. Assists to Nielsen and Okposo. Islanders lead 1-0.

Wait, we're not supposed to get excited about winning, right? Streit slaps one through Ramo. Great to see after Streit had some arm/shoulder discomfort on the bench earlier. Hmm...right now they're giving it to Comrie who was in front. We'll see...anyway, Isles lead 2-0.

Radek Martinek with a half-slapper from the half-boards makes it 3-0 Isles. That one sent Ramo to the bench for NHL newbie Mike McKenna. That would suggest that the scoring portion of the game is over for the Islanders.

There's that glove from Danis again. Remember, I said it was quick. I didn't say anything about it being sticky.

Prospal beats Danis but not the post. Some would argue that means he didn't beat Danis. Either way, my fantasy team registers nothing.

There it is, a 3-0 lead after two. You can put this one in the books.

Third Period

Mark Streit will not return for the 3rd Period. Assistant Coach John Chabot is calling it precautionary. And to add insult to injury, Streit's goal is still credited to Comrie, who deflected it past Ramo using the Force.

Lightning about to begin a 5-on-3 for about 1:40.

Lecavalier scores with :02 left on the two-man advantage. Isles lead 3-1.

Prospal pitches in by taking a slashing penalty. Of course, with Streit unavailable the opportunity seems less thrilling.

Nice moves by St. Louis. Nice save by non-St. Danis.

This is not exactly what you'd call sprinting toward the finish line.

Were they able to retire Adam Graves's jersey tonight? Or was the Messier ceremony still going on?

In case you're looking for something a little more interactive, the live game thread at Lighthouse Hockey is open. (Which I probably should have mentioned about two hours ago.)

The Isles get a break as they look to close this one out as Tampa takes a penalty in the offensive zone.

Park fanned on a shot while on the power play, leading to a clear by the defense. But this power play also serves to knock two minutes off the clock in the late stages of a two-goal game.

St. Louis thought he had a deflection for Tampa's second goal but instead he was whistled on a delayed cross-check.

A Campoli penalty means we'll finish this one up 4-on-4.

Third-period lead? Piece of cake. Isles win 3-1 and have forged a four-game winning streak.