Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saturday's Leftovers

What's the rule of thumb for how long you should keep leftovers before you throw them out? In my family it was always three days. Let's see...Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Yup, better use these now or they'll be no good tomorrow.

Saturday night's leftovers...(*New fresh ingredients below!)


The integrity of the game is paramount in competitive sports, particularly at the collegiate and professional levels. So I'm surprised there hasn't been more criticism of Scott Gordon for using Brendan Witt in the shootout against the Flyers.

Sure, it was a topic of conversation. In fact, before Gordon entered the press room, it was pretty much all that was being talked about. And, if you watched the press conference, the very first question from Stan Fischler was about Witt in the shootout. Gordon treated the subject lightly, and went on to back up his choice by saying that his defensemen had performed well in practice shootouts. If I'm the Penguins or the Avalanche, or anyone else jockeying for any kind of position in the NHL standings, that's not good enough for me.

You can do things to reward players in concert with the game's integrity. Putting a big guy in front of the net on the power play is established practice. I can stomach that reward for a player like Witt, though I never believed it would bring about any long term power play success. I can't get on board with this one, though. Islanders fans would be none too happy if the Avs threw Adam Foote out there for a shootout at this stage of the season, and he has 66 career goals.

It's nice to be able to play things a little loose, to have some fun, when wins and losses are secondary to competing and developing. But I think you have to take a closer look when it impacts the rest of the league.


Rob McGowan, who writes his Islanders blog on HockeyBuzz and is also a member of the Blog Box, made an interesting observation during the course of Saturday night's physical mayhem. He said that for all the talk of Ted Nolan's teams being tough and physical, they never hit the way this Islanders team does.

So, does Kyle Okposo think that his team's physical style is providing an advantage against teams that aren't expecting it from a team that is challenged in the size department? I wish I could tell you that he took the bait, but here's what Okposo actually had to say:

"I don't think so. Everybody watches video in the league and they know that we're gonna come hard. I'm sure that they're expecting a hard game when we play them."

Ah, yes, the boring reality of the video age, where everyone knows what's coming all the time. The Islanders opponents can probably play Scott Gordon's system better than the Islanders can. John Stevens probably has clips of Tim Jackman's hitting technique on his iPhone. (I have no idea if John Stevens has an iPhone.)


After Doug Weight had been interviewed, after Yann Danis, and after Okposo had walked in, a very large, bearded man appeared on the carpet inside the Islanders' dressing room. He proceeded to ask blogger Dee Karl how she liked the game in soft, sweet, caring tones. You know the stereotype of the hockey pugilist who's actually a gentle giant off the ice? Meet Joel Rechlicz.

Of course, Wrecker is happy to be in the NHL, and at this stage of an NHL career, most would go out of their way to be accommodating. But watching him hold court with reporters and bloggers alike, there is no mistaking that he is the genuine article—a guy who gets, and embraces, his role with the team, appreciates the opportunity, will do whatever it takes to be a fixture, and understands that the people surrounding him after a game find him very interesting.

Did I mention that he's huge? Put him in a superhero outfit and you've got yourself a movie franchise. Off-ice character and demeanor aside, maybe referring to him as soft, sweet, and caring wasn't such a good idea.


If you missed the interview that HNLI Steve and I did with Greg Logan on Saturday, you can still listen to the archived show on the Hockey Night on Long Island show site. Greg did a really great spot with us, and I may add some quotes if I have time to transcribe them. You may have read the story he told about Mark Streit and Bruno Gervais in Greg's most recent Islanders Insider column in Newsday.

*Logan has more on Gordon's use of Witt in the shootout. He also reports that Streit is day-to-day with a strained groin and did not make the trip to Washington. Let's hope he didn't injure it in the shootout! (Kidding.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Live Blog: Flyers @ Islanders

Tonight's live blog of the Flyers vs. Islanders can be found here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hockey Night on Long Island with Special Guest Greg Logan

Please join me on Saturday, March 28th, as I sit in for Alex on Hockey Night on Long Island. Steve and I will welcome Newsday's Islanders beat writer Greg Logan as our special guest. The show begins at 3:30 PM ET. You can click right here to listen live.

As always, feel free to join in by calling 718-664-9597, AIMing hockeynightli, or visiting the HNLI chatroom on the episode page.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Lighthouse Project: String Theory

Chris Botta is convinced that Charles Wang's self-imposed deadline of the beginning of next season for receiving a decision on the Lighthouse Project is non negotiable. Writes Botta,

"What’s different about April of 2009? Actually, something monumental. For better or worse, we are finally at the end of this horror story. Wang and Scott Rechler will know by the start of the Islanders’ 2009-10 NHL season in October if they have a deal with Nassau and Hempstead. If they don’t, consider them very unrestricted free agents."

Perhaps even more telling, he concludes his entry with this:

"At this juncture, knowing the options, I think I’d sign up for Queens."

For those of you who don't follow the Islanders regularly, know that Mr. Botta's connections to the Islanders are as strong as anyone's. For him to make that statement at this juncture speaks volumes about how hazardous the road to approval of the project remains.

Charles Wang has absorbed losses as owner of the franchise for nearly a decade. He was prepared to do that when he bought the team. It seemed that he was prepared to absorb red ink for a while longer if it meant allowing this process to work itself out—even it meant that a game of political hot potato got in the way. Mr. Wang's patience appears to have run out.

What does this mean for Thursday night's meeting at the Marriott? The sense is that Mr. Wang and Scott Rechler, his development partner are prepared to make game-changing comments about the future of the Lighthouse Project. However, my feeling is that any perceived grandstanding or ultimatum-giving is still not in their best interest. Fortunately for them, they do not have to take that approach.

The Community Outreach Education session is an open forum. You can bet those in attendance will ask the tough questions. I fully expect Wang and Rechler to give frank responses that could serve the same purpose as a game-changing speech would. You could even go so far as to suggest that this event is set up for that purpose.

Could there be some kind of significant news coming out of this event? Sure—among the leading contenders would be an announcement that the developers and the County have finalized the framework of a new lease for the Coliseum property, which would have to be voted on by the board of County Legislators. This is one of the key moves that the developers and their governmental supporters can take to keep momentum going in their direction.

But how much momentum can they really create? Knowing the political forces at work, as explored by B.D. Gallof at Islanders Independent and Nick Giglia at Let There Be Light(house), I think I, too, would sign up for Queens. How can you expect to survive a situation in which one political party wants to campaign on the project while the other doesn't want to take responsibility for it? Ideology and power trump all.

It is also with significant reservation that I say I would sign up for Queens. I have friends who, understandably, scream at the notion of the Islanders leaving Long Island proper. I respect the loss they would feel. I also fully recognize being part of a minority whose ears perk up at the idea of the Islanders actually being closer and more accessible in Queens.

Clearly, the Islanders could benefit from being part of a new development hub that already includes Citi Field. Being in the confines of New York City opens many doors, not the least of which would be a path for casual fans in Queens, Brooklyn, and other surrounding areas to become ardent supporters. The NYC address also raises the marketability cachet of the team. It's the difference between being "out there" and "in here."

But I'm also aware of the Queens option being cast in a Utopian light. How many Nassau- and Suffolk-based fans would go from ardent to casual, at best? And who's to say the same political paralysis wouldn't develop in Queens County? What if the owners of NYC's only current NHL franchise fear a cut into their market and call in favors to hinder a Willets Point solution? The ice isn't always smoother on the other side of the county line.

The cautious approach would have been for Mr. Wang and Mr. Wechler to let the review process play out with no strings attached. It is, by design, a slow process. But as they look around and see so many of the other players attached to strings, it's hard to blame them for wanting to pull a few of their own.

(This article was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=20230.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Island Hopping

Two games in two days, four days off. Two games in two days, three days off. Lately, the schedule brings to mind island hopping. With the most recent two games anchored in the middle of a nine-day ocean, I think it's a good time to reset.

So put on your seatbelts as we take this puddle jumper on a three-hour tour of the Islanders archipelago.

Greg Logan reports that Kurtis McLean's footy foot injury is a dastardly ruptured Achilles tendon. Saying that this type of injury is a major impediment to the career prospects of a 28-year-old career minor leaguer may be an understatement. All the best to Kurtis for a quick and successful recovery.

A lot of people want to get on him for the way in which he injured himself. These types of cross-training warmups are fairly common throughout sports. A pitcher loosening his arm by throwing a football (or in El Duque's case, a softball) is probably the most common example. I'm not going to get on McLean because I'm in no position to say whether the injury was directly caused by the activity. It's entirely possible that the tendon was already vulnerable and regular hockey activity would have brought the same result. That being said, I think it's worth it for trainers and physicians to explore further whether it's risky for even highly conditioned athletes to engage in activities that use the body in ways that aren't required by their normal training. But, again, sometimes you just get hurt.

Also in Newsday, Tim Jackman is satisfied with his role but still looking to improve his game, and Joey MacDonald is ready to return. This is an important stretch for MacDonald as he's lost some ground to Yann Danis. On the other hand, perceptions being what they are (hard to shake), MacDonald might do better on the open market than Danis.

In the most recent Islanders Insider, Brendan Witt and Kyle Okposo do not have a problem with Alexander Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration, and Garth Snow compares Okposo's stickhandling ability to a lizard's tongue. The column also makes us relive the horror of Teemu Selanne breaking Mike Bossy's record for goals by a rookie. (For me, the horror was not the celebration, but the fact that the record was broken.)

The Ovechkin question is a weird one for me because I usually can't stand this type of scripted celebration. Generally speaking, if you hit a home run, and that's your job, round the bases and get off the field in a dignified manner. If you're a wide receiver and you catch a touchdown pass, you have similarly merely done your job.

Of course, there are times when circumstances call for, and intrinsically create, displays of enthusiasm. Such displays often endure as a classic moments, whereas their scripted counterparts run for a day and a half on SportsCenter. Ovechkin's 50th is clearly the latter. However, his hot stick routine came across more as Look how much fun I'm having! than simply Look at me! That doesn't mean that Rick Tocchet won't have someone take a run at him next time. In this game, that's okay too.

In the Post, Dan Martin confirms what many of us having been saying all year: the current players aren't at all focused on who might be joining them from the 2009 NHL Draft class.

Point Blank shows that time heals by throwing some love to this space's actual lease holder (I'm the sub-tenant), BD, and also speculates that Thursday night's Meet Me at the Marriott event will be more interesting than you might have anticipated. Messrs. Wang, Rechler, and Suozzi have something up their sleeves?

Lighthouse Hockey gives careful and well-thought-out consideration to re-signing Doug Weight. It's a complicated equation, and Dominik does a terrific job of breaking down the contribution factors.

Following the recent no-point weekend(!), the Isles stand six points clear of Tampa Bay and eight points clear of Colorado for 30th place in the overall standings.

Starting Wednesday night, the Isles play three games in four days (Minnesota at home on Wed., at Detroit on Friday, and back home for Philadelphia on Saturday). The Wild come into town with a disappointing 34-30-8 record (4th in the Northwest division, right on the playoff bubble in the Western Conference). The holders of one of the best looking home jerseys in the NHL finally got Marian Gaborik back, but now face a stretch without leading scorer Mikko Koivu. The Wild will pay a visit to the Garden tonight before heading east to take on native Minnesotans Okposo and Jack Hillen (pending Andy Sutton's return).

By Sunday, we should be able to put much of the calculating to rest. One thing you can be sure of: St. Louis and Stamkos, Stastny and Svatos, and Mueller and Turris aren't playing for draft position either.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=20205.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Islanders Extend Jackman for 2009-10

If you've been looking at the Islanders' current crop of forwards, imagining what additions they might make this summer, and trying to figure out who would be back to fill the top 12 spots, today you have one question answered.

The Islanders have signed Tim Jackman to a one-year contract extension. Jackman, who was slated to be an unrestricted free agent, is not a Ted Nolan-type player or a Scott Gordon-type player. He is everyone's definition of a character player. His willingness to be the team's enforcer in the absence of a true heavyweight is just one of the reasons that players and fans alike are glad to have him around.

In my last entry, I said that Jackman makes the most of his ability and the time he's given to prove himself. It's good to confirm that the Islanders agree. In a press release announcing the deal, here's what GM Garth Snow had to say about the forward:

“Tim earned this extension by showing his willingness to do whatever is necessary to help the Islanders succeed. We know Tim is excited about being an Islander next season and we’re just as excited to have him back.”

Jackman has four goals, two assists, and 133 penalty minutes in 57 games for the Islanders this season. In 12 games with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the 6'4" native of Minot, ND, contributed six goals and one assist to go along with 35 PIMs.

Jackman was originally drafted as a second rounder by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001.

With Jackman now in the fold, here's a list of free-agent forwards the Islanders will have to consider re-signing over the next several months (status source, nhlnumbers.com):

Doug Weight, UFA
Mike Sillinger, UFA
Andy Hilbert, UFA
Nate Thompson, RFA
Blake Comeau, RFA
Dean McAmmond, UFA
Mitch Fritz, UFA
Ben Walter, RFA
Kurtis McLean, UFA
Mike Iggulden, RFA
Trevor Smith, RFA
Jeremy Colliton, RFA

Let the guessing begin.

For more on what Jackman brings to the Islanders, pay a visit to Lighthouse Hockey.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=20133.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How Does DiPietro Fit In?

The Islanders have a new identity. It has been forged over seven months, starting when Garth Snow hired Scott Gordon to build a new team. The identity is not only that they show up every night—it's that they're a tough opponent and they're going to get better.

Since August, numerous figures in the organization have contributed to this identity. Thus, it is an organically developed new identity, as opposed to the manufactured identities that have failed to take hold the last several years.

Start with Gordon, who implemented his system rigidly, and then quietly adjusted when he saw an opportunity to help the team perform better.

Go to Snow, who didn't hesitate to remove the players who were rotting the core of Gordon's apple.

Look at Brendan Witt and Sean Bergenheim, who were unhappy—one with the team's approach and the other with his role—but chose to make themselves part of the solution rather than part of an infection.

Look at Mark Streit, who wasn't satisfied to produce on scale with his new surroundings but instead has already set a career high in goals and now has people legitimately mentioning the Norris Trophy thanks to his all-around fantastic play.

Look at Kyle Okposo, who became determined to show that he is all that he was cracked up to be.

Look at Blake Comeau, who accepted the responsibility of being an NHL player and understands what that takes.

Look at Bruno Gervais, who may have been running out of chances to be a key player and now has his career on the upswing again.

Look at Tim Jackman, who makes the most of his ability and the time he's given to prove himself.

Look at Frans Nielsen, who now trails only Streit and Doug Weight in assists despite missing 23 games.

Look at Mike Iggulden, Jesse Joensuu, Jack Hillen, Joe Callahan, and many more, fitting in seamlessly when called upon

Look at Yann Danis, who has obviously put in the work necessary to convert his talent into that of NHL starting goaltender.

Funny thing about looking at Danis and talking about the team's identity—you can't help but think about Rick DiPietro. For years, DiPietro, as the team's most talented player and only star (Yashin aside), has been the Islanders' identity. He was indispensable.

That is no longer the case.

Before this run of winning hockey, before this season, it was only possible to imagine the Islanders being successful with DiPietro in goal. Whether by pedigree or contract, he was going to be there. He earned the All-Star label, and goaltender was simply the one position the Islanders were not going to be concerned with for many years.

Quite suddenly, it is evident that the Islanders can be successful with someone else in goal. And, by all accounts, the current squad gets on as well off the ice as they have been on the ice.

What happens, then, when you throw DiPietro back into the mix?

It's an odd thing to consider—wondering how much time the star goalie is spending with the new-look Islanders as they find their way in the NHL and set expectations for the future. How much a part of it does he feel? How will they feel about him reasserting his presence on the ice and in the locker room?

You know as well as I do that answers to those questions are not forthcoming. At least, not beyond something like, As a player you can't worry about that sort of thing. You support your teammates, no matter who's on the ice. And they'll go on to express, genuinely, that DiPietro is a great teammate and a great goalie.

Ultimately, that's what it comes down to. The next time DiPietro steps between the pipes, he will be stepping into a better situation than he was in the last time he played. If that means that the Islanders are no longer his team exclusively, they are better for it. If his absence extends further, they are prepared for it.

The leadership and talent need to be more balanced going forward, rather than having such a strong presence emanating solely from the net. The Islanders have the pieces in place to make that happen now. DiPietro can return and just be the goalie, as opposed to being the singular face of the franchise.

It is a little complicated that I no longer consider him indispensable, considering he has 12 years remaining on his contract. But worrying about that serves little purpose until he's actually back on the ice.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=20100 on March 17, 2009.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Isles Drop Hard-Fought 2-1 Decision to Bruins

If you thought the resurgent Islanders might start dropping more points against top teams on the road, you might be a realistic Islanders fan.

If you thought the resurgent Brendan Witt could still occasionally be taken advantage of by younger, faster players, you might be a realistic Islanders fan.

If you hoped this whole post was going to sound like an old Jeff Foxworthy routine, you might be out of luck.

Indeed, Phil Kessel did make Witt look silly as the two met up at the Islanders' blue line early in the first period. The meeting didn't last long. Kessel left Witt flat-footed before feeding Marc Savard, who beat Yann Danis to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead before five minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute earlier, Kessel had found himself the benefactor of a fortuitous bounce. He easily buried the loose puck to get the Bruins off to a fast start.

The Islanders played a first period that was much less fluid than their recent efforts. They fought the puck and made poor passes as the Bruins gave them little time to make plays.

It took a little longer than it did the other night in Montreal, but the Isles did eventually right the ship and put up a good fight in this 2-1 loss.

Kyle Okposo plays like a fullback who refuses to be brought down as three linemen and two linebackers jump on top of him. I wouldn't be surprised if one day he scores a goal by skating the puck across the goal line while dragging three opponents with him. How long before we start calling him El Toro?

As if that's not enough, on a second period power play, Okposo skated the puck back behind his own net with Patrice Bergeron in pursuit, and then turned up ice and skated away from Bergeron to lead the rush. Apparently he wants everyone to know that he could be a tailback too.

And there were other pluses to recount. Mark Streit displayed his brilliance once again on an individual effort, 3/4 of the rink rush to score the only goal of the game for the Isles. Streit took advantage of the extra space on a 4-on-4, and a wrong guess by Zdeno Chara allowed the Isles' leading scorer to burst through the offensive zone and get a clear look at Tim Thomas.

Bruno Gervais look as confident as he ever has carrying the puck through the neutral zone.

Danis was not at all fazed by the two quick early goals. And, just for comparison's sake, Danis has been playing solid to spectacular goal for two months now, not just one.

On the questionable side, Scott Gordon continues to take liberties with his game strategy. Despite his recent positive assessment of Joel Rechlicz's ability to contribute at the NHL level, Gordon didn't roll the agitator out there for a regular shift. Wrecker played a season-low 3:35 over five shifts.

Gordon also played clear favorites with his defensemen. Jack Hillen only saw the ice for 13:57, while Thomas Pock got off the bench for a scant 9:19. Fortunately, Gordon does have a solid core of four to lean on, so he can distribute major minutes to the pairings he prefers. Streit, Gervais, Witt, and Radek Martinek all played between 22 and 27 minutes.

Finally, if your power play has been struggling, and your second unit features Jeff Tambellini (fine), Andy Hilbert, and Witt up front, maybe it's time to take a look at Mike Iggulden's big frame down low with the man advantage instead of experimenting with Witt there.

I'm all for rewarding a hard-working, gritty player like Witt once in a while, but I'd like to think that the strategies Gordon employs now are geared toward future implementations. I don't think this one follows.

All in all, though, the Islanders continue to play entertaining hockey. That's all anyone can really ask of this season at this point.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=20058.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Hot Hockey Returns

Following the resounding success that was Red Hot Hockey on November 24, 2007, I'm pleased to report that Cornell University and Boston University have booked a return engagement at Madison Square Garden for November 28, 2009.

Yesterday I was privileged to purchase pre-sale tickets to this special event. Tickets are on sale to the general public beginning today.

If you live in the New York area and you've never had the chance to see an NCAA hockey game, you should not pass up the opportunity to see two of the most storied programs, and current powers, go at it in front of 18,000+ fanatics. Last time it was truly remarkable to watch the thousands of current students and alumni from both institutions stream into the Garden on Thanksgiving weekend, armed with spirit that's normally associated with a Big Ten football rivalry.

Need an Islanders angle? Watch the program that produced Mike Iggulden (the defensive version—not the 5-points-in-4-games version) face off against the program that produced Freddy Meyer and Rick DiPietro (a little bit).

Past connections not good enough? You never know what will happen between now and then, but Islanders 2008 2nd round draft pick Corey Trivino should be in the lineup for the Terriers.

What's that? Matt Gilroy also plays for BU? What could that possibly have to do with the Islanders?

By the way, if you do decide to attend, try to get tickets in the Cornell section. It's the most fun you'll ever have at a hockey game outside of Lynah Rink.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pop Culture Watch: How I Met Your Center [Update]

Despite what one CBS sitcom would have you believe, only in passing on the way from Uniondale to Buffalo.

If you watch How I Met Your Mother, you're aware that the character Robin Scherbatsky, played by Cobie Smulders, is proudly Canadian (as is Smulders—born in Vancouver).

On the episode that aired earlier tonight, Robin was shown in a flashback near comatose and blabbering as a result of taking sleeping pills. In her sleeping stupor, she resorted to her native tongue—hockey play-by-play.

If my ears heard correctly, she called a goal that went something like this: LaFontaine passes to Turgeon, he shoots, he scores!

Obviously that's an impossibility, as the Islanders acquired Turgeon by trading LaFontaine to Buffalo. (And, no, it couldn't have been Sylvain either.) Perhaps the writer was an Islanders fan fantasizing about a ridiculous 1-2 punch up the middle.

But it's always nice to hear two Islanders greats getting a little pub in an unexpected way.

[Update] CBS won't let me embed the video, but here's the link. The scene in question occurs just past the 14-minute mark (you'll have to watch a few commercials). And my memory was a little off...the line was more like, Lafontaine gets the puck to Turgeon. Turgeon shoots...glove saaave.

See, too good to be true. No goal.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Live Chat: Coyotes @ Isles, Sun 3/8, 3 PM ET

The live chat is running at my other place starting at 3:00 Sunday afternoon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lottery Confusion: 25% or 48.2%?

What chance do the Islanders have of picking first overall in the 2009 Draft if they finish in 30th place? Is it 48.2%? Or is it 25%? Both numbers have been circulating, causing understandable confusion. I think I have the explanation. If not, then I've probably launched an explosion of misinformation for which I will pay dearly.

In any case, as I understand it, the Islanders have a 25% chance of actually winning the lottery. That is, being the team that is selected in the random drawing, automatically giving them the No. 1 pick. However, their chances of picking first overall rise to 48.2% due to the fact that teams 6-14 could win the lottery without displacing the Islanders in the No. 1 slot. Those teams can only move up four places if they are selected, so, in a sense, if one of those teams wins,
the Isles win as well.

This is all illustrated here, which I was reminded of by the post here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Charles Wang Talks to Howie Rose About the Lighthouse

For those of you who may not have a chance to see it, here are some notes from Howie Rose's interview with Charles Wang on tonight's MSG+ pre-game show...

Rose asked Wang about a drop-dead date for getting approval (something I tried and failed to get from the Lighthouse Development Group just eight days ago—timing!) for the Lighthouse project. Wang said, "We have limited time. We have to have certainty." He then specifically pointed to the beginning of next hockey season as the time by which the organization needs to know if this development project is going forward.

While discussing the possibility of other options, Wang again emphasized that his focus, his love, and his passion is to do this on Long Island.

In regard to the language in the Environmental Impact Study that says the Islanders will leave the venue if the project is not approved, Wang declared that Nassau Coliseum will not be a viable venue for the Islanders to play hockey in by the time the current lease expires.

The Lighthouse group is working on the new lease for the Lighthouse with the County in parallel with the efforts to get the Town of Hempstead to approve the project. In relation to this, the subject of the Islanders' out was revisited: once the developers and the County hammer out a new lease, the County legislature has 120 days to approve it. If they fail to do so in that time, the Islanders are free to explore other options.

Rose wanted to know if 100 percent of the project needs to be approved by the Town of Hempstead in order for the development to go forward. Wang first responded with a little history on the project, reminding everyone that the County, which owns the land and the arena, couldn't afford to fix the Coliseum or continue to run it. The County decided instead to develop the surrounding land parcel and chose the Lighthouse group to do it after a Request for Proposals process. Wang then offered that there is the possibility of further negotiation within the proposal, and referred to the changes in the height of the original tower plan as an example of his willingness to make changes.

Wang was not cautious about admitting that he has trepidation about securing financing for the Lighthouse if the project is approved. He actually said that he has "tremendous trepidation." But he can't really pursue that aspect of the project now because you can't finance virtual space, and he would be wasting time trying to negotiate at this point, when the final plans have not yet been adopted.

Addressing the idea of taxpayer contributions to the project, Wang said he would like to have help on some infrastructure stimulus, and that is worked into the project. "Whatever help we can get, especially in this economic time, we welcome."

Finally, Wang urged all supporters to get involved because if the project fails to go through, it's his fault, but it's also the public's fault because of the officials that have been elected. But, as he stated earlier in the interview, he is optimistic that they will work through the process.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=19918.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bill Guerin Traded to Pittsburgh for Conditional Draft Pick; Snow Speaks to Media [Update]

According to TSN, the Islanders have traded Bill Guerin to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional draft pick.

Stu Hackel in the Times reports that it's a 5th-round pick, which becomes a 4th rounder if the Pens make the playoffs, and a 3rd rounder if they advance to the second round.

Greg Logan and Chris Botta add that the 3rd rounder is also conditional on Guerin playing in 50 percent of the games (presumably the first-round playoff games).

Jon Sim assigned to Bridgeport, Nate Thompson activated—ouch. That's a hard one to swallow (other than the obvious youth-focus aspect of the move). I really feel for Sim in this situation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What if...?

With one day remaining for teams in the NHL to complete trades, you are by now well versed in the "who." The "to where" and "for whom" are still mired in the swamps of speculation. Odds are that they won't become any clearer until you see those Islanders logos pop up on whatever ticker you choose to follow. But what if certain deals don't go through? What will it mean for the Islanders over these final weeks and into next year?

What if Bill Guerin doesn't get traded?

If a deal cannot be worked out for Guerin, then he returns to the active lineup. He and Scott Gordon conduct themselves like the professionals they are. Up until the point when Guerin was removed from the lineup, Gordon had not marginalized the captain. Yes, he was bumped down to the second power play unit so that the coach could see what Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, and Josh Bailey would do with first-unit responsbility. And Guerin likely would have to live with that situation again. He shouldn't look at it as an indignity.

As for the domino effect, who loses out to Guerin? Easy enough—Jon Sim is on waivers again, Trent Hunter is hurting, and Guerin's replacement, the fresh-faced Jesse Joensuu, wasn't expected to see the NHL season. Things only start to get uncomfortable if Sim stays, and Hunter, Doug Weight, Richard Park, and Nate Thompson all get healthy (and haven't themselves been traded). In that scenario, I don't envy Gordon. I'm sure he was counting on having extra forward slots to fill over the final twenty games.

Does Guerin retain the captaincy? Yes, absolutely. Unless he speaks out in a way that is detrimental to the coach's authority, Guerin deserves to remain captain.

Does Guerin re-sign with the Isles? It's entirely possible that Guerin and Gordon can put their differences behind them and come to understanding about how to make it work together. I don't imagine it playing out that way.

What if Brendan Witt doesn't get traded?

If you've read Point Blank, you know that one expert feels that Witt isn't going anywhere. The logical domino effect, then, is that Garth Snow uses Radek Martinek to bolster his draft ledger or prospect pool. It seems like a downgrade in trade value, and therefore a downgrade in return. But Martinek's fragility probably has him past the peak of his value, both on the ice and on the trade market. Despite some promising prospects in the system and competent showings by the likes of Joe Callahan and Andrew MacDonald, the Isles aren't deep enough on defense to trade both of these guys. Gordon adjusted his defense, and Witt adjusted his attitude toward being a part of it. If Witt stays, you could be looking at the next captain.

But what happens next year? Gordon did indeed make adjustments this year that were agreeable to Witt. That doesn't mean that the coach won't show up at training camp in September with designs on restoring his system to its original state and having another go that way. Can Witt make it work under those circumstances? That seems problematic. Will Gordon be willing to adjust again if things aren't working? I think so.

Witt has expressed the kind of genuine enthusiasm for staying that makes you believe. If he can keep the elbows down, his presence in the lineup will be welcomed for another two years. And if things don't work out, there's always next March when Witt will have one fewer contract year for a trade partner to absorb.

What if Doug Weight doesn't get traded?

The biggest impact here is on next year. The Weight experiment has produced good results and he would be valuable on next year's roster. But what happens if the Islanders are able (and willing) to draft John Tavares? They will will head into camp next year with Tavares, Bailey, and Nielsen at center, not to mention Richard Park and a host of RFAs currently in the organization who could be re-signed. So certainly the draft could play a role in Weight's future as an Islander. This one's impossible to predict.

What if none of the Islanders remaining best chips gets traded?

First of all, Garth Snow will come under heavy criticism from the fan base for failing to convert assets, especially the expiring ones, into draft picks. Second, Snow will be more likely to move his secondary assets for whatever he can get. Here's where you start talking about names like Joey MacDonald or Yann Danis and Bruno Gervais, who suddenly looks like he could fill Martinek's role.

The MacDonald/Danis question is a tricky one because Danis benefits from the recency effect. It's like the 11-1 college football team (pre-BCS) that lost its one game in September being ranked higher than the 11-1 team that suffered its only loss in November. Danis is excelling right now, whereas MacDonald's stretch of excellence is a distant memory.

Islanders 4, Avalanche 2

Goal scorers: McAmmond, Joensuu, Gervais, Tambellini. If that's not the unlikeliest bunch of Islanders goal scorers you've seen, it's gotta be close. But congratulations to Jesse on his first, and to Sim (3 assists) and Tambellini (1 goal, 1 assist) on their multi-point efforts. One more big question for Garth: Being that he's already signed, does Tambellini get another shot, I mean a real shot, at launching NHL Career 2.0 next year? If he survives the deadline, I'm leaning toward yes.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=19765.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bergenheim Emerges (It's Our Time Down Here!)

[Those on the Islanders beat (Greg Logan, Chris Botta) are reporting that there will be no announcement tonight. Furthermore, there is no anticipation of an announcement at any particular time. Remember, Guerin always retained the right to refuse a trade. And GMs (Snow included) retain the right to change their minds. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, Bergelicious: The Sean Bergenheim Story.]

In the midst of the hoopla surrounding the location and destination of Bill Guerin, there was a hockey game last night. I will leave the chasing of Guerin to the better connected for now.

Yann Danis posted his second consecutive shutout at home in a 2-0 Islanders victory over the Buffalo Sabres. But this was Sean Bergenheim's night.

The Islanders are a 30th place team in a 30-team league. They have won only 19 of 62 games this season (.306), and in the process of selling off most of their established talent to the most desperate bidder.

Yet, this will be the third gushing article I've written on an Islanders player in the last couple of weeks. And I've only complimented Danis and his impressive play in passing.

Bergenheim is a 5'10", 205-lb. left wing who was drafted by the Islanders 22nd overall in 2002. Now 25 years old, he has been playing on the fringe of the organization's plans for a few years now. You know the story—flashes of what could be if could ever figure it out and pull it together. Kyle Okposo seems to have done that at the age of 20. Some people just take a little longer.

For much of this season, talk of the Islanders' youth core has centered around Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen, and Jeff Tambellini. Bergenheim was often an afterthought in that conversation. Oh, yeah, it would be nice if he developed, too.

In accounting for all of the Islanders' scoring last night against the Sabres, Bergenheim established a career high in goals with 11. He has three goals in two games, four goals in the last four, and seven points in eight games. Like Okposo before him, Bergenheim has figured out that his time is now. (I would have given you a picture of the Goonies with Okposo and Bergenheim's faces photoshopped in saying, "Down here it's our time. It's our time down here!" But it's a busy day so you'll have to settle for the mental image right now.)

Also like Okposo, Bergenheim has shown, as he did last night, that he can play the role of the go-to guy for this team when necessary. It's not just that he's scoring consistently. It's also the manner of his offensive contributions. On the first goal last night, he battled for position in front of the net and was rewarded with a loose puck, which he whirled around on and threw past Patrick Lalime almost blindly.

On the second goal, it was tenacious forechecking by Bergenheim that caused Derek Roy to cough up the puck deep in the Buffalo end. The puck ended up on Nielsen's stick behind the net. He fed Bergenheim, now camped out at the side of the net, and Bergie shoveled it past Lalime to ice the game with just over two minutes remaining.

It was this emergence of Bergenheim as a go-to guy, along with similar play from Okposo, that led me to ask Scott Gordon in the post-game about the younger players realizing the need to fill the impending leadership void. Gordon, in an answer that was more revealing than I had anticipated, admitted to having spoken to those players already (updated with full quote):

"I actually addressed a few of our younger players at one point. I went right to the point and I said, 'In this group here there's going to be two captains. It's what you're going to do in the second half that's going to allow me to make that decision.' When it'll happen, I don't know, but there's a good mix of character in our room."

So they didn't merely sense an opportunity. They have been challenged, and some of them have already accepted. You have to have guys on your roster who will take turns saying, "I'm going to win this game tonight." Bergenheim appears at ease with that role. Maybe he always was. But now he can back it up.

Gordon also explained that he showed Bergenheim video of the things Okposo was doing right to elevate his offensive game. It seems Bergenheim is a fast learner.

Gordon's methods have been under heavy examination this year. As Newsday reports, they have not gone over that well in some circles—so much so that it's no longer necessary to ask whether Bill Guerin has expressed a desire to re-sign this summer after being traded away. Regardless of that controversy, and setting aside the record, this season will conclude with some success stories.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=19707.)