Friday, April 10, 2009

Gilroy Wins Hobey Baker Award

Long Island's own Matt Gilroy, senior defenseman for Boston University, has just been announced as the winner of the 2009 Hobey Baker Award. The Hobey Baker is awarded annually to the top player in men's collegiate hockey.

Gilroy is only the fifth defenseman to win the presitigious award. Tomorrow night, he and his BU teammates, including Islanders draft pick Corey Trivino, face Miami (Ohio) for the NCAA Men's Hockey Championship. Following that game, Gilroy will be an undrafted free agent, likely fielding offers from over a dozen NHL teams.


Earlier post reprinted from

Have the Isles Finally Reached the Breaking Point?

How long can a team in 30th place keep itself from looking like a 30th-place team?

What's the breaking point for a team that was undermanned from the start, then was further compromised by an unprecedented string of short-term and long-term injuries, and still managed to be competitive nearly every night?

Right now, it seems it's about 78 games.

In the last two games, the Islanders have turned in their spoiler card for an S.O.S. alert. They have quickly transformed from a tough out into a flotilla with no float (or too much float?). The performances against Carolina and Pittsburgh, 9-0 and 6-1 losses, have left even the best of us mixing our metaphors.

This has been a season of challenges for Scott Gordon. First he had to convince his veteran players to conform to a style that may never have seen, let alone played. Then he had to be a coach enough to tinker with his strategy when it wasn't working.

Gordon had to carry on without his No. 1 goaltender and his best faceoff man. He faced long stretches without Frans Nielsen, Trent Hunter, Doug Weight, Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, and Freddy Meyer, and shorter ones without Kyle Okposo, Radek Martinek, Mark Streit, Sean Bergenheim, and others.

He dealt with players who were not thrilled to be here and the vacancies created when those players were dealt.

Gordon has one more challenge to face before this season ends: rally the troops one more time and give the fans an exciting final weekend of hockey.

One can imagine how easy it might be for the players to lose focus at this point. The end of the tunnel is right there in front of them. I think they are mostly confident that they can improve next year, but you can't start doing that without a definitive break. They can't improve this year. That makes it easy for the games this week to feel more like exercises—exercises that they have not performed well so far.

Despite the record, I would have anticipated some excitement in the building this weekend as the Islanders hosted their final two opponents of the season. However, assuming Okposo remains sidelined, and counting the injury to Blake Comeau, there is simply less to be excited for now. The depth chart has been flattened too far.

The Islanders are in a position now where they can show up but simply not have enough to bring with them. The offenses that could have walked all over them at times this season, but met resistence instead, are now finding the going much easier. And the return fire is muted.

Yet, a little buzz remains in the air. For a fan, every gamenight is a big night. The sense, for the fans, if not the players, is that Sunday is not a dead end. There's another huge game Tuesday night, and building some positive momentum toward the Draft Lottery would be the ideal way to end the season.

It will be very difficult to compete against Philadelphia and Boston with the current roster. Even if the opponents rest some of their big guns, there will still be significant disparities in talent and experience. But if the weight of the season hasn't finally broken the Islanders, wouldn't it be great to close it out with a couple of wins? And no conflicted feelings!

It would be unfortunate if this season, which was built for struggling but offered real hope, ended with a big whimper.

The players talk repeatedly about how all that matters to them now and always is winning. Hopefully they have enough left in the tank and on the bench to improve on the recent 2-7-1 stretch. Then they can say, "Look what we can still do. Look how far we've come."

And we can say, "Yeah, that was fun, and look what we're adding to the mix Tuesday night."

Happy holidays to those of you who are observing now and in the coming days.

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