Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stuck Between a Radek and a Park Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wouldn't want him to miss the combine.


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

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whose Pick Is It Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Power

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

Star Power.

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

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

Star Power.

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

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

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

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

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


Potvin Dumped

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

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

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

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


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


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

(This post was originally published at

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hockey Night in Brooklyn

Notice of an interesting event came through my inbox today and I thought I'd pass it along.

This Thursday evening, May 7, Gelf's Varsity Letters sports reading series will host an all-hockey night at an art gallery in DUMBO.

The panel includes Jason Cohen, author of Zamboni Rodeo: Chasing Hockey Dreams for Austin to Albuquerque; Jeff Z. Klein, biographer of Mark Messier and blogger for Slap Shot, the hockey blog of The New York Times; and Laura Robinson, author of Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport.

This is a FREE event. Doors open at 7 PM for a 7:30 start time. Please see the link in the second paragraph for details about the location and interviews with the panelists.

In the interviews, Cohen discusses life in minor league hockey after spending time following the Austin Ice Bats; Klein speaks to whether his book The Death of Hockey was premature; and Robinson speaks about hockey's lingering sexual abuse and misogyny problems.

That's probably about all you'll get for local hockey activity on this particular Thursday in May. Unless, of course, you're on the ice yourself!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Excitement, Business Trend Upward

The Islanders are reporting that their recent triumph in the Draft Lottery has sparked excitement in the fan base and, more importantly, business in the ticket office.

According to a May 1st press release, interest in tickets for next season has grown since the April 14th drawing that deposited the No. 1 overall draft pick in the Islanders' deep but full-of-holes pockets. Phone calls and e-mail inquiries are up 300 percent compared to the same time a year ago.

The team also states that it is on pace to renew almost 90 percent of 2008-09's season tickets. Over the previous three seasons, that number ranged from 67 percent to 80 percent. The Islanders ranked 6th in the NHL this past year in new season tickets. Of course, while that's a positive trend, you have to account for the fact that some teams simply do not have a lot of season tickets left to sell. But the team reports being 40 percent ahead of last year's pace.

Business is good enough (or has leveled off enough—just trying to keep it real) that you can place deposits for partial plans and group tickets as well. A deposit now gets you seat selection priority later—the schedule and details of the partial packages are not yet available. At this year's Draft Party on June 26th, interested parties will be able to tour the available seating areas. (I imagine they should get that part of the event done before the pick is made.)

No doubt this press release is intended to drum up even more business and create a perception about the buzz surrounding the team. But you also have to acknowledge that there should be extra buzz this offseason. With the performances by Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit last season, you know that there's always something to see when you watch an Islanders game. With the possibility of seeing a potential star added to the lineup on June 26th, and the continued development of other young talents, there should be a bump in excitement.

Of course, there is still a sense of hesitation that prevails with some fans due to the increased politicization of the Lighthouse Project. In the past week alone, we've seen one blog assert that a political party opposes the project because of fears that it will increase the numbers of the other party on voter registration rolls. And another blog shines light on the strangeness that has the company backing the Town of Hempstead's evaluation of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement also contributing to the Committee to Elect the town's supervisor—but perhaps also consulting for the Lighthouse Development Group.

So it's understandable when some say they refuse to commit their hard-earned savings to a team that might not be here very long. If it were me, and spending the necessary money was reasonable and provided sufficient joy, I would want to enjoy the team as long as I could.

So what's it going to be? Are you swept up by the excitement being trumpeted by the team, or beat down by the immovable project?


In World Championship action, Team USA opened the Qualification Round with a decisive 6-2 victory over France. Kyle Okposo opened the scoring just 4:02 into the game. He later assisted on the goal that staked the U.S. to a 4-0 lead in the second period.

Team USA meets Russia Saturday afternoon at 2:15 ET before facing Mark Streit and Switzerland on Monday to finish out the round.

The Swiss surprisingly lost to Latvia 2-1 in a shootout in their opening game of the Qualifying Round. Streit assisted on the game-tying goal with just 1:31 remaining in the third period and played 34:30 total.