Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Losering (Yes, More Whiskeytown)

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

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

And then four games go by without a win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many of those things are likely to happen?

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Islanders Milking It (Updated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 1: One spot cleared: Recker sent to Bridgeport

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

Friday, October 2, 2009

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

Wang and Rechler Play Hardball

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

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

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

Weight Named Captain

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

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

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

Matt Moulson and the Roster

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

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

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

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

The Opener

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

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