Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So......What have I Missed?

Since my last blog on December 8th, I have helped co written  a few other pieces with colleagues of mine, but I needed to take a step back and really watch a few games on the Islanders. The last 10 games were significant because it has marked the halfway mark of the Islanders season. That's right folks, the Islanders have played in 40 games and it is still not January yet. I have seen some nice surprises in the last 10 games that had allowed the Islanders to finish 4-6. Kyle Okposo, despite only 1 goal, had 7 assists for 8 points. But it was Blake Comeau who emerged from the "healthy scratch" list to the first line and managed a respectable 3 goals, 3 assists for 6 points.  Others like Tavares and Moulson were okay, but noticeably absent the last few games. When you play 40 games and it is still December, you can let them slide every once in a while.

On the defensive side, in my opinion, the bright spot is Andrew MacDonald. The notion that he has the ability to play in the NHL and beat out Freddy Meyer for a spot, is something fans should be happy about. Both MacDonald and Hillen are showing that they could have a nice future on Long Island and that Garth Snow and Co. are making good choices in free agents and drafting....so far.

So now it's down to the heart of this blog. After 40 games, the Islanders are on pace for 76 points. For now, that is better than what most were predicting. What excites me is that I thought the Islanders should make 80 points their goal for this rebuilding season. What excites me more is that I believe that the Islanders will have a better second half then first without making any significant changes to the roster. The Islanders need to get a few players back and a few to improve to get the Islanders to finish the season with 80 points.

As the Islanders start the second "half" of the season, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares and Matt Moulson should not have to relied upon to carry this team. When Jeff Tambellini scores a goal, the Islanders are 2-0-2. The problem is Jeff has only scored in four games. A recent, resurgent Blake Comeau has the Islanders going 4-0, but has the same problem Tambellini has, not scoring in enough games.  When Trent Hunter scores, the Islanders have a 71 percent chance of getting at least one point. These three players must continue to or pick up there games for the Islanders and let the younger players develop at there own pace. If the younger players produce, it's only a bonus.

The return of Bergenheim will also play a contributing factor. When Sean scores a point, the Islanders are 7-2-2. I'll even include old man Doug Weight scoring and the Islanders are 3-1-1. If there could be a return of the defense getting on the goal-scoring sheet that seem to be shooting pucks into the Bermuda Triangle lately, it will certainly take less pressure off the goalies, but the goalies will be for another blog.

Here is the bottom line. The Islanders had a better than expected first half. I expect the Islanders to be better in the second half for various reasons and if anything else, will play major spoilers at the end of the year. If the Islanders can continue to play at a 75-80 point pace for the rest of the season, the Islanders second year of it's rebuild will be a success. However, if the Islanders surpass 80 points this season, it means that it only took Snow two years to get them back where they were when Bill Geurin was captain for the first time in his career and the Islanders finished with 79 points.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Islanders/Flyers Recap

I would like to thank Anthony Curatolo of www.crashthecrease.com, www.hockeyindependent.com
www.insidehockey.com and www.puckdrop.ca for teaming up with me to present to you with tonight's recap of the Islanders and Flyers game, plus our opinions of each teams future this year.

In an unfortunate turn of events for the New York Islanders, they had to face a team awaiting an explosion. The Islanders were sent into the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia tonight hoping to add to the collapse of the Flyers, however the Flyers had other things in mind.

What fans witnessed tonight was just how far apart each team is in experience. The Flyers dominated the Islanders in almost every way. They were physical, resilient, and intimidating. The Islanders did not come ready to play once again and they paid the price. Both of the teams star players showed up for the game, but the Flyers clearly have more stars and more importantly experience on their side. The Flyers also have gotten to the Islanders psyche, now winning a staggering 12 games in a row against there Atlantic Division rivals.

For the Islanders, there long road trip is almost over. There final stop is in Toronto tomorrow, where last time they played, Dwayne Roloson looked like a convicted criminal standing against a pole, hands tied behind his back, blind folded and ready to be shot with pucks by the Toronto players. The Islanders must put in a solid wining effort to finish on a strong note and enter there home stand with confidence, something that was severely lacking today against the Flyers.

From the Flyers end, it seemed as if part of the Laviolette system finally made it's way into the players. It seemed like an animal was trying to break out of a cage, and then tonight, success. Martin Biron was shelled between the pipes as the Flyers shot everything possible in his direction. Unfortunately for Biron, the refs and those teammates of his did not help. The tides have turned, so it seems, in Philadelphia where for the Islanders it is still a question of how much they lack the veteran presence to fill the void with the fine mix of youth that are currently on this roster.

It is not a lost year, for either team, with plenty of hockey left to play. For the Islanders it seems it is a lack of leadership. The talent is there, it's just the inability to bring that talent out without any mentors. Something that, after tonight, seems to be the exact opposite in Philadelphia. Chris Pronger, who has led teams across the continent, seems to have finally gotten into Mike Richards, the current Captain in Philadelphia, in a positive way. In what some questioned to be fear and intimidation within Richards due to Prongers arrival, seems to finally have been buried. Richards looks poised to lead this team in the right direction, and looks focused to wear his "C" with pride. With a teammate like Pronger to help guide the way, how could anyone not accept what Pronger will bring to this team? They shouldn't, and with Laviolette on board, they will not.

There is good news from the Islanders front. With each day that passes, it's a day that Andy Sutton and Doug Weight are closer to returning. Now Paul, with those returns, do you feel it will be enough veteran experience to help this team towards a playoff push? Or is it an overall learning year on the Island?

I will admit, 100%, that the future looks fantastic for the Islanders from a team perspective. Let's hope we can say the same for the geographical location when the time comes.

Andy Sutton has missed some time, but not a lot to make a huge difference. Andrew MacDonald has proven to the Islanders organization that he can play in the NHL, but with the early departure to the always injured Radek Martinek, the Islanders need more veteran experience on the defensive side sooner rather than later. Doug Weight has missed almost two-thirds of the season so far, so getting him back is like adding a free agent. Time will tell if the Islanders need more experience on the offensive side. Will they help with the playoff push? Definitely! Will those two get the Islanders into the playoffs: No.



This is without a doubt a learning year for the Islanders, but fans have to wait and see how far this current squad can go without major changes. They’re still growing as a team, and this long road trip may have been a blessing in disguise for them to build that chemistry and in essence a family. We have not seen their crescendo or their climax because they’re still building upwards. We may see it in a few weeks after they play a few at home so that Snow will have a great grasp of what needs to be improved on.



The future is very bright for this team. They’re not far away at all and could be very good spoilers by the end of this year.



Now Anthony, the Flyers heard you, and you were granted the firing of John Stevens. Emery is out for several weeks. What will it take for the Flyers to be tops in the Conference again?


I have called for the firing of Stevens more times then the amount of cups of coffee I have had this week. Unfortunately, I do not feel the Flyers will be able to climb over the likes of Washington and Pittsburgh. Not without a healthy and proven Ray Emery and a defensive core that wakes up.  They, like the Islanders, have a good make up of forward lines.  The Flyers have the better blue line and that is an area the Islanders will really need to improve on in order to make that push from a leadership and experience standpoint.

It's not so much the return of Emery that will be important compared to if Emery looks like he did during the first two to three weeks of the season upon his return or not.  If he returns and plays better then he has and the blame of an injury is the reason for his poor play I would have to say watch out.

That is something I feel the Islanders are a bit stronger at. They not only have a very good Dwayne Roloson, they are getting back an all-star goalie in Rick DiPietro.  Brian Boucher and Jonas Backlund does not compare to the tandem the Islanders are soon to get back.

It should be an interesting six weeks for the Flyers where it's a week or two of anticipation for the Islanders.  "DP" could bring forth a huge difference, just on a level of play from his presence back in the lock room alone. So there is no need to count either team out, despite the recent struggles of both teams but more-so the Flyers.

Tomorrow night at the ACC the Islanders will need to stand tall in front of Roloson and make sure to not let the Leafs bring forth the shooting barrage again.



Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Martin Biron Trade Rumors

For the last month, there have been rumors of goaltender Martin Biron being dealt after Islanders All-Star goalie Rick DiPietro returns to action. Ever since an announcement was made here that DiPietro would return in mid December, people had been asking me if trading Biron was a possibility before Christmas. Before I go any further, I wanted to know who was interested in Biron, and what could he bring back. After talking to a lot of people who love the rumor industry, I took the three teams who were mentioned the most. They were the following: Detroit Red Wings, L.A. Kings and the Buffalo Sabres. Surprised? You shouldn't be, there the same three teams that have been rumored for the last two months, but this is what the Islanders are currently working with.

So what could the Islanders get out of any of those teams? I did my own research and I asked around for some help on trade values of certain players. This is what I came up with. Despite having a better save percentage (big influence in trading for goalies by the way)  than both Chris Osgood and Jonathan Quick, Biron would be there backup. There is no question that Martin would be Ryan Millers backup. So even if Biron can pull together a few more wins, he will still be considered a backup for this season. What do these three trading partners have in common? Young defensive prospects, similar to a Matt Moulson situation, a player who has NHL potential but no room on there respective teams.

Now trade rumors are really just for fans to stay interested all year long with there favorite team, so after researching certain players, I simply asked 20 die hard and extremely knowledgeable fans (Thank you Anthony) from each team if they would like to trade a certain prospect from their farm team for Biron. Here were the results: Detroit fans would rather give the Islanders a second or third rounder; L.A said yes to the deal, and Buffalo fans were an eager yes.

I had more detail, but I as I had a few proofread my work to see if the blog was actually legit, I was asked to hold off on the blog for a few days because it might get longer. Never having a "source" in my life, I took this person by their word, and held off. A few days later, Larry Brooks wrote here that Garth Snow has permission to increase pay roll for a run at the playoffs. Now that changed everything and the rumors got worse over the next day while  people play GM and trading players, picks so that everything looked good on paper and gave their favorite team a chance at the playoffs.

This is what Islanders fans should know before trading anybody. Without DP in the lineup and taking into account the winning percentage of the Islanders record at home (5 more games at home than away for the remainder of the season), the Islanders are on pace for 85 points. Now if the Islanders forwards can actually score for DP like they do for Roloson and earn an extra point here and there, the Islanders will probably flirt with 90 points. Mind you, that's without trading anybody.....90 points.

I asked around if the Islanders should be trading now? I was answered with an emphatic no!!   To make the point clearer, a day later I read this quote from Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey.

The salary cap prohibits struggling teams from making any significant early season roster changes like trades. Forget about the nonsense floating around the internet about "big moves", the last one which happened before the holiday trade freeze was four years ago today (the Joe Thornton trade). What trades that do happen are usually relatively minor deals involving the exchange of equal salaries (last week's Latendresse-for-Pouliot trade).  
So Islanders fans as you begin this December, here are some things to know:

Biron will not be traded until DP has played a few games (like 10) and there are no recurring injuries to him or Roloson.
Biron could fetch a 3rd or 2nd rounder no matter what time in the season, or a decent prospect stated above.
If there are players traded, it won't be until mid-January at the earliest.
There has been enough scouting in their own organization to know that if certain players are traded from the Islanders, they earned it.

For now, enjoy the games and the rumors, just don't jump ahead to the future, enjoy your present.

Update: I was asked to add Colorado to that mix now.  According to Anthony Curatolo of Crash the Crease & The Hockey Guys,  Colorado has ZERO faith in Budaj (hence Anderson getting ALL the starts) and they have plenty to move.  If it's a bit bigger from the Isles end, it could be a perfect scenario.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Hockey Life of Matt Moulson


Please click the above title to read a great article about Matt Moulson written by Chuck Gormley of NHL.com. It starts from his childhood, all the way up to his current success as a member of the Islanders. Great read.

Matt Moulson is turning into the prized "steal" of this years off-season for Snow and the Islanders. Moulson is on pace for 35+ goals as of this entry, and it appears that he and John Tavares have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Moulson may be a core player by years end.

Isles A Playoff Team?..........Not Yet

With the Islanders beating the Bruins 4-1 last night, they improved their record to 8-6-7. Believe me, no one saw this coming. But with their winning ways, 7-2-2 in their last 11, the Islanders are no longer the cellar dwellers of the NHL. So which category do we put them in? Are the Islanders playoff bound? For now, the answer is......not yet. There are still some factors that must be considered before crowning them a playoff team.

In the off-season Garth Snow has been sensational at finding the right free agents at the right time. Matt Moulson, Dwayne Roloson, and Martin Biron all have helped build up this club to where they are now and Moulson specifically has a really big upside on offense while Roloson has only one regulation loss in net. As for Biron, I will leave that one alone until my next blog but he will be important down the road. But can these three continue this trend for the rest of the season?

We're starting to see a young Islanders team mature in front of our very eyes. Bergenheim, Okposo, Hillen, and Neilsen to name a few, are blossoming into good point producers on a consistent basis. What I like about this team is that they're full of young talent mixed in with the right amount of veteran experience. Some young players can still be benched while learning how to play Gordons system and when their time has come to play, they don't miss a beat. But can this young team continue to score at a higher level for the rest of the year?

Heck this teams defense is healthy (I never counted Martinek, he was just a given to be injured), and probably will play more games together than ever before. That alone will help get the Islanders close to the top 8. But is there enough talent on the defense to make such a strong push? What happens if this defense gets injured? It's too soon to tell yet with this team.

What about some other teams below the Islanders who have had more injured players? If the players come back, Boston for example, you would think someone like a Marc Savard would improve the Bruins chances at a playoff spot. Even Montreal can keep it close when Markov makes it back. Let's not forget that the Lightning, and Thrashers are also on a resurgence this year, and are making a great push as well.

For now fans, it's too early to see where the Islanders will finish, too many question marks. But know this: the Islanders do have enough offense to make the playoffs, and compete. If the Islanders can get themselves another top 6 defenseman to replace Martinek and his minutes and improve the overall team defense, there is no reason to believe the Islanders won't be in it come March. They may need help getting in but the Islanders, as of 21 games into this season, have gone from cellar dwellers to a bubble team and are really fun to watch.

Isles Continue To Win: NYI 4 BOS 1

Friday, November 13, 2009

DiPietro Speaks Out

A great article by Dan Martin of the NY Post. Just a few quotes from DP.

"I have to keep telling myself that I have a lot of years left and not to push too much and put myself in jeopardy," said DiPietro, who is in the fourth year of his 15-year deal and is still recovering from knee surgery after being limited to five games last season. "The one thing that frustrates me is when people say I can't stay healthy. It's not like anyone goes out there and tries to get hurt. It would be one thing -- and I would accept the criticism -- if I came into camp out of shape, fat and lazy, but I consider myself a pretty hard worker and I come into camp in great shape."
"I think everyone realized coming in that at some point, there'd be a logjam of goalies," DiPietro said. "Right now, I'm the odd guy out and hurt. But there's nothing etched in stone. I've still got to work my way back and do everything I can to get back in the lineup. I don't want to be handed anything and told, 'This is your job again.' I want to earn it."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Okposo Out With Swine Flu, Weight Also Out


According to various sources, Kyle Okposo has the H1N1 virus and will not be skating for the next three games.

Also reported is that captain Doug Weight will be out 4-6 weeks with the same "upper-body" injury sustained in a game against New Jersey a few days ago.


This will put a damper into things with Okposo being out and Weight will be missed on the powerplay. Once again, as stated in my previous blog, Comeau and Bergenheim need to step up and fill in for Okposo. Maybe a nice contribution from Tambellini would not hurt either. More to come.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Islanders Begin Long Road Trip

So with the 6-3 beating of the Thrashers on Saturday, the Islanders record remains at 6-6-5. They will now embark on a 7 consecutive road game schedule, the longest of the season. That sounds bad but not if you look at their opponents. Let us start with this week only. First up: the Caps. Washington should be their toughest opponent of the schedule.  After a date in Washington, they move on to the depleted Carolina Hurricanes and finish the week with the Florida Panthers. That first part of this long schedule does not sound too intimidating and if the Islanders lose, they only have themselves to blame. They need to be ready like they were against Atlanta, and not be flat like they were against the Devils.

Blake Comeau, Sean Bergenheim and Jack Hillen all scored their first goals of the season against Atlanta. If the Islanders really want to make a statement during this stretch, those three players must continue to do the same style of work and effort if they want to see regular ice time. Sean Bergenheim has been doing everything but score, & I would not be surprised if he got a few more during this road trip. Also look for Trent Hunter to be back in the lineup, which means either Comeau or Sim may actually sit for a while.

As for Hillen, he now must replace Martinek for the rest of the season. Some people have said that may be hard to do, but I disagree. Granted a torn ACL is no laughing injury, but the fact remains that Martinek is always injury-prone and that most fans saw this coming. Hillen needs to continue his play, and shoot the puck often. This will be his make or beak year and if he does produce,  fans are looking at Martinek's replacement.

If the Islanders truly want to be mentioned in the playoff hunt in December or by the Olympic break, the Islanders need to win in November. Winning the next three games in a row would be a nice start and the end to this long road trip may take the Islanders into a place they haven't been considered for in a while.

With Martinek Gone, Look For A Trade

From the NY Post:

Martinek's loss certainly will be felt. The oft-injured defenseman was replaced in the lineup by Freddy Meyer. "To me, he's one of best kept secrets in NHL," Gordon said. GM Garth Snow agreed and wouldn't rule out a trade: "It's a big hole for us to fill. If something makes sense, we'll do it."

Isles Win 4th In A Row At Home

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Media News: Islanders Are Force

From Dan Martin of NY Post:

Injuries limited Andy Sutton to just 23 games last season, and even though this year is only 14 games old, the defenseman already sees a difference in this group of Islanders.

"Something happened partway through this season," Sutton said after practice yesterday in Syosset. "We figured out our identity, and it's showing in the way we're playing."
And the Isles are getting results, bringing a four-game winning streak into Buffalo tonight.

"We're making simple, hard, effective plays and being tenacious," Sutton said. "We've been pretty disciplined. I think is a young team that's getting smarter."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Islanders Need To Ride The Wave

If you asked me at the start of the season: a) If the Islanders would be .500 by the end of October; b) That Matt Mouslon and Jeff Tambellini  would be leading the team in goals; c) The Islanders would only have FOUR regulation losses by this time; I would be saying "NO!" to every question. Not only would I say "No" but I would be wondering what you were smoking and wonder why you're not sharing those happy thoughts. However, here they are sitting with a 4-4-5 record and a chance to really make other teams lives miserable.

Before Trent Hunters return to action, the Islanders have won three straight against some formidable opponents: Rangers, Capitals, and Buffalo. Each team has had some bumps and bruises, but the Islanders took advantage and ran with it. This seems to be a trend entering November. Their upcoming schedule is this: Edmonton, Buffalo, New Jersey, and Atlanta.   All four teams are either recovering from injury or illness and the Islanders once again must take advantage of others shortcomings and continue to ride the wave of renewed confidence and winning.

By no means am I saying the Islanders could make a run at the playoffs. It's just too early right now. But If they continue winning, they will force the other teams recovering to win sooner rather than later, and the goal is to get those teams feeling desperate quicker. From here on out, the Islanders will not be taken lightly. The Islanders will be a team to be dealt with, and if they continue their development, will be very difficult to beat down the stretch. Adding to that, if this team remains healthy adding Hunter to the mix and DiPietro will strengthen a team that doesnt like losing in regulation to begin with.

So ride the wave with your team fans, because it may keep going a little longer than any of us ever thought.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Biron To Detroit?

From Lyle Richardson of Spectors Hockey:

As long as the Wings remain in the playoff hunt I suspect Holland will give Osgood and Howard more time. Potential trade options should Holland decide to go shopping for a goaltender include Minnesota's Josh Harding and the Islanders' Martin Biron once Rick DiPietro returns to action.
Dipietro could be back around Thanksgiving according to reports. For now the Islanders certainly have a good trade chip. The question is, assuming the Isles do trade with Detroit, what could they get in return for Biron? Detroit is an established team, with quite a bit of depth, so look for a decent draft pick in return for Biron.

2 In A Row Isles 4 Caps 3

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prospect Watch: Aaron Ness

Updated 2.13.10 From Omair Taher

Ness continues to put up steady numbers in his sophomore season at Minnesota. He currently has one goal and nine assists through 28 games, second only to Cade Fairchild (STL) in scoring among Golden Gophers defensemen. While Ness's offensive production hasn’t improved much from last year, he did add about 10 pounds of muscle over the summer. This is a step in the right direction for the 2008 Mr. Hockey award recipient. Ness has the skill set to be a top offensive defenseman, but needs to bulk up a bit more before he can move up to the pros.



Update from the Daily News:

"All reports are that Aaron's playing well," Snow said. "We're excited that Aaron is playing college hockey and having some success. We'll keep monitoring Aaron, and hope he continues on that development path."- Garth Snow
"Aaron has outstanding skills, skating ability and hockey sense," Snow said. "He does a good job getting pucks to the net on the power play or in 5-on-5 situations. He makes a great first pass, and can skate the puck out of trouble when the opportunity presents itself."
From Minnesota coach Don Lucia

"The biggest change he needs is time, physically," Lucia said. "I think the biggest catching up he had to do was not the mental part of his game or the skill part, but just the physical part. He's probably put on a good 10 pounds of muscle from last year - he's still got a ways to go as far as that's concerned, and that's going to take some time."

Stats for Ness:


Drafted: 2008 Entry draft
Round: 2nd  (40th Overall)
NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee
“Aaron is flamboyant and colorful. He is very quick, everything about him is quick -- his hands are quick, his feet are quick. He is a very good skater and he is gritty and physical. He’ll step right in to you without fear – he picks his spot when he does it. He’s a little more polished than some of the other high school defensemen with his passing and playmaking.  When I look at him he is quicker than Brian Leetch was at this age and he’s as fast as John-Michael Liles was at the same age." 


Stats:

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 U. of Minnesota NCAA 37 2 15 17 16
2009-10 U. of Minnesota NCAA 34 2 9 11 22
 
 
 
 My take: Ness could very well be a good defenseman in 2 years for the Islanders. For now he'll soak up as much as he can in Minnesota, eventually join the Sound Tigers, and see where he progresses from there. Ness is certainly a player to keep an eye on.
 
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Are The Islanders Not Winning?

After the first 10 games, most fans begin to analyze how their teams are doing and begin dissecting their team down to the amount of ice time a certain fourth liner is playing. In the Islanders case, everything is being dissected. Why? Despite getting 7 points in 10 games, 2 points better than last years start, the Islanders only have 1win against the Hurricanes which saw Tavares, Neilsen, and Tambellini all score in the shoot-out. So the Islanders have not won in regulation yet so fans, writers, and bloggers alike are getting frustrated.

The "logical" thing to do is blame the GM and ownership for not signing veteran free agents.  My response to that is this: Hey, Miro Satan is still available, and he's even said he'll play anywhere! My point: No free agent will come, been there, talked about it, and over with. So who's next? Oh that's right the coach. His system does not work with this team. Problem is, the system is being used by other coaches in the NHL and are having success with it, so it's not the coach.

So now it's a lack of talent? This maybe true, maybe not a lack, just not enough experience. To prove my theory, I had asked several fans and fellow bloggers on twitter who they thought were the "core"  players for the Islanders. The definition of a core player for me is players whom fans think they would not trade at anytime. What I did was I took the most common answers and came up with a short list. They included the following:

Tavares, Okposo, Moulson, Streit & DiPietro

I would concur with this, but now I want fans to do this right now: Go back to that list, and read each name slowly, and I will assure you that most fans will not be impressed with such a short list. Why? Simple: What have they done? These five players have not even played together yet. Out of the three forwards, who is a proven winner in the NHL?  None!!! Why? They just got started!!! Okposo almost doubles the amount of games Tavares, and Moulson have played; DiPietro is still trying to make a comeback, and Streit is off to a slow start. What did you expect? 

Ah but me being the optimist, there are positives. The Islanders now have a legit first line in those three forwards. When was the last time a fan could say that? There seems to be a player or two ready to have a breakout year, especially Tambellini early on (3 goals in 2 games). The question is will there be someone else to step up? Probably, but fans have 72 games to watch and find out. Will any of these players become core players? Fans don't know. There's the problem. The Islanders fans need to see improvement and witness a few wins to lift up their spirits. But there is a player that has was only mentioned once (@Islanders1fan) as a core player player, out of all the lists who should be considered: Trent Hunter.

Now why on Earth would I mention a slow moving third liner, with potential to score 20 goals a year but can't because he always injured? Glad you asked. In doing some I have no-life, wife is out of the house, extensive research, since the lockout starting with the 2005-2006 season, every time Trent Hunter has scored, the Islanders are a staggering 42-10-6. You want to know why he gets a nice contract from Isles management? I would  say that would be a good reason. Even with Gordons system and depleted, young team of last year and this years goal, the Islanders are 7-6-1 when Trent scores. If Trent scores 2 goals in a game, the Islanders are 5-0. So let's add him to the list of "Core" players shall we?

Core players: Tavares, Moulson, Okposo, Hunter, Streit, and DiPietro.

Here is something to think about why the Islanders are not winning. The Islanders had only two core players since maybe 2007. That's not going to take a team very far.  There talent pool was depleted in the minors, and free agents did not want to come, nor stay on Long Island. If you think about it further, Snow signed 2 of those players and drafted 1 (jury will still be out on Moulson, but everyone thinks he's a core player now, so I'll run with it).

Of the five, two core players are still injured, three are still learning, and one is off to a bad start. While the secondary players are finding their way on this team, we need to remember that it will take more time for them to really get it together. For some, time may be running out. Let the season continue and things will start to unfold. You'll see Hunter and DiPietro healthy; the first line will gain more experience and learn how to win; the Islanders have an All-Star defenseman that will bounce back, and by the end of the year, fans will know who will be back, traded, have a breakout year etc.

But for now the Islanders are not winning because there "core" is still fragile, inexperienced and not complete.

 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What A Difference A Win Can Make

Since the start of the season, Islanders fans have been faced with mutiple obsticals. Starting with the first game, a shoot-out loss to the Cup champ Penguins, owner Charles Wang publicly stated that he will be looking at other options for his Lighthouse Project, and his Islanders since he did not get a definite answer from the town of Hempstead. Since then the Islanders have blown leads, played poorly, and in once case, got out-plyed by Buffalo to go winless in 6 straight games.

From some of the articles and comments I have read on the web everything from the coach possibly being fired, to a GM defending his players, to no real enforcer (again) on a small-sized team, to bringing up AHL players, to replace players on one-way contracts, to waiving probably a third of the team, to not signing ANY free agents over the summer, proving once again certain fans are better, and should be the GM.....and so on and so forth.

But look what happens after a win by the Isles. Now all of a sudden certain players are being worshiped; no trading or waiving of certain players; that one FREE AGENT playing next to Tavares is scoring the big goals; and their star players wins it for the team in a shoot out. Now fans are saying things like "Great game, but need to start winning in regulation." I agree, but when your team is winless but still collecting points from the overtimes and shoot-outs, the drama queens need to shut up, and let the team come together to figure out how to win on a regular basis.

Let's remember: EVERYONE is healthy at this point (Hunter back by next week). By tis time last year, I'd say 2-3 players on injured reserve? This team is practically brand new, and the new players on here are still getting to know each other on the ice.  It's only the 7th game of an 82 game schedule. We're still in October. Here is a point for fans: The first 10 games of last year, the Islanders registered 5 points. Guess how many they have after 7? You guessed it, 5! Only 3 more games and maybe 3 more points, and what do you have? Improvement.

So the next time the Islanders go into a funk, don't be the National Inquirer of the Islanders, or play "GM." Start going to the games, give the team support, and confidence so that when they start winning, you won't remember the first six games.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weight Will Be Traded This Year?

From Authur Staple of Newsday:

So what happens as the March 3 trade deadline draws closer and Weight, signed only through this season, is the attractive rental for a team hoping he still has something in the tank for a playoff drive?
My Take: With the log jam of players the Islanders currently have, I will not be surprised if Weight is traded by the deadline, especially if his numbers are not productive. He's here for guidance and leadership, not to put up major points. There is no need right now to think trades of anybody just yet. However when the deadline approaches, Weights name will defenitely come up. 

Snow Keeping The Faith

Katie Strang of Newsday is reporting that despite the second worst start in franchise history, GM Garth Snow remains positive about the team and it's players.

"To a man, everyone in that locker room and the organization is disappointed with what has transpired, but we can't dwell on it," Snow said. "We've got to learn from our mistakes and play a full 60 minutes. I believe in the players in that locker room."

"We've got to put 60 minutes together,'' Snow said. "We see we can take control of games at times, but our goal and objective is to put 60 minutes together starting Wednesday and build momentum from there."

"You see two different teams. The first 20 minutes, we were disciplined, we played with a lot of jump and energy, But five minutes into the second, we were turning pucks over and not winning the one-on-one battles," Snow said.

"That's our first and foremost focus, that each shift turns into a period and each period turns into a full game. We need to play an effective, full game, which we haven't done to date."
Snow then went on to talk about his first line of Moulson, Tavares, and Okposo.

"They've generated scoring chances and been responsible in both ends," Snow said. "That's a plus for our team, but we need more secondary scoring and we need to play our brand of hockey for 60 minutes."
Finally, his thoughts on how the team can get out of a negative funk.

If the team can narrow its focus to stringing together three periods, Snow said, it can prevent the frustration from seeping in and manifesting itself as a negative presence.
"You can't get consumed by the big picture," Snow said. "You have to take it one shift at a time."
My Take: I will still stand by my original theory that the Islanders schedule has been nothing short of brutal. Every team they have played so far has had playoff potential and beyond. That is not the way to start a season off. Coming up this week, the Islanders play two beatable teams right now in Carolina, and Montreal. The Islanders must put the effort in for 60 minutes against these teams to garner the wins. More to come as the week begins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

LIve Chat With Katie

I was able to get in a question to Katie Strang of Newsday about the Islanders playing Tambellini soon. But a few good questions were also asked and it fit into what I was looking for with regards to a few of the forwards.
 For example:

Is Schremp a keeper for this re-build?

Katie: I think so. After his first game, he looked much better and much more comfortable having acclimated to Gordon's style of play. He has shown that he has good vision and can make plays, especially on the power play. I believe that he'll step up his play even more now that he has the comfort level of playing at his natural position--center. Also, the fact that Weight was moved to the wing to facilitate the development of the team's young centers (including Schremp) is a testament, I think, to their belief in his potential.

In addition she went on to answer another question regarding what Islanders fans had to look forward to and this was part of her response.  

Katie: I think Schremp's development will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on, and I also believe the Moulson-Tavares-Okposo will be fun to watch and will yield results. 

This was when I had gotten my question answered. 

Me:  Hi Katie after talking with Gordon, will Tambs be playing anytime soon. Who does he replace? 

Katie: Good question. Unless Gordon subscribes to the theory of working players in once in a while to keep them fresh, I think Tambellini will be the odd man out until something changes. Gordon doesn't want to take Moulson out of the lineup. He also wants to see what Schremp is capable of. And occasionally, he's going to use Rechlicz if he is expecting a particularly physical game. It's not that the coaches don't like Tambellini, they do. He's a hard worker and a coachable guy, but his play has got to force the issue. 

Another good question was raised about Moulson.

Is Matt Moulson for real? How long do you see him sticking on the top line? 

Katie: Yes, I think he is a capable full-time NHL player that will contribute offensively. He's been able to score at every level, and it looks like that is translating for him this year up with the big club. As far as sticking with the first line, he will not be moved if that line continues to play well together and generate the amount of scoring chances they have so far.
And a final word on Tambellini from Katie.

Katie: Tambellini has definitely gotten his chances over the years. And remember Tambellini had all of training camp this year as well to show what he can do. Gordon knows what Tambellini can do, whereas he still wants to evaluate Schremp's capabilities.

Here is my take on Tambs. He is exactly where he should be right now. Moulson has stepped in to be a number one winger for Tavares. Schremp needs to have a closer looking into because he has only played a total of ten NHL games. On a bright spot, he does have four points in those games. As Katie has mentioned, the players to watch this year will be the first line, and Schremp. Tambellini may be able to fit in somewhere if there're injuries, but for now he will have to wait for what possibly might be his last chance for the Islanders. 


Weight Moving to Wing

From Katie Strang of Newsday:

"It turns out that Weight, who flanked Rob Schremp during Monday's game against LA, hasn't played on the wing since 1979.  Yes, that means he has not played the position since he was eight years old.
Regardless, Weight said he's comfortable with the transition and thinks that will be the best move for the team in the long run. With four young centers (John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Rob Schremp, and Frans Nielsen), Weight and Gordon discussed the idea and decided that moving Weight to the wing was best for the youth's development."
This will have more of a positive move with Schremp moving to his natural position, center.  He is certainly more comfortable there and should be able to produce more. What remains to be seen is where he will play when Frans Neilsen returns from injury by later next week. But for now, the scouting on Schremp will continue.

Statement From Charles Wang

From New York Islanders owener Charles Wang:

“Yesterday’s report on the Lighthouse project which appeared in the Long Island Press is untrue. There are no plans to abandon this project which is so vital to the future of Nassau County and Long Island as a whole.
As far as the status of the Lighthouse project, we have submitted to The Town of Hempstead and Supervisor Kate Murray all the studies and required documents. A lease has been negotiated. Supervisor Murray and the Town Board need to make a decision on the zoning.
Long Island stands in this defining moment waiting for an answer. Yes or no.
Moving forward, we will not discuss any meetings in the media. Any reports of meetings should be considered untrue.
My heart is still on Long Island. I love Long Island. This is where the Islanders belong. Let's play hockey."

Now that the fiasco is done for now, can we please get into some hockey. This is what happens when the Islanders have a long break in between games. As stated before, Long Island needs this in the worst way. Wang has come too far to say no now. More to come in this political drama.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Light Going Out On The Lighthouse?

From the Long Island Press:

A source has informed the Long Island Press that, although there has been no public announcement, the ambitious Lighthouse Project has already been abandoned internally by New York Islanders team owner Charles Wang.
This is not good. Not just for Islanders fans but for all of Long Island. The single most economic boost for the next decade may be coming to a close because of politics. For now, there is not enough information out there to get overly depressed yet. However, notable bloggers and Newsday reporters are not having their phone calls returned  to confirm anything. This still reminds me of Pittsburgh when the owners decided to make a formal announcement that the Penuins would be moving and then progress was made in the creation of their new building. I hope this dilemma can be recitified in the same manner, and the fans of the Islanders will be able to enjoy their team for many years to come.

DiPietro is Improving

From Katie Strang of Newsday:

The sounds of progress for the Islanders include the one-syllable epithet Rick DiPietro let loose when a puck finally got by him Tuesday. Before Jeff Tambellini put one in on the top shelf, the goalie had stopped everything in the first high-speed shooting drill of his knee rehab. DiPietro still is far from thinking about playing in a game, but he was feeling good enough to think about perfection.
He took a step Tuesday, on the ice with a half-dozen skaters, mostly players coming back from injuries or just needing extra ice time. Before that, he had taken shots mostly in a controlled environment. This time, the players were trying to score and they were skating hard.
They did breakaways, they stood in various spots and took turns shooting at him, they did curls around orange cones and fired shots. DiPietro stopped most of them and expected to stop all of them.
 Look for DiPietro to be back by mid-season. My hope is by Christmas. If he's only playing 47 minutes now, he is not ready by any protocal the Islanders have him on. For now the most important, long term idea is to have him ready at 100%. When he is, Biron will be the most sought out goaltender because all the other teams need a starter and the Islanders will not miss a beat with DP and Roloson between the pipes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Learning Curve

So the Islanders have played a total of four games, and the fans are already looking to waive or trade players to bring up some of the players from Bridgeport. My question is why? This is not late November, or December folks. The Islanders record is not bad. What is everybody's concern that changes need to be made now? At this point, only two players are injured (I don't count DP) and Neilsen is returning ahead of schedule. So I ask again, why make changes now after four games?

Welcome to the "Learning Curve" of a rebuilding organization. This is where the team will be competitive throughout the season, but come up short most of the games, and drive fans absolutely crazy. This is a team that players now know what is expected from them and execute the system that the coach has now implemented. What the players need right now are a few wins to boost their own confidence. If we look back to last year, after four games the Islanders had 4 points. This year they have 3. Oh no, one point short!! Let's trade all of the players now!! Please grow up. Let's not forget that the Islanders have played teams that have playoff talent, and yet the Islanders have points in 3 out of the 4 games. They could have been 0-4.

The young players have yet to learn to play a full 60 minutes. If they had, they would have won a few already. They continue to dig holes for themselves, and attempt to get themselves out. Just a few examples of whining I have read: "There is not enough consistency. They seem to play tentative. They're not getting depth scoring. The defense isn't that good."  All of this after 4 games? What did you expect? Okay maybe a win would have been nice. But what fans have to realize is that this young core of players do not know what it takes to win as a team on a nightly basis yet. They need to be on each other, to motivate, and thrive together. The Islanders need to be more disciplined and work for a full 60 minutes and not get laid back because quite frankly, they will get beat every time.

What fans need to learn is this: Before the Islanders can bring up the minor league prospects, the NHL players must first learn what it takes to win games often. That's where the veteran leaders of the team need to step in. They must lead by example and be vocal in the locker room. Once winning becomes the norm, and a tradition again, then the Isles can make moves to bring in the Smith's and Joensuus of the organization so that way winning becomes contageous for everyone in that locker room, and then fans can set standards for their team. The Learning Curve for winning started at the beginning of this season. What fans need to do now is let the curve be bigger than just four games.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Captain Has More "Weight" On His Shoulders


Last week the New York Islanders made the choice of forward Doug Weight as the team’s 12th captain in it's  37-year history. My opinion is that this was the correct choice for this team this year. He has the most experience, and everyone can learn something from a player who basically has done it all. Weight has more to contribute and share to this young team for the rest of this season. He is going to be the Don Mattingly of the Islanders.

"It's a tremendous responsibility and a great honor. But, in the grand scheme, it's a letter on your jersey. I'm here, I hope, for my hockey-playing ability first. I want to contribute to this team. So nothing changes about my outlook, but part of my job is a passing of the torch to younger leaders."
"So, first and foremost, it's to let these guys know they're part of the team, make them feel comfortable within the concept of knowing there is accountability and responsibility. You want them to speak up in that room, but they have to realize they have the privilege of playing in the best league in the world. And every day is going to demand harder work than the day before."-Doug Weight
With Weight bearing the "C" on his jersey, he will not only lead his team, but contribute and start the process of passing on his knowledge and his traits that has made him a successful captain in the past, present and to give the future Islanders captain(s) a blueprint for what will assuredly be a road back to better days. Better days start tonight in Ottawa.
 

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Playoffs?

So after a few days of waiting patiently for some Islanders news, I started reading other posts and listening to fans asking if the Islanders can sneak into the playoffs this year. Playoffs? The Islanders are ONE game into their season, an overtime loss to the Cup champs Penguins, and now people think the Islanders have a chance to make it to the playoffs? Waaaaaaaay to early to even think playoffs. Have the fans seen the upcoming schedule? It's brutal!!! However, the Islanders have made some strides during the pre-season that should have Islanders fans excited about the year.

I've mentioned this before, there is more confidence in this team now that they know what is expected out of them while playing a familiar system. No more thinking on the ice, it all comes naturally.

There is goaltending now, no matter who gets traded later.

The Islanders are starting the year with only one player injured for a lengthy period of time.

There is chemistry amongst the players, especially the new first line of Moulson, Tavares, and Okposo.

Speaking of Moulson, has Garth Snow done it again? So far Moulson could be another "Mark Streit" signing. Could fans imagine Moulson putting up impressive numbers with his buddy Tavares, and thus excellerating the youth movement?

Let's not forget that Snow also picked up another low risk- high reward player in Rob Schremp. All Schremp has to do is prove he can play in this League, and Snow wins big time.

Of course I waited to add Tavares last as a potential threat to other teams. He already has a goal and an assist but the thing I love about him is that he wants more.

What Islander fans have right now is hope. They have hope because this team has untapped potential. What has them all giddy inside is that the young players are starting to uncork that talent now, meaning this year.

What fans need to do is remain patient and not rush into a trash-talk fest with anyone else. The fans still do not know how much talent is in this team. The players are only at the tip of what hopes to be a huge iceberg.

If the Islanders are anywhere near a playoff spot say by January, then fans should start talking playoffs. Until then, learn from the younglings and take it one game at a time.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Western Conference Predictions

Okay I promised a Western conference predictions, and It is here before the puck drops at 10 tonight. Better late then never right? Here we go.

15. Colorado: You’re in a rebuild. You already know this. Look for positives out of some young players and build on that as the season goes. What you want to figure out by the end of the season will be how long your rebuild will be. Take it from a fan who has seen a few rebuilds from his team.

14. Phoenix: Thank God your drama from the summer is over.  Too many new players, but you have young talent with a blend of veterans. You go as far as Shane Doan will take you. This year, like the Avs fans, see what you have, and build from there.

13. Nashville: The Preds have a lot of teams to fight through to get into the playoffs. Getting Sullivan back will help, but it won’t be enough. Goaltending should be good, Shea Weber will be a Norris candidate, and the offense should be decent. I just don’t think they have enough to get past so many other teams.

12. Minnesota: New coach, new system, new atmosphere. A few new players, but like Nashville you’re going to need help. Goaltending is solid, defense should be okay, but it’s your offense, and depth that worries me, especially with a new system. If the Wild buy into the new coach and system, you always have a chance.

11. Edmonton: You’re players need to step up this year if you want in. They’re small, but fast, and they have skill on both offense, and defense. The goaltending will be in question because he just signed a new contract, and he doesn’t pick up his game until it’s the last year. If the players are driven to win, you’re in the playoffs.

10. Dallas: If the Stars stay healthy, they’ll be in it till the end. Modano should take a curtain call at every place this year. Stars go as far as Marty Turco will take them. If he can bounce back from a sub par year, and if they make a move or two during the season, I wouldn’t want to play you in the playoffs.

9. Dark Horse Kings: You’re growing as a team, and this could be your year. Nice addition of veterans, and forwards should be really good. The young defense is one more year experienced, and the goaltending is my only concern, but it’s not a huge ordeal. If the team starts out of the gate hot, Kings may be in.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus will win a playoff game this year. You signed your star player for a long time, and you have one of the up and coming goaltenders in the League. They will be buyers come trade deadline, and again, depending on who you play, will be harder to beat in the playoffs.

7. St. Louis: Some may say what you did last year was just luck. Well you’re getting a few stars back from injury, which is better then the free agency market. But the Blues must stay healthy this year if you want to make it. If you don’t, teams like LA, and Dallas will take a spot from you.

6. Anaheim: You traded Pronger, but got some nice talent for him. Same as St. Louis, not a lot of injuries, and your forwards must produce for a full season, not just your famous three. You have a good problem in net, and both of them will always give you a chance to win every night.

5. Calgary: Goaltending should be solid for the year. The defense is one of the best in the League. Those two combinations alone, and I will not be surprised if the Flames lead the League in one goal game wins. The offense is fine for now, but if you want the Cup, look for them to make a move or two by the deadline.

4. Detroit: This is not an insult. Two-time Western Conference Champs, and two years older. A lot of games plus a few new younglings, means your points will drop, but only during the regular season. A few moves before the trade deadline, and like Calgary, you’re back going for the Cup.

3. Vancouver: In my honest opinion, the only team that can beat the Canucks…..are the Canucks. Stop killing yourselves and start believing you can beat anybody. Take it to the other teams. The Canucks go as far as their captain. There is enough depth everywhere and now, there are certainly no excuses.

2. San Jose: See Vancouver. As far as going as far as your captain goes, you go as far as Joe Thorton. Danny Heatley is a big plus, but make sure he doesn’t turn into a cancer. Goaltending must be stellar this year, from both. No more drama.

1. Blackhawks: The deepest team of this year, but not next year. Huet must step in to replace the Bulin Wall. I think he can. There is just too much on this team that can help him out.  Kane must put his summer behind him, and he along with Toews will only improve. The defense is good and deep, and need to get Campbell on the same page.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Predictions For Eastern Conference

So here we go with predictions for the Eastern Conference. Mind you, I have not looked at any other blogs predictions. Why? Because unless a team gets injured, I’m usually right 85% of the time. What I do is simple, I look at each team and compare each one by certain categories, and when it’s all said and done, I’ll rank them. Now this is just for the regular season. Western Confernce will be tomorrow. Here we go:

15. Islanders: I’m sorry but I just don’t know what to expect from this team if they’re not healthy. They’re in the right direction, and if they stay healthy, they will not be last in the Conference, bank on that. Message to bubble teams after the Olympics: Avoid a healthy Islanders team because they will beat you.

14. Atlanta: Offensively, you’re stacked. Scoring goals should not be the problem. However for all the goals you score, your young defense will give up more, and if they don’t, your shaky goaltending will. Unless something improves during the season, I don’t see you making a legit run.

13. Toronto: This will be the team that every offense will not want to face. On the defensive side, they’re huge and will be very aggressive. As of right now I’m not convinced of your offense for a full season, and your goaltending will be the drama for this team. Make no mistake Toronto fans, you could be in the hunt come March, but offense and goaltending will be the reason you land in this spot.

12. Tampa: Good revamping off-season for this club. In all honesty I like the top 6 forwards, but you’re lacking depth behind them. The defense will be much improved, but I’m uncertain about Smith as your everyday goaltender staying healthy. If the Lightning do not get support from the bottom 6 forwards, or more injuries occur to key players, the season will be over before it even gets started.

11. Ottawa: See Tampa. Basically the Senators will be as good as their goaltender can take them. There is enough depth to take you close to the playoffs, but the Senators need a good hot streak if they want to compete against the other teams ahead of them.

10. Rangers: They were so close to being named my “Dark Horse” team, but your defense right now just doesn’t scare anybody. If you can get Gaborik to play more than 50 games, the Rangers have a legit shot. If not, I don’t believe there is enough depth of talent to get the Rangers to the playoffs, and Lundquist will not be able to do it by himself. The future of the Rangers will depend on a highly skilled, yet often injured star.

9. DARK HORSE Florida: Panther fans, don’t worry, the last two teams (Boston, Carolina) I picked to be DH actually made it to the playoffs. You didn’t change the roster, and to be honest, Boumeester didn’t get you in the playoffs, so losing him is a mute point. The Panthers have some talent, depth, and a drive to get into the playoffs, and could do it this year.

8. Buffalo: The reason you didn’t make it to the playoffs last year was due to injuries. Like Florida, you’re core is intact, you have depth, and still developing young talent. Stay healthy and get behind Miller, and you’re in. Message to Tim Connelly: 70 games please.

7. Montreal: On paper, you look good. Fast players, great potential first line, should have solid defense, and a great goalie tandem. However if this team doesn’t gel and win out of the gate, you can expect everyone from the Panthers to the Leafs breathing down your necks, and one of them will knock you out.

6. New Jersey: Devils fans you have a saying “In Lou We Trust.” That’s the easy and polite way of saying “We’ll stop complaining about every offseason, and we’ll let Lou work his magic during the season, so that way, we can all say “Told you so…again” at the end the season if/when you win the division. Yes it is possible, but you need to add a few more players. Coach is a proven winner, forwards should improve from last year, defense is again solid, and oh yeah, you have Marty. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

5. Carolina: Hurricanes are out to prove last year was no fluke. They’ve kept the forwards, made some minor changes on the defense, coach Paul Maurice is favored to be here the entire season, and you just locked up your Conn Smythe goalie for a while. What Carolina needs to do is get off to a hot start and give the Caps a run for their money. Just be careful of injuries, and they’ll be tough to beat again.

4. Philadelphia: Two words “Chris Pronger.” Two more words “Ray Emery.” If both show up every night, and gives this team a boost that has enough forward scoring, and defense to beat anybody, count the Flyers as Cup contenders. Enough said.

3. Penguins: Don’t worry fans the hangover will only prevent the Penguins from winning the regular season standings. Pitt has lost some players on defense, but made some nice moves in the off-season to help the core for me to put them in a nice position to possibly three-peat to the Cup Finals.

2. Boston: I bet they’re still pissed, which is going to be motivation for this team all year long. Losing Kessel won’t kill them, but might sting. It will depend on how the younger core players react, and how much damage Savard can do in a contract year. It would be a bad idea to burn Thomas out before the Olympics. If Thomas is ready to go by the playoffs, Bruins will be Cup contenders this year.

1.Washington: Another team playing with a chip on their shoulders. They replaced some aging forwards with some soon to be aging forwards, but should be more productive. The defense is another year experienced, and the goaltending is in capable hands. The Conference is the Caps to lose.

Welcome to the Hockey Season. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Islanders Claim Schremp From Oilers

From Katie Strang of Newsday:

Rob Schremp, who was placed on waivers by Edmonton yesterday, is now officially an Islander. Given the team's 30th-place finish last year, the Isles had first priority on Rob Schremp when they decided to put in a claim on the 2004 first-round pick last night.

Good development move on the Islanders part. The Islanders needed another talented yet has not cut it in the NHL player to see how he will do in Gordons system. If he produces, Oilers fans are going to be scratching their heads. Both Schremp and Tambellini, have to have breakout years, if not, they will become career AHL players after this year. Look  at Giroux from Washington. Killed it last year with Hershey, but again, didn't make the cut with the Caps this year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Waiver Wire Approaches

I can't help but think that the Islanders will make a move on this years waivers before the season begins. The Islanders will have the first choice whether to claim a player or not, and the Islanders could improve the overall depth of the organization if they dipped in to the waiver pool. Last year, the Islanders picked up Nate Thompsom and Thomas Pock. Even though both players were injured throughout the year, it kept from bringing up minor leaguers who didn't deserve to be up.

So who should the Islanders look into? I think the forward positions is locked with the emergence of Matt Moulson, along with Trevor Smith, and Greg Moore. There is enough depth at the forward position this year that may not warrant an NHL player, but look for the Islanders to claim a forward who could contribute in Bridgeport.

The defensive side of the team could use another player will more skill and size. You won't find a top 4 d-man available (depending on the contract), but the Islanders could find someone with more skill than say Meyer, Hillen, or possibly Martinek, especially if the injury bug hits the defense again. With Sutton an UFA by the summer, it would be wise to at least look into another big, tough, defenceman to help the smallish forwards, and to relieve stress off of Witt and Sutton. Again, like Pock from last year, a proven AHL player who can be a decent call-up for the Islanders would also be beneficial in this uncertain season.

Now the Islanders have the first choice for the waiver pool during the entire season, so they don't have to pick over the weekend, however, if Garth learned anything about last season, you can never have enough players on this team.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What We've Seen So Far

Now that the Islanders are leaving their training camp facility, it is time to look back and see what the Islanders have discovered over the last one plus week. Just a few things to think about before the Islanders play their next game in KC tomorrow.

Jon Sim: If Islander fans don't see what Sim is doing on the ice, then we're watching two different games. Sim is one of the players from last years squad that is making a very strong case to stick with the club this year. I originally thought Sim would be sent down at the end of the preseason. However due to a few injuries, Sim will not only play, (barring any changes) he will probably get third line minutes until the Islanders get their players back.

Jeff Tambellini: Sorry Tamby haters, but Jeff is another regular making noise and has been the most noticeable player everytime he's on the ice. When he plays, along with Bailey, all I hear is Tambys name and Bailey's. Jeff has not score yet, but he's gotten a few assits and has been apart of getting the puck to his teammates. Unless things change, he's locked up the third line LW, and could move up because of injuries.

Josh Bailey: He's bigger and better. Josh has been playing like a player needing to prove that he's ready to be better than last year, and it's showing. Like Tambellini, he's been all over the ice, and has been getting great chances, burying a goal and getting an assits as well during the preseason. If his play continues, think more than 10 goals, more like 15.

Do the Islanders actually have scoring depth? Hello to Matt Martin, and Matt Moulson. Both players have been beasts scoring at will for the Islanders, and are making Snow and the scouting staff look really good. These two players, along with Jesse Joensuu and Trevor Smith, could be called upon when an injury occurs and they could be offensive factors. These four players may be the future, and when their names are called need to be ready at a moments notice. One or two may start the season on the Island because of injuries, and will have to take every opportunity count.

The goaltending for this organization is stacked, and effective. Does not matter who is in between the pipes, the goalies have delivered and there is a healthy competition between all of them. Expect Roloson, and Biron to compete for the starting role. But make no mistake, the number one goalie will have competition all year long. I have not seen goaltending depth like this since 2001-02, and it looks really good.

The defense is still healthy. That is about as good as it can get. Martinek, and Gervais have scored and the defense has been involved quite a bit. For now I will not jinx it, and stop here. Stay healthy boys.

This next point is the most important and Scott Gordon summed it up best about all of the players so far:

"It didn't matter who was in the line up (Saturday or Sunday), both groups executed perfectly. The fact that we can mix it up and get the same response from every player is excellent."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Islanders Cut Two

From Katie Strang from Newsday
"First two cuts of camp were just announced: Casey Cizikas and Travis Hamonic. They were notified last night (Thursday) and will likely fly back sometime today."
I was hoping for Hamonic to stick around a little more, but his current future is in the World Juniors, and I hope he develops into the player the Islanders are expecting. As far as Cizikas goes, most people were expecting this to happen. They both have futures with the Islanders, so I'll be monitoring both as the year goes on.

This Sums Up the Okposo Hit

For those who are still intersted in the Okposo hit, I would recommend reading the follwing article from the Hockey News Ken Cambell. I think it sums up what everyone else has been trying to say all day, and all of last night.

"Phaneuf and the Flames said all the right things about how you never want to see a guy carried off the ice on a stretcher, but you know, that’s hockey and you can’t pass up a hit like that one. And they’re right, too, because according to the rules and culture of the game, it was a perfectly legal hit."

"But it shouldn’t be. It was a clear case of malicious intent, or at least extreme recklessness, on Phaneuf’s part. Anyone who saw that hit could tell Okposo wasn’t trying to create the circumstances under which a head shot penalty would be called. And for the league to continue to allow hits such as those to go unpenalized is just plain dumb."

UPDATE 2:30 pm From Katie Strang of Newsday: 
"Pascal Morency, who jumped the bench during Wednesday night's game, has been suspended indefinitely pending a formal review of the incident.During the second period of  the Isles' 5-4 shootout loss to Calgary, Morency hopped the bench and went after Flames defenseman Phaneuf, who leveled Kyle Okposo with a nasty open-ice hit that gave Okposo a mild concussion and led to him being carted off the ice on a stretcher."

Analyzing The Hit

I have watched that tape of Kyle Okposo getting hit by Dion Phaneuf several times, and have come up with these two thoughts. Was a clean hit? The initial contact would appear to be looked as a clean hit. However, was it a cheap shot? No question. I don't care if he had his head down (attempting to dump the puck in, just look at the other Islanders forwards heading for the bench!) or not, you don't come over from the other side of the rink, when TWO other teammates appear to be in position to guard Okposo, and deliver an open-ice hit in a PRE-SEASON GAME while attempting a dump-in. I got several opinions and views of that hit.

"Phaneuf left his feet on impact, catching Okposo with a shoulder to the head as Okposo was looking down, rendering him completely defenseless. The impact of the hit knocked Okposo's helmet off, and once he hit the ice he lay motionless for several minutes while being tended to by the team's medical staff. After several minutes, Okposo was lifted onto a stretcher and carted off the ice."--Katie Strang of Newsday
"When he sees that on the ice he has to take it. You don't want to see people get hurt but Dion can't pass up that hit. That's a big part of his game. He is a physical defenceman."--Brent Sutter
"I thought it was a clean hit. I stepped up and used my shoulder.You don't like to see guys get hurt, but that's part of my job when the hits are there, to take them. "-Dion Phaneuf

The most important thing is this. Kyle will be OK. He flew back with the team, and will be evaluated later. But now most fans want to know: What will Garth Snow do? Will he bring in that enforcer that most have been craving for since the rest of the division got tougher? Or did the fans just witness things to come for their team? Who will "protect" John Tavares.

Bringing in an enforcer would be a good idea. However, the enforcer could not have been on the ice when the hit was made, and Okposo would still have the injuries. Sure the enforcer may have went out and tried to start a fight with Phaneuf, but the end result of the Islanders young star would still be the same...he is injured. When several players get off the bench, and your goalie goes out to defend a star player and teammate, there is a sense of family there, a willingness to step up for one another. That was important to see.

With Okposo out of the lineup, that leaves three top 6 forwards out which includes Bergenheim, and Weight. No one knows when any of them will be back, and for Islanders fans, this is not what they wanted to see. A repeat of injuries to this team could cripple the fan base that has longed for more winnig from their team. They don't want to talk about the Draft Lottery in November or December. They want their young team to win now. The puck is in Snow's zone. Let him make his move.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Line Already Injured




From Katie Strang of Newsday:
Murky forecast however on the injury front for the Isles; While Weight and Bergenheim's groin strains are minor, the fact that Frans Nielsen had to fly back to NY to get his right knee examined after hurting it in practice Tuesday is not a good sign for him.

This is not what fans wanted to hear, especially with Nielsen who apparenlty has injured the same knee. So that leaves us with three top 6 forwards out of this lineup and we're only only two games into the preseason. That's the good news. Depending on the severity of the injuries, you have to wonder if the Islanders will bring up players like Smith, and Joensuu or look to the waiver wire, or possibly sign an over the hill rental until all three recover. Know this Isles fans: If Weight misses more than 20 games this year, and is helathy by the trade deadline, my guess is that he'll be traded for something. More to come.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Islanders vs Oilers Tonight

The Islanders continue their preseason tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. John Tavares will be in the lineup for the Islanders. A few days ago the Islanders lost to the Vancouver Canucks in the 2009 Kraft Hockeyville game 2-1. Jon Sim had the lone goal for the Islanders.

Former Islander Robert Nilsson, is slated to be in the lineup for Edmonton who defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1 last night.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS ROSTER

1 G Mikko Koskinen
3 D Calvin de Haan
8 D Bruno Gervais
10 RW Richard Park
11 C Nate Thompson
16 LW Jon Sim
20 LW Sean Bergenheim
25 D Andy Sutton
36 D Travis Hamonic
40 RW Joel Rechlicz
41 RW Robin Figren
44 D Freddy Meyer
45 RW Tyler Haskins
52 G Nathan Lawson
53 C Casey Cizikas
56 D Dustin Kohn
58 LW Jesse Joensuu
81 LW Justin DiBenedetto
91 C John Tavares
93 C Doug Weight

Monday, September 14, 2009

And So It Begins

Islanders fans, your season starts tonight at 10:00 against the Canucks. There are a total of 8 games before October, so don't expect to see Tavares in all of those games. What I like about this team already is that the training camp roster has all the NHL and AHL players signed. No invites of aging veterans (Satan, Parrish), no tryouts for other players.....this is your team. The players did not have a lot of a training camp, (although they have been skating for a week on Long Island, and of course on their own) so no injuries before any of the games. Here are a few things to know heading into the first game, and why the Islanders will be better than last years squad:

Stability. The Islanders brought back 97% of the players from last years team. That's improtant because most are younger players who will be building the Islanders franchise back up. There is a system in place again for the second straight year. Gordon now has a full year under his belt, and most of the players are familiar with it, both Islanders, and Sound Tigers. There should be no thinking about what to do. It should be natural to them and easier for everyone.

Better goalies. Not to knock MacDonald and Danis, but I'll take Roloson, and Biron over most NHL goalie tandems right now. You have two number one goaltenders to start the season, and over a stretch of say, 30 or so games, you know that the Islanders will be in most of those games. DiPietro is in camp in pads, and facing shots. Let him come back on his own time and then the Islanders will still have a dynamic backstop.

Healthier defense. Like I said, no major training camp, means less likely of injuries before the regular season. If the defense stays healthy, they could be a difference maker when you have quality goaltending to support you. In this camp pay attention to Calvin DeHaan. He may make a push to be kept around if he has a great camp.

More confidence in the younger players. The last twenty or so games for the Islanders last year was crucial because the younger players were given bigger roles, and they flourished in it. Players like Bailey, Comeau, Okposo, Tambellini, and Neilsen are all on the same page and have more confidence going into this season, and I believe that it will show on the score sheet and in the overall record.

John Tavares. Everyone on that team has taken him under their wing, especially roomate Doug Weight.  As I type this, there is chemistry being developed right now, and it will continue all year. Fans need to give him time. He's learning a lot, having fun, and he's getting used to his first pro training camp, pre-season, and of course a new profesional system.

Know this Islanders fans, the team has turned the corner, brighter days are ahead, and the Islanders are finally going in the right direction. What they still need is a lot of maximum effort from every player from the top line of the Islanders to the fourth line of the Sound Tigers. Last year ends at 10:00 tonight. No more talk about injuries, the draft, free agent signings etc. Start looking ahead, and get excited. Your season starts.....Tonight!!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bergenheim The Next Blake: You Decide


 
     First and foremost, I have the great privilege of working with Dee Karl, (also known as the 7th Woman) on this particular blog. She was nice enough to give me a hand because the topic just so happens to be based on her favorite players, Sean Bergenheim, and Jason Blake. Since most fantasy experts are telling people to stay away from the Islanders players, except for maybe John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo, I wanted to show Hockey fans that there is more to this team then just those two future stars.
     My first player is Sean Bergenheim. Drafted in 2002, 22nd overall, he reminds me of a younger Jason Blake. As Dee put it" When Sean first suited up for the Islanders, without his number on his jersey, you would not have been able to tell if it was Blake or Bergie on the ice. They both are very fast, strong skaters that stay low to the ice. If you blink, you miss them going by you." So I did some stat comparisons between the two and came up with the following. Both are 5'10" and Bergenheim is 205lbs while Blake is listed as 180lbs. So we're looking at pretty much the same style of play. Dee took it a step further "He (Bergie) can be just as yappy, just as agitating and just as productive as the man who is eleven years his senior. Now that he is 205lbs, he is far more physical than Blake, but their work ethic is the same. They both will give 110%--most of the time. The downside to their similarity is they can both be despondent and moody should things not go the way they want them to."
     Despite the plethora of similarities between the two, they do have one major difference: age. Both started out their careers slow, both played fourth line minutes, and eventually moving up the lines. However, Bergenheim is 25 years old while Blake is 36. When Blake was 25 he was not in the NHL. He was playing for North Dakota in the college ranks, so Blake is definitely considered a late bloomer. As mentioned before, Bergenheim was drafted 22nd overall in 2002. Dee went on to say this "There were expectations placed on him that perhaps he wasn't ready for. I'm hoping that Sean's hands catch up to his feet, the same way as Jason's did. Maturity should bring "hockey-sense."
     However, if Bergenheim is in the same mold, then let's take a look at Jason's stats and find out when he started producing on a larger scale. I came to find out that after playing 194 games, Blake had 19 goals, 39 assists for 58 points. Then starting in the 2002-03 season, Jason amassed 25 goals and 55 points. Bergenheim has had some scary, similar numbers. In his career, Sean has played a total of 183 games, scoring 30 goals, and 57 points. Could this be his breakout year that everyone is hoping for? From a numbers standpoint, sure looks that way. I would have to say yes.
     I asked Dee if Sean could be as good as Blake, and here is her response. "Yes, I truly believe that Sean could be "just as good as Blake." I don't know if Sean will ever have a 40 goal season, but he will be improve. As long as he remains healthy, I think that Sean's stats could indeed eclipse Blake's by the end of his career. And due to the fact that he is much younger, he has a better chance at getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup one day."
     My final question to Dee was simple. Look into your crystal ball and tell me Bergenheims goals total for the year, points etc. "My Crystal Ball says that Sean should come away this season with at least 20 goals. Last season he only had 9 assists points, but then again, I can;t tell you how he will do in that aspect as I don't know who Scott Gordon will put him on a line with. Every coach that I have spoken to about Sean has told me that he can't play fourth line minutes. He has too much energy and being able to play 4th line is really a skill. So depending on how Gordon uses him is how well he will produce in the assists category. I'll just bet on the 20 goals. I will also bet on his feistiness, his competitive nature, his willingness to stick up for himself and his team mates and a willingness to work every shift like it was his last. This is still the kid that Scotty Bowman praised the first time he saw him. I've always felt that Sean hasn't received the respect he was due from the Islanders once he was drafted in 2002. I think a lot of that had to do with his management. Bergie is another "home-grown" talent on our depth chart. If he is used wisely, he'll have a great season.
     Since I'm a numbers person, I'm going to agree that we will see at least 20 goals from Bergenheim. That number seems to match his current progress, Fantasy players may want to keep an eye on him and Islanders fans shouldn't be looking at only Tavares and Okposo this year. For those of you who don't follow Dee, I encourage you to find her on Twitter @7thWoman, and on her website 7thWoman. She knows her Islanders, and after reading her work, you will also.

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