October 12, 2008

Isles Win Home Opener

The Islanders came to Uniondale fresh off a tough 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils the previous night. Their goal was to come out flying for their fans in the first home game of the year. Fortunately for the Islanders, that is exactly what happened.

The Isles scored four first period goals and added an empty net goal in the 3rd period to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-2. The Isles goals came from Mike Comrie, Trent Hunter, Sean Bergenheim, Andy Hilbert and Bill Guerin.

A last minute change saw me actually attend the game. I sat in Section 324 and had a great time. I liked the presentation of the game much better than other home openers I've been to in past years. The team had a band play live, Seven Mary Three, and I didn't think they were all that bad. The elevating stage they played on was a pretty cool sight. I also liked the player intros this year. For some reason every time they tried to use the flame throwers it wouldn't work right. I liked all the flashing lights and the smoke. I guess I'm a sucker for special effects like that but to me it was really cool.

It was great to see Scott Gordon's system work so well last night. You could see how the team used the two-man forecheck to try and cause turnovers. When the Isles did force turnovers, the transition was much quicker than anything I can recall seeing last season. Two games in, it seems Bergenheim may have been the biggest beneficiary of the new system. His style is excellent for the system, and I was shocked to see he only got 10 minutes of ice time last night. I noticed him so much that I thought for sure it was more than that. Good for him.

I also realized just how much we missed Jon Sim last year. Wow. He was really all over the place, standing in front of the net, calling for fast break passes, mucking it up along the boards, and even chirping to get under the Blues' skin. We sorely lacked that last year. Its only a matter of time before we see the fans love for Sim come out. He has been excellent these first two games.

One more player I want to acknowledge at this time is backup goalie Joey MacDonald. Facing a lot of criticism from skeptical fans, MacDonald has not let it phase him one bit. He has stepped in for Rick DiPietro and has really done a fantastic job. I couldn't have been more pleased with his efforts this weekend. His reaction time is amazing and he moves very well for a bigger goaltender. Some of the saves he's been making have made me drop my jaw. It certainly has made me feel a ton better about loosing Dubie to Russia. Hopefully he can continue like this all season, but in the early going I have come away impressed with him.

Radek Martinek left the ice with an apparent shoulder injury late in the first period. All i could do was groan as once again the Isles best defenseman might have to miss some extended time. I will obviously hope for the best but given Martinek's track record, I won't hold my breath. We'll see what happens though.

For anyone who isn't aware, the team changed their goal song this season and the reaction so far from the fans has been largely negative. The team had been using Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 1" since the 1993 season, with the exception of one season where they tried something else. The new custom song was difficult to hear, and I thought it was...OK. The part that bothered me was the "Lets go Islanders" part of it. Not that I don't want it in there, but it didn't come out the best that it could have. As someone who really likes the Rangers custom song, it left a little to be desired. The "Lets go Rangers" chant fits in very well with their song. So for the most part it was OK. I would like to hear it alone, on the teams website available for download. It sounded like there was more of a guitar part than most could hear, and some sort of sing along "woooahhh" part that no one could hear. Which brings me to one part. Although I was impressed with the presentation, there was one thing that did bother me - the sound system. It was brutal at times. It was difficult to hear some of the music playing, especially the goal song. I suppose that will be the next upgrade in the future at some point down the line, just like the team has upgraded their video board.

Overall, a fun home opener to attend. I'm curious to see how DiPietro feels and when he will be ready to start. I won't be surprised to see MacDonald in net again tomorrow afternoon at the Coliseum against the Sabres. Keep Rick out as long as he needs to. I'm glad DiPietro agrees that they shouldn't be taking any chances. We need him for the long haul for obvious reasons.

That's right, Sean and I will be back at it again tonight at 10 PM at
MYWCWP. As always, we'll be taking calls and IM's via AIM throughout the show. Hope to hear your feedback on the opening weekend and all things Islanders!


October 7, 2008

Isles Mauled by Panthers

Rick DiPietro had hoped to come out in in his game since March flying. Unfortunately, it didn't happen the way he envisioned.

DiPietro gave up 6 goals as the Panthers blanked the Isles 6-0. Most of the Islander regulars were in as far as in net and on offence, however the defense was no where near the one that will be there on opening night. Mark Streit, Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek were all out of the lineup.

One really can't get upset at the result of this game. It was DiPietro's first game since mid-March, and although he had been practicing it just isn't the same. It will be interesting to see how the Islanders decide to start the season now. I would think the team wants to start him for the back to back games starting the season, but can DiPietro really do that? Is he really in a condition to do that? Those are questions he has to answer.

I can't imagine the Islanders would start Joey MacDonald in the first game of the year just so Dipietro could start the home opener. I also don't see how the team could want to start MacDonald in the home opener. My thoughts are to just take it day by day. If DP is ready to go Friday in New Jersey, then he goes. Monitor his game, see how he feels after. Keep an eye on his status throughout the night and after the trip back to Long Island, see if he is ready to take on the Blues. Personally, if DiPietro plays both games to start the year then I would like to see the Isles put MacDonald in for at least the next game, perhaps even the next two games. We'll see how it all plays out. Hopefully DP doesn't make any dumb decisions on risking injury so early in the year.

Speaking of injuries, defenseman Chris Lee was injured last night and taken off the ice on a stretcher. The team had released a statement last night that he was conscious at the hospital and doing well. Lee was released from the hospital this morning and cleared to return to practice for the team. Good to hear as always.

The Isles are now done with the preseason and will be finalizing their roster soon for the start of the season on Friday. I am anxious to see who they decide to keep and who to cut. Check back later for analysis on who is staying and who is going.

Podcats for 10/5 Up: The podcast is now uplodaed here for those who didn't get to listen live to our season primiere on Sunday. I'd like to thank those who submitted questions for us to dissect and hope you continue to do so all season long.



October 5, 2008

Isles Down Bruins; NYI FYI Returns Tonight!

The Islanders defeated the Bruins yesterday by a score of 3-1. It was the first game where many of the Isles top players played this preseason.

Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, and Richard Park had sat out for many of the preseason games due to bumps and bruises they had sustained, perhaps in trying to adjust to coach Scott Gordon's new system. With them finally in the lineup, the team played fairly well, and at many times found themselves controlling the play.

Weight, Jon Sim and Mike Comrie all scored the Islander goals. Weight's goal came on the powerplay. Sim's goal ended up being a game winner and came on a tip in, something he has been working on extensively this offseason. Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit also had very solid games for the team.

The only other Islander regulars who haven't seen any preseason time are Mike Sillinger and Rick DiPietro. DiPietro will finally get in his first game on Monday when the Isles take on the Panthers.

The Isles win against the Bruins is good to see. Even though it's only preseason, it's nice to see all the regulars play well in their first real preseason game together. If guys like Weight and Guerin can play like they did in this game, then maybe they have enough left in the tank to help the Isles make a playoff run this season. We'll see what happens. The real test will be tomorrows game, when DP plays. I'm very anxious to see how he fares.

NYI FYI RETURNS TONIGHT: That's right folks, Sean and I will begin our new season of NYI FYI tonight at 10 PM on
MYWCWP. We'll be taking phone calls and AOL Instant Messages throughout the show, so be sure to tune in tonight for that. If you're unable to listen to us live, be sure to check out our podcast site listed in the links section of the blog, or check on Islanders TV as we will be working with them once again this year.

Hope to hear from you guys tonight!


September 29, 2008

Islanders Claim Thomas Pock and Other News

This afternoon the Islanders announced that they have claimed defenseman Thomas Pock off waivers from the New York Rangers.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise because as Chris Botta reported this is a one-way contract which ensures Pock will be with the team for the year. One has to wonder about who other than Chris Campoli has sustained some kind of injury. Pock, 26, has been know as an offensive defenseman for much of his career. The 6'1", 210 lb. blueliner has amassed seven goals and seven assists in 59 career NHL games with the Rangers, while going 23-89-112 in 195 games with the Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The biggest looser of this could possibly be Bruno Gervais. While many have assumed he would have a spot on the depth chart on this team, Scott Gordon has had him as the 7th defenseman all camp. Freddy Meyer has been playing in the 6th spot, one that many thought Gervais would have for sure. The fact that Campoli is hurt and the Islanders had been rumored to be in on the Schneider sweepstakes before he was sent to Atlanta and have now actually claimed an offensive defenseman really makes you question exactly what the team feels Gervais's role on the team is.

Isles-Devils at Coliseum: The Islanders will play their 4th preseason game on Wednesday Oct. 1 at the Coliseum. The Isles are 2-1 so far after splitting their last two games, loosing 4-0 to the Flyers and then beating the Panthers 4-2. The teams scoring problems proved to still be a problem for the game against the Flyers, and rookie Josh Bailey only had two shots in his first game. Going back to the OHL might be the best thing for him at this juncture, but it was only one game and there is still time for the team to work out some of these kinks. Two Islanders the team is putting a lot of faith in, Trent Hunter and Frans Nielsen scored 2 goals apiece to beat the Flyers. With Mike Sillinger out, many feel that Frans Nielsen will be the guy who will see a bulk of the playing time as the 3rd line center between Jeff Tambellini and Hunter. Many people are hoping that Hunter can regain his scoring touch from his earlier years, and this was a good start for him.

Botta Returns: Chris Botta has returned to blogging for the team. After going on hiatus July 7, Botta has a new site and a new format. His site is frequently updated every day. As usual, he has provided some great insight and has let readers know some information that wasn't out in the open before. He's even broke the story about Pock's one-way status. The link has been updated under our links section on the side of the page, and you should definitely check it out.

NYI FYI Radio Show Returns 10/5: Sean and I will be back for our second season of NYI FYI this Sunday at 10 PM at MYWCWP. We're very excited to get our new season underway and return to talking Islanders hockey!


September 25, 2008

Isles Off to Good Start in Preseason

The Islanders came to training camp with many questions this year. The biggest question of all, however, was how new head coach Scott Gordon's system would work with the current crop of players the team has. So far, so good.

The Islanders won their first preseason game on Tuesday 2-1 over the Bruins. Jon Sim scored the only regulation goal for the Islanders and prospect Trevor Smith scored the winner in overtime. Sim had many chances for the Islanders, which was a very good thing to see from a player who missed all but 2 games last season after having knee reconstruction surgery. Kyle Okposo had a very solid game for the Isles, and Doug Weight had a couple of nice chances on Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask.

The Islanders outshot the Bruins 38-19. For much of the early part of the game, the Islanders we able to sustain a lot of momentum in the offensive zone. Much of this can be attributed to Gordon's idea of "overspeed."

The Isles rookies have also been successful so far this offseason as they are 3-0. The young players also seem to be buying into Gordon's system, which I'm not surprised to see because of his track record of working with young players.

The Islanders go back at it tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. Islanders 2008 first round draft pick Josh Bailey will make his debut centering Mike Comrie and Blake Comeau. That should be interesting to see since Bailey has a very good chance to make this team with Mike Sillinger on the IR list to start the year.

So far, Gordon's system seems to be working fairly well. All the players are buying into it, and thats a good thing. An up tempo system is something the Islanders haven't had for years, and with a team that might not look as skilled as the others on paper, that could be their best chance at staying competitive.

I plan on going more in depth about Gordon real soon as I compile some things players have said about him and his system. Since the system is new to most of us, a lot of stuff we don't know about. Once we get to see some of the preseason games at length either live or pre-recorded, we should be able to tell more from that.

Chris Hessel

September 10, 2008

Islander Tidbits

OK, so I kind of had another leave of absence there for a bit. At least this was shorter than the last one. The last time you heard from me, the team made Scott Gordon their new coach. Since then things had gotten pretty quiet, but over the last two weeks there have been some grumblings going on as we await the start of training camp next week. So lets just touch upon some of those topics.

First off, the Mats Sundin rumor. For any Islander fan who isn't aware, it was mentioned by Darren Dreiger of TSN that the Islanders are considered a darkhorse candidate for the long time Toronto center. Being that mats Sundin has always been one of my favorite players in the league since I started watching, the news was a pleasant surprise to me. Unfortunately, I think that there is no chance of this happening, but I like Garth Snows persistence on the whole thing. If you have any chance to add a player like Mats Sundin, you have to pursue it. While it doesn't appear the Islanders are completely out of the running for him, it would just seem to be natural that Sundin would want to go to a Stanley Cup contender, right? Well, we don't know. As has been the case with Mats all summer long, no one knows whats really going on in his mind other than he still has a special place in his heart for Toronto. It seems the idea of playing elsewhere really hasn't sunk in for him yet. Even though Toronto has left the door slightly open for a return, I'm not too sure how thrilled they are with the idea being that they are looking to move in another direction based on their buying out of Andrew Raycroft, Darcy Tucker, and their trade of Bryan McCabe this offseason.

Also keep in mind that Sundin wants to return to a place where he hasn't had a top line winger over the last many seasons but still had years of 70+ points. If he were to go to a team like Detroit or Montreal, he'd have a much better chance of winning. We also know this isn't about money because he would have taken Vancouver's 2 year, $20 million offer which has been on the table since July 1. So this situation is very difficult to figure out, and no one really knows what is going on with this. As an Islander fan, I'd love to see this. But I won't get my hopes up about it.

The second thing I'd like to bring up is the Mathieu Schneider rumors. The Ducks are looking to shed some salary in order to bring back Teemu Selanne. That salary dump will most likely come in the form of veteran defenseman Schneider as he is set to make $5.65 million in the final year of a two-year contract. Despite being 39 years old, Schneider has proved that he can still be very effective, especially on the powerplay. Last season he put up 12-27-39 in 65 games with Anaheim. The Islanders have been mentioned in some rumors as well as the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings I feel are the most likely scenario being that they are still trying to get to the cap floor and are running out of time to do so. Selanne prefers to play the whole year, one that might possibly be his final year. So, it is very possible that the Ducks find themselves in a position where they would want to dump Schneider sooner rather than later and it most likely would not take much to land him. Last season, the Ducks ran into some similar problems when both Scott Niedermayer and Selanne decided to return at the mid point of the season, and this year with Niedermayer staying on for the entire year, they would rather get everything settled now. I think the Kings are a good fit for Schneider, and I really don't see any possible way the Isles would bring him in. They already added Mark Streit this offseason via free agency, and although I would welcome Schneider, I'm not too sure the islanders would. I see them sticking with what they have, and if they want more offence from the blueline I can see them taking a long hard look at someone like Jack Hillen from the farm team.

Finally, I'd just like to briefly mention some of the rumblings that have Josh Bailey possibly playing on the team this upcoming season. I would have no problems with this as long as bailey has earned his spot. I don't want to have the kid play here just because he was a top 10 pick in a deep draft. If he is still raw, he needs to go back to juniors for more seasoning. With that said, I think Bailey does have a shot at making this team. One of the things I commented on in the past was how I liked his size for someone his age. He is a very smart player for someone his age as well, and some scouts went as far as to call him the smartest player of the 2008 draft. It is expected that Josh will sign a contract and get a long, hard look in camp, so it really is up to him. He did look pretty good in prospect camp, and I'm very curious to see if he has a repeat of that in the rookie camp starting on September 15. If he has a good camp, he'll be in training camp with the chance to make the Isles. Even if he does make the team, he would have 9 games up with the big club at which point the team could either keep him or send him back to juniors. Because of age restrictions set by the league, he is not eligible to play in the AHL yet. This is certainly something that we should be keeping tabs on, because it is more realistic we'll see him rather than Sundin. Many are expecting his signing very soon.

So that's just some of the things going on in Islander land lately. With training camp just about 1 week away, its expected we'll learn more about things. So you can expect more posts from me. For now, these are just a couple of things you can chew on and respond to if you like.


August 15, 2008

Scott Gordon Introduced as Coach

On Tuesday, the Islanders made the hiring of Scott Gordon as their head coach official. For many, the decision to hire Gordon came as no surprise because of his reputation of developing younger players.

Gordon was a finalist along with Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley, both of whom have a ton of experience of coaching in the NHL. Gordon has had plenty of experience and success in the AHL, and is poised to bring the same things to the table in the NHL.

But experience aside, in my opinion Gordon was the perfect choice for this team right now. The Islanders needed someone who was going to work with younger players. They needed someone with a solid system. That's exactly what they got in Gordon.

I don't have anything personal against Maurice or Hartley. I think both were unfairly canned from their previous jobs, considering their respective GM's track records. But when you really look at it, there were some questions surrounding both. I do think any one of the final three would have worked out, however I was really high on Gordon for this job.

Known to be a defense first guy, Gordon explained that the best defense is a great offense, and explained that he likes to use a constant forecheck. he also acknowledged that he likes to utilize his teams speed and preaches "overspeed." That should be a welcome sight for fans who have watched the Isles under Nolan the last few seasons. It was going to undoubtedly be a much faster team with all the youth coming in, but the departure of Nolan and the entrance of Gordon ensured that the younger players might be used more than they were under Nolan.

The Islanders couldn't have gone wrong in my opinion with either of the 3 finalists. While many would say it is a gamble because of the inexperience, Gordon is part of a new idea that many NHL teams are using. Ottawa, Atlanta and San Jose all hired unproven coaches this offseason.

Time will tell how this works. I think Gordon will be just fine and I'm very excited to see what he does with this team. The important thing is that the Islanders must give him plenty of time.

August 12, 2008

Breaking News: Scott Gordon Named Coach

According to Greg Logan of Newsday, the Islanders are set to announce the hiring of Scott Gordon as their new head coach. More to come later.

July 17, 2008

Islanders, Nolan Go Separate Ways

The Islanders have announced that the team and head coach Ted Nolan will be going their separate ways. The Islanders will begin their search for a new head coach immediately.

Anyone who was surprised by this hasn't been paying attention very much. Many people could see this coming beginning with some comments near the end of the season. It was clear that the GM and coach weren't on the same page, and although they tried to say everything was going to be worked out when they really sat down to think about it they could see it wasn't going to happen.

Now sure, everyone is sad to see Ted go. He led the team to a improbable playoff berth in 2006-2007, along with some help from the now departed Dubie. However, one can't overlook some of the flaws that were in Ted's coaching, flaws that could hinder the development of some of the younger talent that the team is trying to infuse. Ted preferred to go with veterans over the youth, which is fine for a coach who wants to win now. I would expect every coach to want to win now. You don't go into a season expecting to lose. However, you also don't continuously go with what is failing. And if a team is going through a youth movement, then you stick it out and just be patient. The rewards will be excellent in the future.

The Islander teams were slow under Nolan, that is no secret. Ted did want to play a more up tempo style at the beginning of his tenure. But he had to adjust. So when he had the opportunity to get faster with some young blood last season, why didn't he do it? The Islanders' playoff hopes were barely alive for much of the last couple of months, so why not? That's something that Ted only knows himself.

Now, Garth Snow has a chance to hire a coach of his own choosing as the Isles committee is now dead. As always it seems Wang will have some input on the new coach, but one would hope as little involvement as possible. Let Snow choose his own candidate on his own, someone who he can work with.

The Islanders say that they will be interviewing some high profile guys such as John Tortorella, Bob Hartley and Joel Quenneville. Good for them. Later today I will update this with some more in depth details of the candidates. It has been a while since I wrote and just wanted to get my thoughts out there.


June 26, 2008

Islanders Draft Recap

OK, so we’re all aware of what the Islanders did on Friday night. While many fans were thinking Filatov, the scouting staff saw something different. What transpired is something that was met with all sorts of reactions to Islander fans, and mainly because no one really knew anything about Josh Bailey. You see, everyone was more concerned with the top 6 prospects because that’s where the team was slated to pick. However, Garth Snow and the Islanders have become notorious for being very tight lipped these days, so any fan who was paying attention should have known that anything was possible. Naturally, at first glance, people didn’t know what to think, myself included. Sean and I even made a post draft podcast where we jumped to conclusions that weren't really warranted because we didn't know too much about what we really had here. We've learned our lesson though. I have to admit, that after reading over a bunch of things since Friday night, I think the teams draft was a success. Here’s a breakdown of the selections.

1st round, Pick #9: Josh Bailey, Center, 6’1”, 188 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 12; CSB- 14 (NAS); ISS- 10; RLR- 15; McK- 11; THN- 14
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:
*Strengths: "Josh is the quarterback on the power-play, from down low, for the Windsor Spitfires and I think he is going to continue to be that. He is a good play-making centerman with the ability to feed his linemates when he needs to and shoot the puck when the play requires that."
*Areas to improve: "He needs to add a little bit more grit to his game, he is a tireless worker and if he can get in there and grind it out with some of the other players that he currently plays against in the OHL, that will be good experience for when he reaches the NHL."
*Outlook: "He is a skilled centerman who is going to be on your power-play, if not the first power-play, certainly part of a good second power-play unit. He is going to be a skilled play-making player in the NHL and good things are going to happen for him at the next level due to his hard work."
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards: "Josh is a really hard working up and down guy who has great puck skill and play-making ability. He has the ability to pass through any type of traffic and is an energy guy for Windsor. He's not a fighter but he's not one to be afraid of anyone or back down and he doesn't get knocked around. The biggest component of his game that needs improvement was his competitiveness, but he stepped it up down the stretch and really showed that next level."
Windsor Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner: "Joshua is a highly skilled player who can play on both ends of the ice as well as on the penalty kill and power-play units. He has the unique ability to make players around him better."
TSN: “Regarded as a skilled playmaker, the Windsor Spitfire centre is a good, solid two-way player who is conscientious in his effort at all times although scouts would like to see a little more grit to his game.”

Some good stuff right there. Sure, every fan was expecting Filatov or Schenn at first, but like I said, once people read up on Josh they liked him more and more. A playmaking center, who makes his wingers better, defensively responsible, and is a leader. The Islanders really need centers like that in the system, not to mention on the team as well. This was the prospect the Islanders had ranked 5th on their chart after Steve Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Alex Pietrangelo. When those guys went one through four respectively, Snow and his scouts made the decision to get their man in Bailey. Since the new revamped scouting staff has been put in place, they have made some really nice selections, which is a welcome sight after what went on around here in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Now, these kids are just 18 or 19 years old, so it’s hard to judge right now who should have gone where, and it’s impossible to project where they will be at. We’ll just have to see. But based on recent track record, I trust the scouting staff.

Lost in those scouting reports is how when things get tough, Josh doesn’t back down. The Spitfires organization and the OHL suffered a huge loss when captain Mickey Renauld collapsed and passed away this passed winter. He was the team’s captain. Bailey was very close to Mickey, and took his spot as a leader on the team. Bailey played with a heavy heart, like most of the team, but it didn’t show on the ice. In 67 games, Bailey had 96 points (29-67) which included a stretch to end the year of 23 points in the final 9 games. It is difficult to perform at a high level when you suddenly lose a close friend; but it is more difficult to battle that kind of adversity at 18 years of age.

It isn’t so farfetched to think that Bailey could make the Islanders out of training camp this September. Bailey said he’s going to move to Long Island in the summer, and will be at prospect camp July 14-19. I think he has a very good shot, depending on what the team does in free agency. If it goes like last year, Bailey will be here. If not, well then he’ll go back to juniors, and possibly will be the new captain for the Spitfires.

2nd Round, Pick #36: Corey Trivino, Center, 6’1”, 170 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 36; CSB- 49 NAS; ISS- 26; RLR- 40; McK- 24; THN- 36
Scouting Report:
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards: "He has the ability to see the ice well and to move the puck. He needs to get stronger – he's willing to battle, but isn't always winning the puck. He's got a good goal-scoring touch and he's good on face-offs with good skating ability, not necessarily high-end skating, but good."
TSN: “The Jr. A player from Ontario stepped up his play at the Under-18 tourney in April and scouts are confident he's on the right development track as he prepares to head off to Boston University next season. While there is a little talk he could sneak into the bottom end of the first round, the consensus is that he's a solid second round pick.”

This was a great pick at 36. I was excited to grab him as he was on my wish list for these later rounds. While Trivino didn’t go in the first round, the Islanders were glad to grab him at 36. Snow wanted to trade two of his 2nd rounders to get back into the first round, and it was believed that be for Trivino. It all ended up working out well as the Islanders made some great selections with their 2nd rounders this year. Trivino is a very skilled center, who is more on the playmaking side. He had 69 points (19-50) in only 39 games last year for Stouffville of the OPJHL. Trivino will turn into a solid NHL player one day, but we won’t have to worry about that for another 3-4 years down the road.

2nd Round, Pick #40: Aaron Ness, Defenseman, 5’10”, 157 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 40; CSB- 27 NAS; ISS- 29; RLR- 23; McK- 45; THN- 43
Scouting Report:
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."
Roseau head coach Scott Oliver: "I think he's in the top 10 all-time (in the state). He sees the ice and moves the puck better than any player I've ever seen. He reminds me of (former NHL great) Phil Housley. I kept him on the ice as much as I could. He's a dynamic player and has got a real good gas tank. Even when he was tired, he probably wouldn't tell me. He's very passionate about the game and a real pleasure to coach."
TSN: “So good, so small. That's what the scouts say about the diminutive defenseman from Minnesota. He has speed and skill and is fast-tracking his way to the University of Minnesota. It would take a team with multiple first round picks and/or a great deal of faith in the undersized blueliner to choose him in the first round.”

This was another guy I had on my wish list. I was so happy when I saw that we were able to grab him at this spot. Small guy right now, but he’s still growing and has some excellent talent for an offensive defenseman. He doesn’t back down from being physical, despite his small size. I love everything about his game. The NHL is heading more towards speed, and Ness will fit in perfectly one day.

2nd Round, Pick #53: Travis Hamonic, Defenseman, 6’, 192 lbs.
Rank: TSN- Hon. Mention; CSB- 75 NAS; ISS- 86; RLR- 155; McK- 64
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire: "Travis at times is a human pinching machine, regardless of the zone, he seems to come up with the puck. He plays an energetic game and has a long legged-type skating style to go along with the willingness to play physical. He needs to improve on his playmaking ability in order to be more of a contributor in the offensive zone."

This pick seems to be a bit of a reach for the Isles at 53. However, Hamonic seems to be more of a defensive defenseman who has some offense to his game as well. He is a very intense guy who plays the game at a high level. He played last season for Moose Jaw of the WHL, where he had 5 goals and 17 assists in 61 games. We’ll have to track his progress to see if he turns into anything in 4 or 5 years.

3rd Round, Pick #66: David Toews, Center, 5’10”, 175 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 79 NAS; ISS- 27; RLR- 102; McK- 65; THN- 40
Scouting Report:
NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee: "Has a good shot with a quick release – moves the puck and sees the ice very well. A good skater, uses his speed to create scoring chances for himself and his linemates – has excellent hands."

Another guy who was on my wish list for after the 1st round. Toews isn’t his brother Jonathan, that Chicago Blackhawks star, but that’s all right. David is skilled, and has great hockey sense. His speed is OK for a guy his size, but it could certainly be better. He has also had some injury issues this past season, and that seems to have become a concern. However, he is a good 2-way player and for some reason still fell down pretty far, probably because of the injuries. This was an excellent pick here, and Toews will make it to the NHL one day.

3rd Round, Pick #72: Jyri Niemi, Defenseman, 6’2”, 192 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 49; CSB- 25 NAS; ISS- 65; RLR- 73; McK- 54; THN- 44
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:
*Strengths: "Jyri is adjusting well to the North American game. He has good poise and stickhandling ability from the back end. He quarterbacks the power-play, with a heavy shot from the point. He has an offensive flare to his game and is an entertaining player to watch."
*Areas to improve: "More dependability in the defensive zone will guarantee that he projects into a number three or four defenseman in the League, with the potential to be a one-two defenseman."
TSN: “Some scouts question his hockey sense and/or ability to play a team game, but he's got one of the hardest shots of any player in this year's draft. And he had 14 goals in 49 games for Saskatoon to prove it.”

You should know what I’m going to say here. The Isles thus far had done excellent with their draft, and this was par for the course. A guy who many Isles fans wanted to pick up in the second round, no one thought he was going to be there for sure. When the Isles got this pick from Chicago, they were sure to grab Niemi before he fell any further. This guy was a second rounder for sure. The whole issue with the hockey sense is a bit overblown, and should not have caused him to drop this far. But, that is the Islanders gain for now. A Finnish kid who already has good size, he only turned 18 just 10 days ago. In the prospects competition a few months back, he was 2nd in the hardest shot competition – at 97 MPH (at 17 years old? wow). He moved to North America for last season and has already been learning the North American game. I am very excited about his development.

3rd Round, Pick #73: Kirill Petrov, Right Wing, 6’3”, 198 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 43; CSB- 2 ES; ISS- 17; RLR- 8; McK- 36; THN- 100
Scouting Report:
Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb: "I'm impressed with Kirill's excellent skating and mobility as well as his work ethic playing on Russia's (Under-18) top line. He displays toughness in one-on-one situations and delivers smart passes creating a lot of scoring chances. He is also very physically strong; he was successful in one-on-one situations along the boards and in the corners."
TSN: “The Russian forward is touted as having first-round talent, but his work ethic fluctuates wildly and there is some real concern about when or if he's interested in playing in the NHL. A regular with Kazan in the Russian Super League, many scouts believe he is too comfortable, financially and otherwise, to expend a first-round pick so he could slide a long way. But if a team thought there's a realistic chance at getting him out at some point, there's no denying he's a first-round talent.”

Aside from Bailey, this was perhaps the Islanders most intriguing pickup of the draft. You can see the ratings are all over the place. That is not because he isn’t a good player. The rankings based in skill are the ones that have him high. However, the ones that are lower take his contract status in Russia into consideration. Petrov has two years remaining on a deal with Kazan. With the expiration of the IIHF transfer agreement, players can sign wherever they wish, however it seems like a buyout would have to be negotiated and a player could get compensated. I’m not completely sure on whole the whole thing works yet. Either way, Petrov did plan on staying in Russia until the combine about a month ago, when he realized just how hard he worked to become one of the top prospects in the draft. He said that he had changed his mind and plans to take his game to the NHL. It is only a matter of when now. The Islanders say they will try to bring Petrov in sooner rather than later. Now, they are trying to get him to come to the prospect camp, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them try to keep him. Petrov is a very skilled power forward, who seems to battle more often than not for position and for the puck along the boards. There has been some questions about his drive, but if anyone can get it out of his system its Ted Nolan. This is a situation worth watching for the team as it could be the steal of the draft.

4th Round, Pick #96: Matt Donovan, Defenseman, 6’, 190 lbs.
Rank: ISS- 160; RLR- 179
There isn’t much on Donovan. He has good size for a defenseman and plays an all-around game. He is little known, but some feel that he might be able to one day turn into an NHL player. He has been playing in the USHL and will go to the University of Denver in 2009.

4th Round, Pick #102: David Ullstrom, Winger, 6’3”, 198 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 17 ES; ISS- 91; RLR- 219; McK- 101;
Scouting Report:
International Scouting Service: “Classic late-bloomer! Ullstrom went undrafted in the 07 NHL Draft, however he will get serious consideration at the 08 Draft after a spectacular season in the Swedish junior league. A good skater looks effortless when skating up the ice. Battles hard - gets involved physically and is more than willing to stand up for himself and for his teammates. His defensive game is sufficient, he will need to continue to develop this area of his game.”

Nice scouting report. A Swede who is a late bloomer, and taken late in the draft? Can we think Zetterberg with this? Well, I wouldn’t go that far just yet but it is encouraging that Ullstrom put it together, even if it was a bit late. This pick seems like it was OK, in the 100’s when he was ranked anywhere from 91 to 211. The Isles have found some good European players over the last few years in guys like Figren, Joensuu and Marcinko, so maybe they got a good one in Ullstrom.

5th Round, Pick #126: Kevin Poulin, Goalie, 6’2”, 210 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 7 NAG; RLR- 78; McK- 70
Scouting Report:
Red Line Report: “Maddeningly inconsistent; a world beater one night, and an absolute wreck on other occasions. Has all the tools to be a good one. Big and technically sound. Excellent reflexes and goes post-to-post in a flash; gets great push off either foot. Tall enough to cover top corners while on his knees in the butterfly. Has the potential to steal games when he's hot. Squares up to shooters well and, with his size, doesn't leave them much to shoot at. But has shown a propensity to lose his angles this season. Anticipates plays around the crease very well. Maintains focus and finds puck through traffic. Shakey with the glove hand - has a tendency not to catch cleanly. Lacks mental toughness when things are not going his way. Ended season on a down note with a horrific playoff performance.”

OK, no star goalie here, but something the Islanders did need in the system. Poulin had 1st round status at the beginning of the year, but a bad season cause him to drop to 4th in mid term rankings and then to 7th in the final rankings. This kid is a bit of a project, but with some work he could be a backup in the league down the road it seems.

5th Round, Pick #148: Matthew Martin
Rank: Not ranked anywhere
Martin was a teammate and line mate of Stamkos’ in Sarnia last season. He was more of an enforcer. He had 25 goals in 67 games. He’s a guy who sticks up for his teammates. It seems the Islanders hope that he can turn into a David Clarkson, Brian McGratton type of player. We shall see.

6th Round, Pick #156: Jared Spurgeon, Defenseman, 5’8”, 175lbs.
Rank: CSS- 198 NAS
Very small guy. Obviously an offensive defenseman. However, he does play with Spokane up in the WHL, and they preach some really good defense up there. It's said he positions himself well, but he obviously won’t lay down a huge hit. Looking at it right now, a long shot to make the NHL.

6th round, Pick #175: Justin DiBenedetto, Center, 5’11”, 194 lbs.
Rank: Not ranked anywhere
The other Stamkos line mate. DiBenedetto put up 93 points in 58 games last year, but you really have to factor in how much of that is from Stamkos. He went undrafted last year, and was selected as the Islanders final selection in this year’s draft. He is already 20, so they may be able to give him a shot already in the ECHL or the AHL. I won’t have hopes to high.

So there you have it, maybe a bit long winded but 13 picks is a lot, and the most amount of picks in the draft. The Islanders got some excellent players in the later rounds, guys who the fans knew about because they were at one time considered 1st round talents, some of which still were depending on the publication. The Isles would not have been able to select all these players if not for trading down twice and stockpiling the picks. They were also able to make a risky pick with Petrov, one that looks like it may pay off. It will take a few years before we can really see how this draft went, but in the early going it looks like it went better than we all thought at first.

June 21, 2008

Snow Trades Down Twice; Selects Josh Bailey

With a 5th overall pick in a top heavy draft, it was hard not to get excited. One of those seven was going to be an Islander. We'd finally have a blue chip prospect to go along with Kyle Okposo.

Well, things went a bit differently than expected.

Garth Snow traded down not once, but twice to move down to #9 overall and selected center Josh Bailey from the Windsor Spitfires. It was a selection that was unexpected by the fans, as many of them had Filatov on their mind.

I have no issues with Josh Bailey, and I think will turn into a good NHLer. I see him as a 1st or 2nd line center down the road. Josh is a hard working playmaker, who has some grit to his game and doesn't back down. That's all great, and if his work ethic is as strong as it says it is he can make himself really good. When he was selection, the boys at TSN said he was a pretty good pick and even hinted he could be in the lineup next year.

The Islanders picked up some extra picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds by trading down twice. That's understandable as they have a need for quantity in the system. But, they needed quality just as bad here. In my opinion, you address the quality first. When interviewed after making the first trade with Snow, Maple Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher was interviewed by the crew at TSN. When asked about dealing away the 2nd and 3rd round picks, Fletcher didn't hesitate in explaining how important going for quality first is. He ended up taking defenseman Luke Schenn.

Now, that's not to say Josh won't be a quality player. In every draft quality players can come out of anyone in the first round. Some of those at the top might not pan out either. I can't say that I know enough about Josh to make any sort of assumption yet.

By moving down two times, not only did the Isles pass up on Scehnn, but they also passed up on winger Nikita Filatov, center Colin Wilson, and winger Mikkel Boedker.

The one that hurts the most is losing out on Filatov. Islander fans wanted this guy bad. The team ached for a guy of his caliber bad. Franchise wingers don't grown on trees, and last I checked a franchise player at any position wasn't rushing to sign here. That's why you draft them when you have the chance.

Bailey did put up 96 points in 67 games in the OHL last year, with 29 goals and 67 assists. But, it was his first year putting up points like that. When the pick was made, the TSN guys mentioned that this was the guy the Islanders wanted all along.

Some fans are annoyed when they think of the long and painful season they endured to even get a top five selection. Although they didn't win the lottery for the chance to get Stamkos, the team had a chance at the second best forward in the draft in Filatov, a guy who many analysts had said if he was Candian, then he would have gone second. Filatov would have been perfect for the Isles, because of his speed, skill, and his ability to be feisty despite his small size. There was no problem with being enigmatic.

Again, its nothing I have against Josh Bailey and I wish him all the luck and will root like mad he turns out to be a 70-80 point playmaker. He is a hard enough worker that he could possibly do that. Now, we already had 2 picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds to begin with. The Isles wanted to stockpile more while getting their guy. Now I'll admit, I would have been thrilled with Schenn or Filatov. But with a revamped scouting crew, maybe they saw something in Bailey that many fans haven't seen. This is all very possible as many fans haven't seen any of these prospects play; myself included. That is why it's difficult to say for sure who exactly is the best pick.

June 19, 2008

Excitement on the Eve of the Draft

As an Islander fan, you have to be excited. We are one day away from selecting an excellent player. It's a draft that many experts say is one of the best in years. There are some quality players available well into the 2nd round. However, the first seven or eight picks are ones who could become superstars in the league. That is what makes this draft so exciting.

As GMs arrived yesterday in Ottawa for the event, the trade winds began to pick up. It's been rumored that one GM possibly looking to move around could be our very own Garth Snow. The Isles pick 5th as it stands right now. However, there are rumors that the Los Angeles Kings could be shopping their pick. In The Hockey News' mack draft, they had the Islanders swapping picks with the Kings, and selecting defenseman Zach Bogosian 2nd overall. While I really like Bogosian's game and would not mind him at all, you have to take defenseman Drew Doughty at number two if you're moving up. Yet another rumor that involves LA's pick has them talking with the Penguins about Evgeni Malkin. The Kings have a great young core they have been establishing, especially on offense, and they could really use a blueliner like Doughty to pair with Jack Johnson for many years to come. King's GM Dean Lombardi says that he has received a couple of offers for the 2nd overall, but after discussing it with management are most likely going to stick with their plan for now and hold the pick. Granted, things can change in the hours leading up to the draft. However, I think LA holds the pick and takes Doughty.

Another rumor that involves the Isles is with Toronto. According to the Toronto Sun, the Leafs are once again interested in moving Bryan McCabe and his contract, and once again it is believed he'd only be willing to waive his no trade clause for a trade to the Islanders, where his wife lives and the McCabe family lives in the summer. The Sun says it is very possible that a deal could be worked on that has McCabe and Toronto's 7th overall pick going to the Islanders for the 5th. But as Greg Logan mentions in his blog on Newsday today, Snow has said time and time again that he won't help a team with their contract problems unless it would be worthwhile for him. That would mean Toronto would have to throw in a young player along the likes of Kyle Wellwood, Alexei Ponikarovski, Alex Steen or Matt Stajan. I don't think that this is something Toronto would go for right now, so I would expect McCabe to remain in a Leafs uniform through the draft.

Other rumors of teams looking to move up include Vancouver (10th overall), Chicago (11th), Anaheim (12th) and Ottawa (18th). From an Islander standpoint, it really wouldn't make any sense to move down past 10. I'm not too sure how the Isles can even make a deal with Vancouver as they really don't have that much to give up in order to move up the 5 spots, unless they are considering breaking up the Sedin twins, which I highly doubt.

Now if I'm Snow, I am definitely listening to any offers that come my way. If a team looking to move up comes calling, it could be a great opportunity to pick up an excellent young NHL player, as well as a pretty solid prospect from the first round of this draft. However, moving out of the top 7 or 8 would mean you potentially lose a chance at a superstar prospect, but it could be well worth it depending on the package.

My own personal opinion is that the Isles should keep the pick as it looks like the Russian phenom, winger Nikita Filatov could be available at pick number 5. He seems to be the guy that most fans are hoping for, and rightfully so. Every scouting report has talked about his skill, speed and desire as things that set him apart from some of the other forward prospects in the draft, even though he is a bit on the small side. During the premiere of the new Islanders Insider show yesterday, MSG+ analyst Billy Jaffe mentioned that Filatov is the type of player Detroit would go after because of his skill, puck handling and speed. Detroit certainly knows how to pick them, so it is certainly a good thing if they are high on him. If Filatov is not there at 5, then there is always one of defenseman Luke Schenn, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and winger Mikkel Boedker.

Filatov has no contractual obligations in Russia next year, and will play in North America for the upcoming season. If he doesn't make it to the NHL, he will be the first overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft and will spend the year there. In a recent post on his blog, Filatov mentioned the Islanders and Toronto as possible destinations, but specifically spoke about the Islanders as being a perfect destination as they do need help offensively and he would have the chance to make the team out of camp. In his first North American "appearance" on radio a few nights ago, he said he thinks he will go to either the Islanders at five or Toronto at seven. He has talked to many teams, and I think he would be able to tell who has shown the most interest. So, he would know.

So there you have it, all the pieces are in place for Filatov to go to the Islanders, and this is exactly what I think will happen.

June 18, 2008

Yashin Coming Back? I Doubt It

So, we all got a bit of a scare this past weekend in Newsday when Greg Logan had an article about the possibility of Yashin possibly coming back for a 2nd stint with the team next season. Even the title on the back page brought panic. However, the wording on the back cover was poor as the team was never quoted as saying they are looking to bring back Yashin.

Personally, we all know the Yashin ship has sailed. The Islanders would NEVER bring him back. Even they know that it would not resonate very well with the fanbase. Just as I had suspected from the very beginning, the whole thing was started by the one and only, Yashin's agent Mark Gandler.

Gandler further proved to me how he is all about the money, and instead of talking about how much Yashin enjoyed his time here (which Yashin did as he has stated himself numerous times), Gandler was more concerned with letting everyone know that he has set his price and the Islanders are aware of it. I'd like to venture a guess that they laughed at it, too. I know I would if I were Garth Snow.

Now it is possible that Yashin could be brought in as a last resort in the event that the Isles strike out in the free agent market. Although they missed out on many people last year, they still were able to manage to get Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin here. So, it is very possible that the team could sign a center like Brendan Morrison before they have to even think about considering Yashin again.

June 8, 2008

Just One Big Happy Family

As many of you heard, last week there were some waves in Islander Land when Garth Snow announced the team would not be bringing back Dubie due to the fact that the coaching staff lost some confidence in him when he showed up to training camp in poor shape. Last week, Nolan responded by saying that Snow's comments came as a surprise to him as he thanked Dubie for all he did in his time here.

Isles fans grew uneasy reading the contrasting opinions as they feared that the coach and the GM might not be on the same page. This dates back to a disagreement that happened back in March. With the team in a playoff race, and back to back games against the rival Rangers, Rick DiPietro was returning from the funeral of his grandmother. After Dubie started the first game, everyone felt that Rick would get the nod for the second game. That wasn't the case as Nolan went with Dubie, who had the hot hand at the time. When asked if he raised an eyebrow at the decision on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show, Snow responded "one eyebrow, or two?" Needless to say, people had been worrying for some time now.

The two insist that everything is fine, and talked about being a family that has disagreements from time to time. They said at a recent business club meeting at the Coliseum that they would rather have miscommunications like this stay inside the "household." Disagreements could turn out to be the death for coaches, but this seems like it was far from that. I think there wasn't much communication on this topic from the start of the season. Nolan said Dubie was out of shape due to an injury, and it's possible that is something Snow might not have heard. We also know Rick would play all 82 games if possible, so it would not surprise me to hear that Rick and only Rick was the reason he played 33 of the first 35.

I really thing this whole thing was insignificant. Sure, it made me think a little bit, and i started to go through the whole thing of Nolan not having a contract and things like that in my head. But these are things we can't control. Just because Nolan isn't signed beyond this year doesn't mean he's not coming back. Just because most teams follow the idea of not letting a coach go into a final year of a contract doesn't mean the team won't let it happen. To be quite honest with you, I never understood the concept myself. Brian Burke, the GM of Anaheim isn't signed beyond this upcoming season, and rumors swirled that he would take the leafs job. His response was that his planned on fulfilling his contractual obligations in Anaheim, and then thinking what to do next. But he has repeatedly made it clear that he loves Anaheim and how he has brought that team along. So, I really feel that Nolan going into a final year of a contract means nothing. It's a bridge that the team will cross when they get there.

Right now, the team should be thinking more about who to draft, trade and sign during the summer. There is no doubt that there are many issues that need to be looked at during the offseason. The team also needs to decide if they are going for a complete rebuild, or just have a decent amount of youth sprinkled in the lineup. There are so many scenarios to go through, that it would take too much time for me to dissect them now.

The lack of rumors since the end of the finals is killing me. Sure, there aren't any free agents to sign yet but trades cam happen and with the draft quickly approaching one would think we would hear more. We'll have to see how things go over the next few days. I hope so; it'll give me more exciting things to write about!

June 3, 2008

It's Deja Vu All Over Again...

1996: Roy Vs. Vanbiesbrouck- That is what kept flashing through my mind.

Don't get me wrong, but when Krupp scored the game winner in the 3rd overtime, it was the only goal of the game. But watching Ozzie battle Fleury tonight brought me back to that June night in 1996.

Now onto the rest of this series: Where does is go?

I have to say, I was not impressed by the play of the Penguins during this game. I felt they were sluggish and were behind many of the plays. They were also sloppy, giving the Red Wings way too many opportunities, while they were unable to create opportunities for themselves. Watching blind passes in hockey is about as much fun as stabbing myself in the eye, and Pittsburgh did it way too much tonight.

What Pittsburgh did do correctly, was attack the net aggressively after pulling Fleury out of the net. Max Talbot was in the right place at the right time, and took advantage of it. He chopped at the puck until he popped it in. This win may have just shifted the series in Pittsburgh's direction. With the intensity high and the confidence high as well, you can bank of Pittsburgh playing well in their building tomorrow night.

The question is, assuming they win tomorrow, can they win Game 7 in Detroit?

Before the series started, I had felt confident that the Pens would win the cup. I figured that the youth had the speed and stamina to edge the Red Wings. I am not so sure anymore, however. It is clear that the Pens have had problems keeping up with the Wings. I am not so sure that in a Game 7, that the Penguins will have enough in the tank to keep up with the Red Wings.

At this point, anything that anyone says can only be an estimate based upon research and opinions. The real answer lies in the result to Wednesday's game. If the Pens find a way to win and look like they are ready to play the Red Wings, they may just have enough. If however, they win in similar fashion to tonight, I am not sure that they will be able to make it another game. They need to fight for every shot. They need to play more "heads-up" than they have so far. They need to cut out the second chance opportunities that they have given the Red Wings. They must also be much more aggressive with the puck. They were out-shot badly tonight, and this may prove to haunt them later in the series.

June 1, 2008

Islanders Begin Cleaning House

Well, just as I had anticipated we are now starting to hear some more news with the Stanley Cup Finals coming to a close. Even though the series isn’t over yet, teams are starting to decide what direction to move in with the draft only three weeks away and free agency one month away. For the Islanders, the direction seems to be more clear; a youth movement.

Speaking to Newsday’s Greg Logan, general manager Garth Snow revealed that goalie Wade Dubielewicz, wingers Ruslan Fedotenko and Miro Satan, center Josef Vasicek and defenseman Aaron Johnson will not be retained and will become free agents on July 1. This creates more spots for the young guys such as Kyle Okposo (20), Blake Comeau (22), Jeff Tambellini (24), Ben Walter (24), and Frans Nielsen (24). You can also include whoever the team drafts 5th overall later this month in that list as well.

According to the article, Snow does not yet have a concrete plan as to what to pursue in free agency, and also claims his draft board is not completely set. However, it does seem that they have already determined that a number of spots will be up for grabs for some young players.

The biggest loss out of all of this will be Dubie, who quickly became a fan favorite when he won four straight games at the end of the 2006-07 season to get the Islanders into the playoffs. Last season despite the Isles finishing under .500, Dubie still managed a 9-9-1 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .919 SV. Over the past few seasons, the Isles had difficulty getting good performances out of their backups, with Dubie being the exception.

Snow claimed that Dubie rejected the team’s contract offer, and Logan has speculated that is because the first year might have had a 2-way provision in it because of Joey MacDonald’s 1-way status for the upcoming season. Snow claimed that due to poor conditioning on Dubie’s part, the coaching staff had to ride DiPietro for too many games, thus creating the hip injuries that Rick later sustained.

Regardless of all that, it would seem to me that MacDonald is now the backup for next season. Islander fans grew attached to Dubie, as they do with many players. One has to keep in mind that this happens often especially with backup goalies all around the league, and you can’t get too upset when many of the details of the story are unconfirmed. Now, I wouldn’t expect the team to go after another backup, even though that wouldn’t be a terrible idea. However, MacDonald did look OK in his couple of games with the big club near the end of last season.

As for the other free agents to be, I can’t say I’m surprised to see them go. Satan had a sub-par season, and seems only a shell of the 30 goal per year player he once was and it would not be worthwhile to bring him back. Fedotenko and Vasicek were both one year deals because they were stopgaps, and with the infusion of youth the team is going towards they are no longer needed. Aaron Johnson is young, and due to injuries and a numbers game did not get much time to showcase himself. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t play very well in the time he was given, and didn’t put up the numbers that he proved he could be capable of, even if you projected them over an 82 game season.

Now things are starting to heat up, and while the team still plans on staying competitive next season and making a playoff run, that will all depend on what they do with free agency. A youth movement could mean some youth mixed in with veterans, or a lineup completely full of youth. With no plan in place yet for free agency, we’ll have to wait to get more of an idea.

May 30, 2008

Where we Stand; R.I.P. Luc Bourdon

The Islanders season obviously didn't go as well as we all would have hoped, but that happens. In all honesty, I felt they were a playoff team and they had some real good chemistry in the early going. As the season rolled on, their inability to score goals began to hurt them, not to mention a lack of creativity on the powerplay.

As things stand right now, those are two of the glaring needs staring the franchise right in the face. Being that nothing can be done with this until the Stanley Cup Finals are over, we'll have to wait to see how that plays itself out. To a lesser extent, another problem for the team is a lack of prospect depth. That is something that the team has addressed.

Two games before the end of the season came, the team announced the signing of Jack Hillen, 22, out of Colorado College. Hillen was thrown into the fire immediately for the two games, both against the Rangers and really played well for someone who had only just been playing with other kids his age. Weeks later the team announced the signing of Rob Hennigar, who was the CIS player of the year this past season at 25 years of age. Hennigar was a very effective playmaking winger at the University of New Brunswick. Although these guys aren't being highly touted or anything, its great to take a shot on guys like these, especially for a team like the Isles which has a farm system that's thinner than that of many other teams.

The Isles also seemed to luck out with many of their picks from the 2006 NHL draft. The first rounder from that year, Kyle Okposo left the University of Minnesota mid-season to begin his pro career. Kyle was effective in his 9 games for the Isles. The teams 2nd round pick from that year, Jesse Joensuu, was also signed to a contract and played in only one AHL game for Bridgeport, but looked pretty good in that game. The Isles also signed their 3rd rounder from that year, Robin Figren. Figren had played with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Figren shined at the world juniors, and upon coming back to Edmonton he continued his hot play and received some nice words from his coaching staff, when they hinted that he would be signed by the Isles. Figren will spend next season back home in Sweeden before returning to North America to play with the organization in 2009-2010. Finally, the team also signed their 4th rounder, Tomas Marcinko. Marcinko played last season in the OHL, and averaged about a point per game. It is not completely clear where he will play next season, be it here or back home in Slovakia.

Again, none of those players appear to be anything special right now, but they have all had some good success where they have played. Maybe the Isles lucked out with some of those players from the later rounds. Okposo is going to become a great player in this league, and he'll have a running mate in 3 weeks when the Isles select 5th in the 2008 NHL draft. There are a number of players at the top of this year's draft who are going to be excellent, and many can step in immediately to help NHL clubs. So that should be fun to watch. In the coming days I'll give a better rundown of where I would rank the '08 draftees and talk in depth about some of the players.

The Isles have taken advantage of their ability to only sign people with the playoffs still going on. You can't go wrong with the moves they have made. As far as solving the problems of the NHL club, we'll probably start to hear more rumors and such once trading can begin again. Should be fun when that happens.

As many of you have heard already, the hockey world lost one of their top prospects yesterday when Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luc Bourdon crashed his motorcycle into a tractor trailer near his home town. Bourdon was 21. As someone who has really followed prospects a lot, Bourdon really appealed to me and once I got to see him a bit more he quickly became one of my favorite d-man prospects in the league. Last season he got a taste of NHL life and he seemed to do well with that. He was only going to get better and would have lived up to his top 10 selection in 2005 very quickly. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I can only hope that we don't have to hear something like this again.

May 27, 2008

So What's the Deal?

OK, that didn't go too well, did it? Apologies to all for letting the blog to go into a coma. Obviously, we didn't intend for that to happen. We had done pretty well throughout the summer and for the first month of the season, and then things sort of got hectic for us between the radio show, school and working.

Looking at it now though, we should be able to post frequently even if it is something short. We had so many positive responses both on the blog and regarding the radio show. So, officially the blog is back from the dead.

A few things that I'm working on over the next few days for the blog. One thing I plan on doing is a small recap of where the Islanders stand right now with the signings and re-signing they have made since the season ended. Another thing I'm currently working on is a piece on my take on the whole Chris Botta resignation since that brought on a lot of discussion.

That's pretty much it for now. You'll hear from me soon. I promise.