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.