September 22, 2010

Niederreiter signs, Media Day and Kabanov

The Islanders had a pretty eventful day for their media extravaganza. According to Chris Botta, there were a number of people there and the Islanders put on a good event. I join him in giving a congrats to Kimber Auerbach, Katrina Doell and the rest of the staff.

The biggest news of the day was the announcement that the team had signed Nino Niederreiter to his entry-level contract. This is not a surprising move. Many of the top-10 picks had already signed their entry-level deals, but that doesn't mean they have to be in their team's lineups. However, for all the guys that have signed this offseason, it appears as though they will all be given a chance, or at least for nine games to showcase their stuff. For example, it appears as though the Carolina Hurricanes, who signed their own 1st round pick Brett Skinner to his contract as well yesterday, will give him the chance to stick with their club.

I'm not sold on the idea that this means that Niederreiter should make the club. He has the size for it, so that is not the issue. Like I said in the post yesterday, he has played OK so far, and there is still a lot more preseason left. Matt Martin has looked really good to me, so on my own personal list I have him penciled in as the guy who's got the early edge.

Obviously, we'll have to see what the next couple of weeks bring. My gut tells me to expect Niederreiter here for at least a nine game try-out, which might not necessarily be a bad thing. My only fear is that since he was one of the youngest players in the draft, that it could screw around with his head a bit. The Islanders have not been afraid to put their 1st round picks into the lineup as we saw with Josh Bailey in 2008, and almost saw with Calvin deHaan last season.

After practice on Sunday, I had asked Bailey if he talked to Niederreiter, as a fellow first rounder who may not have been a top-two talent but made the jump right away, about his own personal experiences. He had said he only talked to him a little here and there, but not really too much. I would wonder now, with this out of the way, if he does talk a little bit more to Niederreiter.

Aside from that, there were some interesting tidbits from the press conference. I'll start with something that I don't plan to talk about much - The Lighthouse Project. Charles Wang stated that he wants to keep the team here, and continues to look for options, but will not leave earlier than 2015. This we sort of knew, however some people speculated that if he were to move the team, then he would do so sooner rather than later. Not the case.

While the team may be here until at least 2015, a decision would most likely come within the next three or four years. There needs to be a point where they have to decide in order to give themselves plenty of opportunity to explore and go through with an eventual option.

Personally, that's all I have to say on it. I feel that at some point, cooler heads will prevail and this team stays in Nassau. It's been very taxing emotionally to talk about this subject. I know Sean likes to talk about it a lot, and for me I just don't have the heart for it. I'm doing the same thing I've always tried to do, and that's enjoy Islanders hockey. I get to see this team for at least five more years, and that's all I can do. After the meetings, rallies and all the other stuff that I and many other fans took part of, there's not much else we can do, and it is out of our control. I am glad that Wang said that he doesn't plan to be as silent on the subject anymore. Maybe, when something more comes out, I can provide better analysis for you guys. But this is all we really know right now.

Scott Gordon is entering his final season as the head coach. It is generally unusual in sports for teams to let coaches go into a final year of a contract, as players can view the coach as a lame duck. I truly feel that this collection of players has the ability to ignore that and still work as hard for Gordon as they always have. The team is talking about taking that next step, and I don't think the coaches contract is in the forefront of any of their minds right now. Gordon doesn't seem phased by any of it, and I have to give him a lot of credit for that. I don't think I would be able to go through with something like that.

From what I have seen, there is no reason why Gordon should not be extended. I understand that everyone on this team is talking playoffs, and I am really glad to see it. Obviously, a playoff berth gets him an automatic extension. But some people feel that if they don't make it, Gordon is gone. I don't necessarily agree with that idea, however it really depends on how the year goes.

Lets say the Isles have a slightly better year than last year, which shows improvement. Bailey, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares all show improvements. I would think you have to extend him, playoff berth or not. If you don't then you are making a big mistake here. If the team tanks, then sure, that could be another story. This scenario, of course, is based on players staying generally healthy. If any of the key guys go down for extended periods of time, then all of this goes out the window, and it would be a travesty to dump him then.

Some people think money is going to play a huge factor in this. To be honest, I don't think it matters. The Islanders hired a coach that, at the time, was the candidate to hire. Other teams that were in the same situation hired excellent coaches from the AHL. Heck, even the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with AHL coach Dan Bylsma. It's just the trend these days. Sure, it's not something that should be overlooked, but despite some things that may (or may not) have happened in the past, I highly doubt a coaching decision will be made based on pay grade. If he provides results (last season was good given what Gordon had to work with) and the players respond and like him (the have and do), then the team would be absolutely insane to not bring him back, and deserve any criticism they would get.

Garth Snow said that he has all the resources he needs to be able to still make moves, and he will continue to look for top players if it makes sense for them to do in the long-run. Some people take that to mean that it would have to be someone under contract for a few seasons. But that may not be true. James Wisniewski arrived here with only this season left on his contract. It is very possible, that with Wang's blessing, Snow could add a player, perhaps to help out the offense.

Many fans, including this one, have looked towards the Boston Bruins and their situation with Michael Ryder. Ryder had a bit of a sub par year last season for the Bruins (18 goals) but has shown the ability to frequently net 20-25. That is not a bad option for this team, and he has this season at $4 million left. I'm sure there are some other names out there, but I only bring up this one because he seems like the most likely candidate to move elsewhere, and the one who happens to make a lot of sense.

KABANOV LATE AGAIN: Kirill Kabanov showed up late for practice again, and an irate Gordon let him hear it in front of everyone. I say, good. This is how he will have to be handled. The Islanders realize this, and have not tried to hide any of it and sweep it under the carpet.

It is no secret that Kabanov has had a tumultuous last couple of seasons. While I understand how young he still is, it is disappointing when I see many kids the same age act much more mature. I remember at the draft, him telling us that he was "good like an angel." He looked for cameras to tell everyone how he was going to try his best, and prove to the Islanders how grateful he was that they are giving him a chance.

Deb Placey hinted on her Twitter account that Kabanov has one strike left. I don't see it that way. The Islanders wouldn't put him on that short of a leash. Not with that talent. After he was late last week, Snow said that he refused to go into a pitch count for him because they weren't handling it like that.

I'm hoping that Kirill gets his head straight, obviously. I don't think this is anywhere near the end for him. He's got a couple of years to develop, and the Islanders will hope that the maturity comes along in those couple of years as well.

I'm glad that he's taking all of this in stride, and agrees that he should be getting punished. As he admits, he doesn't have any excuses other than he just screwed up and slept late again. It's all part of the project that is Kirill Kabanov.


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