September 21, 2010

NYI FYI Visits Training Camp on 9/19/2010; Video, Audio and Pictures

As some of you have seen from our Twitter account, I was able to go to training camp this past Sunday. While Sean and I had gone on Friday, the players did not do anything on-ice, but had their weigh-ins and fitness tests. We were able to talk with some players, which was nice, but it's much better to go to an actual practice to experience the sights and sounds.

I went to the practice with the idea of bringing you extensive coverage, almost in the form of the show "Hard Knocks" (which it appears the Islanders already have in the works, but more on that later), only not as good obviously. My goal was to take videos, pictures and get some quotes. So here we are, 10 videos, 200 pictures and three interviews later.

I got there shortly after 9 AM, with the players set to start skating at 9:15. Dwayne Roloson and Mikko Koskinen were already out on the ice facing some shots from the coaching staff. One of the first players that I noticed was Doug Weight. He looked like a completely different player than the one we had been used to seeing. He is absolutely correct in saying that he has plenty of gas left in the tank. This was a great sight to see, because a healthy Weight definitely helps this team. Sure, it's not going to make a monumental difference, but it would be nice to see him get in a lot of games this year.

Shortly after all the players assembled on the ice, General Manager Garth Snow came down from the balcony and sat on the top bench in the stands where me and the other bloggers (Tony Stabile of Hockey Independent, Christian Arnold of Islanders Hockey Blog and Gary Harding of Eyes on Isles ) were situated. He gave us all a nod hello, and then proceeded to check his Blackberry frequently. Newsday's Katie Strang arrived shortly after that, and sat next to Snow for a bit. They exchanged some pleasantries, but didn't talk a whole lot.

It was at that point, just shortly after 10 AM, when some commotion started up on the deck where some coaches and management were situated. Me and the other bloggers turned to see what was going on. I can tell you that after hearing some rumors over the summer, and not being sure what to believe, I was a little surprised to see Charles Wang and his son arrive to watch the practice.

It was the first time that Wang had been around the team in a little while. There were reports out there that said Wang simply didn't care anymore, and had distanced himself from the team. He walked over to where Snow and Strang were, greeted everyone around them and even talked with Strang about how their summers were.

The players for the next group were milling around, but most of the ones that I was able to see, when not running around to take photos and video, went over to greet Wang and his son. The biggest greeting came from Rick DiPietro, with the two embracing in a hug and the owner wishing the goaltender a "Happy Birthday." None of the conversations were just your typical simple things. The owner personalized many of the other conversations, asking how players were feeling after suffering injuries, or how their summers went. Trevor Gillies showed a fascination with what game Cameron, Wang's son, was playing on his cell phone.

Back to the players on the ice. Rob Schremp looks like he picked up some speed since we last saw him. He told our media scrum after the practice that his knee was feeling much better, and how excited he was that so many players improved their game with the time off.

Group two, which was actually named group one (confused yet?), had more of the higher profile players in it such as John Tavares, Mark Streit, James Wisniewski, Josh Bailey and Nino Niederreiter.

Wisniewski led the players of this group in the on-ice stretches, which tells me a little something about what the Islanders expect out of Wisniewski, and what Wisniewski is expecting out of himself. He was genuinely excited about getting the opportunity to further breakout with the Islanders after having a very solid year for the Anaheim Ducks. While you only have access to the audio, I can tell you that in my short time doing this, I haven't seen a player's eyes light up as much as Wisniewski's did when I approached him and asked him about what he thinks about Long Island so far. Wisniewski is in his contract year, and will make $3.25 million this season. I agree that it is not something to worry about right now, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind. This is a guy, however, that I think everyone is going to want to keep around long term after watching him for a few months.

Bailey told me after the practice that he gained about eight pounds of muscle in the offseason, and it showed. He's a guy who often goes overlooked when one analyzes the current state of this teams offense (and he may or may not feel that way, but he seemed really thrilled that I specifically seeked him out after practice). For those of you who checked out the two-part podcast from Friday, we discussed the idea that while the teams primary scoring from Tavares and Kyle Okposo needs to come around, the secondary scoring of guys like Comeau, Schremp and Bailey needs to be there. As you can hear from my one-on-one with Josh, he knows what he needs to do and is prepared to do it. I can say that from speaking to him, he seemed very poised to put himself on the map, and in the process help this team along in it's goal to make the playoffs.

Niederreiter has looked OK so far to me in camp. As far as the last forward spot goes, I have liked what I've seen out of Matt Martin and David Ullstrom a lot. I don't want to say that anyone has been better or worse than anyone this early in camp, but my early feeling tells me that Niederreiter might not be there just yet. But I have a wait and see approach here because I would like to see some more, and after the scrimmage and a couple of pre-season games see where he stands.

One thing I got to do was learn a little bit more about head coach Scott Gordon. While it sounds dumb, people don't realize what a coach is like other than what they see on TV. Some guys have reputations that come from just observing them in that aspect. I can tell you from what I have seen, he is a better teacher than I thought he was. The practice was full of interruptions thanks to the coach and his whistle. If he saw something he didn't like, he blew the whistle and talked about it. You can see some good examples of that in the videos. He spent a lot of time throughout practice talking to prospects Martin, Jesse Joensuu Calvin deHaan and Travis Hamonic.

At any rate, those are just some of the observations that I had from my day at camp. I tried to take note of players I am particularly interested in seeing. It's an intruguing battle, especially for that forward spot. Very curious to see if someone separates themselves from the pack, if at all.

Like I have been saying, I wanted to try and give you guys an inside look of what goes on at Islanders training camp. I took a lot of video. Here are a couple of my favorite ones. The others can be found at our new NYI FYI YouTube channel.

I was able to get some audio clips as well. I apologize for the background noise for some of these, but there was an awful lot of commotion going on in the locker rooms. The Schremp interview was part of a large media scrum, but we only give you the ones that I got to ask. The big one was asked by Stabile, and that was about him recovering from the knee injury he suffered near the end of last season.

Rob Schremp:

Josh Bailey:

James Wisniewski

Finally, I sorted through all the photos that I took and was able to come up with a photo gallery. I had some really nice shots, some that could be better. But hey, I'm learning. It was a lot to do for one person, but I enjoyed it and hopefully, it'll get better with time. Click on the photo below to access the photo gallery:

The next time I will get to see this team in action will be Saturday at the scrimmage. I'm not sure how that will work, since this whole thing is a learning process, so I wanted to be sure I gave you all at least one real good up close look at the New York Islanders training camp. I really hope you enjoy the coverage as much as I enjoyed getting it all. As I said, it was a lot of work and I had some technical issues that caused me not to get this up sooner, but better late than never.


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