October 28, 2010

Attention Turns to Niederreiter as Habs Down Isles

3:10 PM: Kirill Kabanov has been traded by the Moncton Wildcats to the Lewiston Maniacs. Detials on this coming later as well.

11:46 AM: As I expected, the Islanders are sending Niederreiter back down to Portland. This means that he still has all three years of his entry level deal still remaining.

More to come later.

8:45 AM: The Islanders lost to the Habs 5-3 in a game where they definitely did not bring their "A" game. There were often times where they were found standing around rather than playing their up tempo style of hockey. This isn't a team that is overly skilled, and has to learn to constantly move their feet in order to be successful.

The Canadiens are a very fast and skilled team, and they showed that last night. Of course, the Isles made them look much faster because of the lack of skating. It was not a banner game for Mark Eaton, who made a couple of weak passes, including one that lead to a penalty shot attempt for Benoit Pouliot.

I felt that Dwayne Roloson player pretty well, and did the best he could with what he had to work with, which quite frankly was not enough. There were many lackluster players, on both sides of the puck. Roloson was one of the few who didn't disappoint.

Matt Martin had a pretty good season debut, mixing it up at times and parking himself in front of the net for the 3rd Islander goal. After following him in preseason, and being very impressed with the changes in his game, I can't say I'm surprised with how he played. He needs to get his head up though a little more, for example on the break he had that P.K. Subban broke up.

Speaking of Subban, I need to apologize to those who told me to look out for him as a potential Calder winner this season. I dismissed any thought of that, and he has been quite impressive this season. The kid is some defenseman.

Doug Weight had some problems in this game too. I'm noticing more and more this season that he seems to cough up pucks at the blueline on the power-play. He's still an asset there, and is probably the closest thing we have to a power-play quarterback, but he needs to be a little more careful with that.

Speaking of assets at the blueline, James Wisniewski had yet another outstanding offensive performance. He had a couple of hard shots that created Islander goals as he notched a goal and two assists. His defensive play was decent, aside from the play on Montreal's second goal, but that was slightly awkward and everyone was scrambling there to cover the 2-on-1 breakout.

These are things that have to be improved upon if the Islanders are to walk out of Friday night's game with any points.

The attention now will be on Nino Niederreiter as we await his fate. Will he stay with the Islanders and play Friday, starting the countdown on his entry-level contract, or does he go back to play more junior hockey with Portland of the WHL?

Niederreiter played just over 14 minutes last night, and in keeping up with the rest of the team appeared sloppy at times. Obviously, a decision will not be made based on one game, but I would agree with Chris Botta's statements. Don't think that the decision was made overnight.

As far as my opinion, after originally thinking he would stay, I've thought differently over the last week or so.

Niederreiter certainly hasn't played bad, and if he stays it would be deserved. Physically, he can handle the NHL and has not been over matched on too many occasions. But, the NHL is a faster, tougher game than juniors. While Niederreiter has been trying to adjust to the NHL, the league has been trying to adjust to him. It isn't often where young, recently turned 18 year olds come in, not shy away from contact and cut to the net to create scoring chances.

When the league figures out his style, his game - how will Niederreiter play? Will he be as effective as he is now? I'm not sure anyone can confidently say yes, when you factor in taking the beatings for a much longer period of time.

Don't discount Scott Gordon's thought process in any of this either. Despite the comments he made yesterday, he is going to do what he thinks is best to make the team win right now. He finds himself in the very unusual situation of fighting for his Islander life as coach. If he feels that his chances of success are better with having Martin, Rob Schremp, Michael Grabner or even prospects David Ullstrom or Jesse Joensuu in the lineup, he will let it be known. I don't think that this team is better off with Ullstrom or Joensuu over Niederreiter, but with the other guys I think the team will be fine.

Niederreiter will be a better player than all of those guys in the long run, but right now the others are so much further ahead in terms of development, obviously. Martin still has some developing of his own to do, but I liked a lot of what I saw out of him last night, and some of it is similar to what Niederreiter provides, with Martin adding some more aggression and slightly better skating.

I know some people talk about injuries as playing a factor in the decision, but I don't see that being the case here. As I mentioned just before, if Gordon thinks this team is better off with one guy over another, he'll say so. Schremp is going to get back in the lineup once he comes back. The Islanders need someone with his creativity, not to mention his improved skating. Kyle Okposo is a non factor essentially since his return can be anywhere from December to February, but that is still murky. Jon Sim and Trent Hunter have been filling bottom line roles, and that is not something Niederreiter should be doing at this stage. He needs to consistently be playing 14, 15 minutes a night if he's going to stick.

We'll find out most likely today the fate of Niederreiter, but I wouldn't bank on him staying here. Don't discount the impact Gordon has, and don't read too much into those quotes from yesterday. Expect Matt Martin's stay to last a little longer until Schremp/Hunter/Grabner are ready to go.

When news breaks, I'll try and have something for you. Until then, we play the waiting game.



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