December 31, 2010

Isles Prepare to Take on Detroit; Happy New Year!

The Islanders are set to take on the Detroit Red Wings on the first part of their 11 game road trip.

Dwayne Roloson will get the start in goal. Dylan Reese will play as the Isles have placed Radek Martinek on IR retroactive to December 22, while Jack Hillen will rejoin the team in Calgary after the birth of his and his wife's first child, Finn. Congrats to the Hillens.

Martinek had been nursing that sore wrist since taking the Zdeno Chara slap shot off of it. Nothing appears to be broken.

Roloson was in net last season when the Isles defeated the Red Wings 6-0 at the Coliseum. In the past few seasons, the Isles have actually fared well against them.

The Isles have some momentum coming off of the win against the Penguins on Wednesday night. We'll see if any of that will carry over into tonight.

I will be out of town until tomorrow, so I won't have the post game thoughts up right away tonight.

Sean got the newsletter up and running this morning. If haven't done so already, be sure to register for that here.

Happy New Year to all of our listeners and readers!


December 29, 2010

Isles Snap Crosby's Streak, Defeat Pens in Process

The Islanders were able to do the unthinkable on Wednesday night at the Coliseum as they defeated the Penguins 2-1 in the shootout and stopped Sidney Crosby's 25 game point too.

Obviously, the Islanders knew what was riding on this game aside from the point streak. When the media walked in, defenseman Mark Eaton exclaimed "HBO first!" The Islanders may have gotten themselves more than just your usual mention, especially considering the fact that NBC was really banking on the point streak extending up until at least the winter classic.

The Islanders had a very good effort. The Penguins didn't play poorly, but did have some lapses on their own. As a whole, their defense was solid which was a key question going into the game after the subtraction of James Wisniewski.

It wasn't until the 2nd period when a goal was scored, which came from Josh Bailey. Travis Hamonic took a shot that was stopped, but Bailey was standing in front of the net to put home the rebound. Since he has come back, it seems as though he has been going towards the net more often than not. I was curious if that was an aspect of his game that he worked on, but he downplayed that, telling me "It's just a part of the game. It's not something I focused on (down in Bridgeport)."

Fair enough, but I definitely notice a difference in the way that Bailey is playing. He's had some nice rushes, some nice takeaways and has been playing with as much confidence as he was during the first couple of games of the season.

Michael Grabner had a very active game, using his speed a lot to get some chances that he was unable to bury. His hands still need a little work, but he is slowly getting there. He just needs to keep using that speed of his.

Frans Nielsen scored in the shootout too, using his patented forehand to backhand move he has become so very well known for. He also had a very important block in overtime to keep the score tied and help the Islanders clear the puck.

"It was a good win for us. Hopefully we can build some confidence going on the long road trip," Nielsen told us after the game.

Rick DiPietro was solid and really made some huge saves. His movements were quick again. I never truly thought that he was seriously injured, but many feared the worst when he went on IR for a few days. That's understandable, and even Sean and I had our disagreement about how serious the injury was.

But he was stellar tonight and earned the right to be the game's 1st star.

"There's still a lot of work to be done but you're seeing some guys step-up into big roles here," DiPietro said.

When asked about stopping Crosby's streak, DiPietro downplayed the impact he had. "Anytime you're facing a team with that much skill, it's a team effort."

A team effort it certainly was. The Islanders can truly hang their head high after this one - defeating a good team in front of a good crowd (still a very loud Isles contingent among the Penguins fans) and ending streak of the NHL's best player.

Now, the attention for the Islanders turns to their 11 day roadtrip. They kick that off Friday on New Years Eve in Detroit against yet another hot team. The Islanders have won only three games on the road this season.

Thursday, 11 PM: Here is a video filmed by Johnny Z of Yes Islanders of myself, Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey and Timo Seppa of Hockey Prospectus giving our thoughts on the game.


Isles to Honor Two Heroes Tonight, Special Meaning for NYI FYI

For those of you who have been frequently attending games at the Nassau Coliseum for the past couple of seasons, you know that the Islanders always bring in a veteran and acknowledge them to the crowd. Tonight the Islanders will give their military shout out to LCpl. Rob Gartner from our home town of Northport, NY.

There is a back story to this, and that is where the special meaning for me comes in.

Tim Scherer Sr. and his family have become friendly with the Gartner's over the past couple of years due to another unfortunate circumstance.

On July 21, 2007 Cpl. Chris Scherer was killed in Al Anbar province in Iraq after being struck by a lone bullet from an Iraqi sniper.

Seeing as how close we were in age, Chris and I came into contact a lot. The reason I got to know Chris was because we grew up as part of the same Boy Scout Troop - Troop 52 in East Northport. Chris was a year older than myself, but it didn't take him long to become one of the leaders among the others in the troop. He was someone who helped me learn a lot and someone I had some good sports conversations with.

Mr. Scherer served as the Scout Master for pretty much the entire time that I was involved in scouting. Needless to say, he and his family are good people that we have gotten to know more about over the years. The death of Chris seemed to bring everyone in the community closer together.

My father is a Vietnam veteran who has a leadership position in our local American Legion post. He is always looking to help veterans in need. My family had filled out a form for a subscription to readers digest for Chris not too long before he passed. He never got them.

Meanwhile, Gartner was the first recipient of the Cpl. Chris Scherer Scholarship, awarded at Northport High School to an individual who has aspirations of joining the Marines. This is when the Scherer's and the Gartner's first met and became friendly. Realizing that Gartner was returning, and that he was a die hard Islanders fan, Mr. Scherer wanted to give him and his family tickets to the Isles game tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mr. Scherer also provided the family with tickets to the Isles game at MSG on Monday night.

Learning about the honoring of current military members that the Islanders do ever night, Mr. Scherer wanted to do that for the Gartners. He called up the Islanders to make the arrangements. At that point, the story got all the more interesting and more touching in the process.

"After I made the request, they asked me why I wanted to do this for Rob. I explained to them the whole story, and upon the conclusion of that they told me that I was going to the game for free also as an honor to Chris."

For as much flak as this organization has gotten recently, listening to Mr. Scherer explain this to me on the other end of the phone left me speechless and with tears in my eyes. If you want to talk about a classy move, this is one. I felt that I wanted to write something about this because of my connection to Chris and his family, not to mention the fact that stories like this don't get heard very often.

The Islanders proceeded to offer Mr. Scherer tickets at a discounted rate for a group. There are a number of people involved with events in the memory of Chris, so naturally he took to Facebook and e-mail to let it be known.

"We have 100 people going to the game. I think it's fantastic, what the Islanders are doing." Mr. Scherer said.

It certianly is. I will be in the press box for this one tonight, but my parents will be with the Cpl. Chris Scherer group.

There are teams all over the league that probably have stories similar to this one, and it's a shame they don't get advertised more often. Who knows how many times this has happened in past Isles games. It certainly is a really touching back story though.

Meanwhile, the Islanders prepare to face the red hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins tonight, a day after dealing away James Wisniewski and two days after getting destroyed by the Rangers.

Chris was always known as a comedian, and would lighten the mood when things got tough. I feel it's fitting to close with the line he would always use: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Yep. We certainly could use one tonight.

Semper Fi, Chris and Rob and welcome home. I hope the Islanders can pull one out for these two heroes tonight.

For more information about Chris and the annual memorial walk around East Northport, please be sure to visit the Corporal Christopher G. Scherer website.


December 28, 2010

Wisniewski Shipped to Montreal

In a bit of a stunner, the Islanders shipped defenseman James Wisniewski off to the Montreal Canadiens today. The Islanders got back a compensatory 2nd round pick in 2011 that Montreal was getting for not signing their 2006 1st rounder and a conditional 5th rounder in 2012. The player who failed to sign was selected 20th overall, so the 2nd rounder will be the 50th overall selection.

The fan base seems to be very split on what has happened here. Not because of the return, because it is a very good one for a guy who has proved he is at best a #3 defenseman. Rather, they are upset because of the message that it is sending out about how salvageable they feel this season is.

If anyone out there truly thought that this team still had a legitimate shot at the playoffs, then I'm sorry. Quite simply it was not happening this season. That much was clear after the month long losing streak. I do not advocating throwing the towels in prior to the trade deadline, but the Islanders do not get this return if they wait. They maximized an asset that was gone in July, because I truly did not believe he was going to re-sign here.

I posted on our twitter account that this could have been part of a precursor to another move, but doubted that idea. Since then, many other media personalities have come out saying they feel the move is connected with the Devils placing forward Brian Rolston on re-entry waivers. The move would make sense as the Isles would be able to stay around the cap floor and also pick up a veteran forward for next season with Doug Weight out and his status for next season up in the air at this time. On re-entry waivers, Rolston would cost $2.5 million and can play all three forward positions.

I stick by my belief that this isn't any precursor but rather just status quo for what has been going on around here for the past few seasons. While this was not supposed to be a rebuilding year, it will continue at least through this season. As much as it pains people to say it, I think this was the first indication that the Isles are throwing in the towel for this season and will start giving time to younger players.

Wisniewski was never shy to say what was on his mind, and I appreciate the time he always took to speak with me when I would interview him after games or practices. Speaking to him at training camp, the guy was legitimately excited to be here. I had asked him about being paired with Mark Streit and he knew how awesome that would have been for the both of them.

When Streit went down for what will essentially amount to the entire season, I had an idea Wisniewski was doomed. I always liked his game, and was really excited when he was brought in for just a 3rd round pick. I knew what his weaknesses were though, and how they would be exposed when playing the most minutes on a defense. He was steadily improving lately, but the Islanders still haven't won enough games to justify holding onto a player for too long and getting a pretty crummy return in the process.

The Canadiens filled a much needed hole on their blueline. Defenseman Andrei Markov is out for a while, possibly the entire season. Marc-Andre Bergeron is still out there, but Montreal has been there and done that last season. The emergence of youngsters in P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges means that Wisniewski won't need to play 25 minutes a night as often as he was here.

Best of luck to James in another excellent situation for him in Montreal.


Bad Goals Snap Streaks

Both Dwayne Roloson and the Islanders saw their three game winning streaks snapped on Monday night thanks to the New York Rangers. With their 7-2 win, the Rangers ended their minor slump and frustrated the Islanders all night.

Roloson had to face 52 shots thanks in part to an Islanders team in front of him that often seemed disinterested. Roloson did give up some pretty bad goals, and after the game he took the blame for the loss. However, the fact that the Isles let that many shots get through to him is still inexcusable, and I personally don't pin the entire game on Roloson.

Even the Isles goals were a bit fluky. Rob Schremp seemed to surprise Henrik Lundqvist on his shot, which Lundqvist nonchalantly went to glove but it nicked off his glove and ended up in the net. P.A. Parenteau made a little nifty pass to no one in particular and after Lundqvist made a save, the rebound went right to Parenteau who was crashing the net along with John Tavares.

The Rangers meanwhile, played the way they know how to play and have been playing for most of the year. They have developed a penchant for being a team that will out work their opponents, not necessarily out-skill them. In this game, they did both against an Islanders team that always seems to take two steps forward and one step back.

In a game like this, it's very difficult to point out anyone who stood out as being good or bad. When you give up that many shots, it's a team effort. As Schremp said in the post game interview, they had an off day and the Isles didn't. They hit a wall, which is inexcusable. Perhaps there is where you feel the effects of not doing any activity for two days during the holiday break.

Jack Capuano said that he plans to throw the tape away for this one. Fair enough, but it is something you should probably keep in the back of your mind. A couple of other stinkers like this, and then you'll have to ask your players which team they are - this one, or the one from the previous five games as they felt the need to point out as often as they could after this one.

The Islanders play the Penguins next in a game where I'll be in the press box for. I'm working on a fairly intriguing story for that one, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that one.


December 27, 2010

Isles Win 3rd Straight During Blizzard

The Islanders tried to have Sunday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens postponed, but Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman denied the request. Their reasoning was that the NHL has a rule that if the two teams are in the city where the game is being played, then the game can proceed as planned.

Quite frankly, that is a really stupid rule and on a night where the NFL cancelled their Sunday night game in Philadelphia, the league came off looking rather foolish between the games on Long Island and in New Jersey.

The NY Post's Larry Brooks voiced his displeasure on Twitter, and I agree with him here. There really was no point to have these games, but the NHL went ahead with them anyway. As a result, 3,136 came out to see the Islanders win in convincing fashion over the Canadiens by a score of 4-1. Those who had tickets to the game, even if they showed up, are given the opportunity to exchange them for another game of their choosing. That's a excellent move on the Islanders part, and the decision was made a lot quicker than last years. Good stuff from the organization right there.

I shouldn't say that they won in convincing fashion because of how they were outplayed in the 2nd period. But, the effort in the 1st and 3rd periods were similar to that of the ones against Tampa and New Jersey, which is what we said on the podcast they needed to have. Montreal had some power-play opportunities, which obviously helped the shot total in their favor but the Islanders had a major power-play in the 3rd, which later became a 5-on-3. The Islanders were able to use that to their advantage and grew their lead to 4-0.

The story of the game was Dwayne Roloson once again. He made 38 saves, and was incredibly quick and so sound positionally. When the Canadiens out shot the Isles 16-7 in that 2nd period, Roloson stopped every one. Even though the Islanders effort was pretty solid, when they had a couple of lulls throughout Roloson let them know loud and clear that he had their backs. In 10 of his 18 starts this season, Roli has given up two goals or less. He has now won his last three starts, giving up one goal in each of those games.

Michael Grabner had a really nice game of his own. His rush on the Islanders 2nd goal tells you why he is here. I can't even remember the last time we saw a player who could go that fast from a standstill, but he used his speed to create a breakaway that looked unlikely and made some excellent moves to fake out Carey Price and give the Isles the 2-0 lead. We've seen some great stuff out of Grabner this year and hopefully he can keep it up.

Speaking of the good stuff, Blake Comeau has been showing us some as well. He has quietly been racking up some points in the month of December, mostly due to his pairing up with the red hot Rob Schremp. The two of them have found some chemistry this month and it was Schremp with a very nice pass to Comeau to open the scoring for the Isles. They need to keep that up, and there's no reason to think they won't. Their efforts have been unbelievable lately, and Schremp wore the hard hat after the game. A huge part of this is trying to out-work your opponent to get chances, and both are doing so lately.

If there was one thing I didn't understand it was using the line of Matt Martin, Zenon Konopka and Jon Sim on the power-play a few times during the game. I wouldn't have cared too much in the dying seconds of the game if Jack Capuano hadn't already put them out there a few times earlier. I know he mentioned a couple of weeks ago that if they continued to struggle with the man advantage he would consider putting a whole new unit of five out there, but that's not what many people had in mind. How about putting someone like Grabner there? The fact that he hasn't already is really a sin.

But in the end, the Islanders scored twice on eight chances on the power-play and won their 4th of their last five games. They go right back at it Monday night against the Rangers. No word yet on who will be starting in net, but I would imagine that news will come down within the next couple of hours.

If you haven't already done so, please be sure to check out our latest podcast here.


December 26, 2010

Isles Look for 3rd Straight on Snowy Sunday; Podcast Posted

The Islanders take on the Canadiens tonight at 7 PM on a very snowy day on Long Island.

The ironic aspect of this game is that just last season, Long Island was hit with it's biggest snowstorm in years on a December day when they played the Canadiens. I attended the game, being the nut that I am.

Many fans chose to stay home for that one, and I don't see where the situation would be any different here.

For those of you who are heading out, please be careful and use your best judgement. While it doesn't seem to be awful right now, take into account that that most likely will not be the case a few hours from now.

We hope that you all enjoyed your Christmas, for those of you who celebrate it, or Boxing Day for those of you who are up North. To everyone else, well, we hope you're enjoying the holiday season. We have been, which is why we sort of disappeared the last couple of days.

Since I last wrote, the Islanders had an excellent effort in which they defeated the Devils 5-1. Josh Bailey, who could have easily walked away with two goals in the Tampa game, made up for those missed opportunities on Thursday. His steal and fake of Martin Brodeur on the first Isles goal was an awesome play all around, and the sign of a much more confident 21 year old. He'll need to continue that this week against tough opponents in Montreal, the Rangers, the Penguins and the Red Wings.

Prior to that game I had said the Islanders needed the same exact effort as they had for half of that Tampa game. They did exactly that, and walked away with two points in a rather convincing fashion.

Despite the Devils, and more shockingly Brodeur's struggles, that was a good win for the Islanders. Young players like Bailey and John Tavares were excellent and noticeable and confident. Tavares has been putting together some nice games, and now he has goals in two straight games. Blake Comeau is keeping up his decent play as of late as well and added a goal of his own against the Devils.

Meanwhile, the Islanders prepare to face a team that they haven't fared well against in recent history. Rick DiPietro is now off the IR, but it is Dwayne Roloson with the start - as it should be right now. Matt Martin will also be returning after serving his two game suspension.

Sean and I got together early this morning to record a podcast before the snow started. You can download and listen to the podcast here.

We covered a wide variety of topics, and were sure to give plenty of time to the Nelson Peltz rumors and our thoughts on Charles Wang and Garth Snow on Gary Bettman's show on XM's NHL Hour.

We'll have more later after the game.


December 23, 2010

Bailey Returns as Isles Win in OT; Snow and Wang Going on XM

In a surprise move to myself and very few others, the Islanders called up Josh Bailey from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to replace the suspended Matt Martin. Bailey had an impressive 11 games with them, putting up 17 points. His last couple of games there his efforts were pretty good, although fans of the Sound Tigers who also frequent this blog e-mailed us that they had some concerns about his play away from the puck. They did admit thought that it was better than when he first went down there.

Bailey ended up having a couple of good rushes, and was very active away from the puck and on the fore-check. While he didn't get on the score sheet, he very well could have come out of this game with two goals if not for some spectacular saves from Dan Ellis. Bailey got to play on a line with Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen, which is a huge upgrade compared to some of the line mates he has had. That line looked really good.

John Tavares had a nice game too, as he has had in the last little stretch here. He hadn't scored in nine games prior to his overtime winner, but he had plenty of nice chances. It was nice to finally see his hard work pay off with the goal and an assist as well. He had been quietly picking up some assists here and there, so hopefully the floodgates can open a bit. I know he scored a goal, but the Islanders should really do right by both Tavares and Matt Moulson and get someone other than P.A. Parenteau on that line.

Overall, it was refreshing to see the Islanders pick up their play after a sluggish start. Usually, it is the other way around - the Isles would start of well, give up a goal and it all snowballs from there. This time, after being out shot 16-3 in the first, the Islanders kept pressing and for the 2nd half of the game controlled a lot of the play. Good stuff and a nice change of pace.

Dwayne Roloson was stellar once again, much to the surprise of no one. He hasn't started much lately, but he was able to step in and stop 34 of 35 shots, making some really great stops and earning the 1st star of the game. If this was an audition for a trade to the Lightning, then he was surely impressive. Congrats to him on his first win since October 18th.

Mark Eaton made a return to this game as well after battling through a hamstring injury. He did what he does best - block shots. He registered four for the evening. He makes this Isles defense close to complete, and you can see how improved the defensive effort is now with Eaton, Andrew MacDonald and Milan Jurcina all back from injury and the continued stellar play of Travis Hamonic.

Jesse Joensuu only got five minutes of ice time. I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up getting sent down when Martin returns from his suspension. I'm not sure if there is something Jack Capuano doesn't like about Joensuu's game, but I can't understand why he is not getting any minutes. I think he has been playing well given the minutes he's getting. Perhaps there is something that I am just not seeing.

The Islanders take on the Devils now on Thursday night in New Jersey. The Devils have looked worse than the Isles at many points, so to expect the Islanders to walk out with the two points is valid. Martin Brodeur, who has struggled, will get the start. One should never look past him however. The Islanders still need an effort like they had from the 2nd period on against the Bolts.

Wang and Snow to be on Bettman's Show: Many fans recently have grown impatient with Garth Snow and Charles Wang, and when news came out about a potential Nelson Peltz purchase, many became filled with hope. While we have heard a bunch from Snow recently, Wang has been awfully quiet.

Some fans have been bringing signs to games and calling into various radio shows demanding answers from management. They will now have their chance on Thursday night on Gary Bettman's radio show at 6 PM on XM. The Commissioner is fulfilling a promise he has been making to Isles fans as he has insisted that he planned to get Mr. Wang on his show. Now, he'll have the both of them. I don't want to say that the timing is odd, but it's ironic that it comes at the same time when rumors come out about a possible sale while negative articles come out left and right.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to wondering about the kinds of questions that they will be asked or provide some hard hitting responses to. I want to urge all of our readers though who plan to call in to PLEASE be very respectful and make your point immediately. Don't drag on and don't come off as a raving lunatic. Every question can be approached in a very civil manner, so do that for this. Perhaps we'll get some more answers to the questions we all have right now, but if I were a betting man I wouldn't put money on it.


December 22, 2010

Off Day? Hah!

9:52 - The Isles proved me wrong as they have called up Josh Bailey.

I will say that I am not overly impressed with this, and I truly did get the impression that he would be down for a while.

Fans of the BST were still concerned recently that Bailey would go stretches where he looked invisible because of some fore-checking and defensive deficiencies, but would suddenly appear as he put up some of those points. Hopefully it is fixed, because this is it now. After his next NHL game he has to go through waivers to be sent down again.

8:08 AM - No one told me that the off days were going to have this much going on. I suppose when you're record isn't great, that's to be expected.

Tuesday was a rather interesting one to say the least if you're an Islanders fan. Of course, we'll hit some of the juicy stuff later. First we'll have to start off with some unfortunate news.

The Islanders once again practiced with two goaltenders - Dwayne Roloson and Nathan Lawson. Rick DiPietro did not practice. Jack Capuano stated that it was still just your typical maintenance stuff.

Of course, that "maintenance" word might have even deeper meaning now that DiPietro was officially placed on IR with the swelling in his right knee. For those of you who listened to our last podcast, when Sean and I gave our take on the Roloson situation I downplayed DiPietro's injury. Meanwhile, Sean maintained that he'd "believe it when he sees it" when it comes to any injury of his being minor.

As of right now, I'll only slightly nod my head in his direction but not completely tip the cap yet. Matt Martin was suspended for two games as punishment for his elbow to the head of Vernon Fiddler. The Islanders were already at the max roster limit, which we pointed out during the show on Sunday. They have to call up another forward to take the spot of Martin - unless of course you want to see Bruno Gervais play wing again. Even though we're under the holiday roster freeze, there can be call-ups for emergency. This would qualify.

I'm seeing some people say they want Josh Bailey to be called up. If the Islanders were smart in this situation, and I think they will be, Bailey will not and should not be up. I love what he is doing. The points he is putting up with the Sound Tigers is phenomenal. However, the total package is still not 100% there yet - fore-checking, defensive play, etc. Hasn't the kid been rushed enough in his very short NHL career thus far? Not only that, but he was constantly shifted from one position to another, and seemingly was not given ample time to adjust to that let alone to the NHL game. Josh is going to be down in Bridgeport for the next little while it sounds like. At least that's what my take was after listening to Garth Snow on "The GM Show" a couple of weeks back.

All in all, I have a wait and see approach on the extent on DiPietro's injury. Perhaps it's truly wishful thinking, but I still firmly believe that the Islanders called up Lawson to get a look at what he can do when they inevitably ship off Roloson. DiPietro probably is banged up, but my feeling is a) the Islanders are using it to see what others can do for more than just one game and b) to create a roster spot.

Meanwhile, Mike Mottau was also placed on IR and will be out the rest of the year with a torn labrum in his hip. Mottau had been out since taking a puck off of his eye in Atlanta. Some may be wondering "how the heck does that happen?" Apparently the injury is something he had suffered prior to the year, and most likely re-aggravated it while rehabbing recently. He had started skating with the team.

The news of Mottau's injury is a bit of a blow, but it obviously gives some more thought to the idea that Travis Hamonic will stay up for most of the year. The shame in this is that the Islanders were slowly having better defensive efforts coming on the heels of getting Andrew MacDonald and Milan Jurcina back. I was looking forward to Mottau coming back. Now, we can only hope that the surgery takes care of the issue and it doesn't linger next season. We know all too well how persistent those hip injuries can be.

The biggest story of the day, however, was the rumor of a potential buyer for the team. On Monday night, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun made a mention in his chat that former Isles goalie and current Hockey Night in Canada analyst Glenn Healy told him that Nelson Peltz has expressed interest in purchasing the Islanders. Of course, it didn't take the news too long to spread, and by Tuesday morning the story gained more steam.

Furthermore, Chris Botta in his Fanhouse piece on AOL was able to confirm from multiple sources that Peltz has been kicking the tires for the past year or so, and it appears he will continue to do so.

Before anyone gets too ahead of themselves, let me bring out a key point here. This does NOT mean that Charles Wang has the team up for sale. It could be and we just don't know it, seeing as how tight lipped things can get with the organization, but do not read into it any more than that. I saw some folks on Twitter getting all excited, with some talking as if it were a done deal.

I'm sure Peltz isn't the only one who kicked tires, but he may be the only one who has been persistent enough in making it known that he wants the team.

The connections with Peltz, however certainly are very eerie.

First off, he is currently on the Board of Directors at Wendy's/Arby's Group. The Islanders have a relationship with Wendy's as many fans know by now. Peltz is also the former owner of Snapple Inc., which had it's headquarters on Long Island in Valley Stream for a number of years before relocating to Plano, Texas.

Peltz, who hails from Brooklyn, lives in Bedford, NY. When not there, he is most likely at his other homes in Paris or Palm Beach, Florida.

According to the recent list of wealthy folks from Forbes, Peltz is now worth $1.1 billion which ranks 880th.

Of course, as Botta's source says in the article, Peltz will only buy the Islanders on his terms, which makes sense. Any potential buyer who has interest in keeping the team right where it is doesn't want to deal with all of the politicking that has gone on. Keep in mind though, Peltz has been more than generous over the years to George W.Bush's and the campaigns of Republicans in general. It's possible the TOH Republicans would be willing to do him a favor they weren't willing to do for Wang if they can settle their own debt problems.

Some are wondering if he would move them to his hometown over in Brooklyn if he bought them. I'm not too sure he would do that. I think the preference of the league is to get something worked out in Uniondale. In fact, those who listened to deputy commish Bill Daily on the commissioner's show on XM last Thursday heard him say that they were working with the town to find a solution, and he was pretty adamant about it. Is part of that solution the sale of the team to someone who is willing to accept the proposal the town presented?

Obviously, the selling of teams takes an extremely long time and if anything comes of this, it won't be for a bit. But, the idea of tire kicking for the past year is very vague and who knows what's gone on. I believe the source Botta uses when he says it's nothing for people to get all excited about right now. Time will tell, and it's certainly something we'll be keeping our eyes on.

De Haan Gets an 'A' - Isles prospect Calvin de Haan was named an alternate captain for Canada's World Junior team. He is the captain of his OHL team, the Oshawa Generals. The Islanders are doing Calvin right when it comes to his development, and all of these feathers in his cap are going to help him greatly in the same way they would have helped Bailey out if they didn't rush him. With both de Haan and Cizikas on the roster, and Nino Niederreiter on Switzerland's team, we'll be sure to focus on the WJC a little bit. Congrats to all these prospects.

Up Next - The Islanders take on the Lightning at the coliseum, have gone 1-1 against them so far this season. The usual Islander killers of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will all be in the line-up.

We don't know for sure who will be in net for the Isles yet. Something tells me it will be Roloson though. We shall see. We will also see who the team ends up calling up to replace the suspended Martin. Be sure to check back for updates.


December 18, 2010

Isles Lose to Coyotes as Roloson Rumors Swirl

Sunday, 12/19/2010 11:00 PM - As we always do on Sundays, we recorded and posted our latest podcast here. We discussed a wide variety of topics, with the main focus of course being the Dwayne Roloson situation. We also talk about who we liked, who we didn't like and who we'd like to see more of.


11:27 PM - The Islanders fell to the Coyotes 4-3 after the shootout in which the Coyotes scored on all three attempts. Goalie Nathan Lawson made his NHL debut and looked OK for the most part and made 32 saves on 35 shots.

The one thing that stood out to me regarding Lawson was his rebound control. It isn't great, and you would hope that's something that he can work on. However, he isn't your normal rookie as he is 27 years old. That may be something he'll never improve on, but who knows.

The Islanders played a pretty solid game overall, the best performances coming from Jesse Joensuu and Andrew MacDonald. Joensuu got the Isles on the board with his goal off of a really quick snap shot after a beautiful cross-ice pass from John Tavares. Joensuu would later create the goal that Michael Grabner scored to give the Isles a 2-1 lead. His play seems to have been improving as of late, and I still can't completely understand why he isn't getting more minutes (he only played 12:31 tonight).

MacDonald blocked another three shots and was a very steady presence out there. He was often tabbed to shadow the Coyotes' best players and seemed up to the task more often than not. He never really fumbles the puck under pressure, and keeps things very calm from the back end when he's out there. He is proving day in and day out why for the better part of a year now he has been on the top pairing.

Travis Hamonic told us after the game that the team had "nothing to hang their head about." He's right about that - the effort was absolutely there. There were a lot of opportunities in this game for either team to really take the game and run with it, and neither did. The Islanders out-shot the Coyotes 44-35, and Jason LaBarbera made some really incredible saves.

Hamonic alluded to getting three out of their last four points as something they have to look at as a good thing and go from there. It's the small things in life, I suppose. But he does have a good point.

When asked about the power-play, which went only 1-for-8 tonight, Jack Capuano was very honest, saying "that's something we're going to have to address, and if it continues then we'll have to put a new unit of five on the ice."

He concluded his thought by saying he felt that was "the biggest issue tonight."

The power-play was certainly a cause for concern once again considering how many chances the Coyotes really gave them. The Islanders had two brief 5-on-3 chances that they killed by getting penalties of their own. Meanwhile, when they did have the man advantage the Isles movement was very slow and sluggish. I agree that at some point really soon, there needs to be a change on the power-play. The first two guys that should be on there when that change is made is Joensuu and Grabner. Enough is enough - they need minutes they can really run with, and the power-play is an area I think they can star in.

Meanwhile, for many the storyline of the game to follow was the start of Nate Lawson. Not so much because it was his NHL debut, but more so because he got the start over Dwayne Roloson.

When it was first reported that Lawson was getting the start, many people figured that something was wrong. Of course, that wasn't really the case. The Islanders announced that Rick DiPietro had some swelling in his knee that was very minor. If it was anything more, he wouldn't have practiced today. He also wouldn't have stuck around the team or answered questions for the media. Since Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit have been injured, there haven't been many opportunities to access them. DiPietro meanwhile was not sent home without talking to the media.

Generally, when you have "two number one goalies" as Garth Snow has reminded us every chance he could, then quite frankly you are starting the guy who isn't playing that night. That would have been Roloson, with Lawson backing him up.

Even stranger are the comments from Capuano in the post game press conference. He mentioned a variety of items of note:

- The decision to start Lawson was because they haven't won a lot of games here and something had to change. As far as I'm concerned, Roloson has been more than capable this season. More often than not, he gets no goal support. So I don't get that.

- They need to find ways to win games, so he doesn't know who would start the next game. "Tonight it was Nate, tomorrow it could be someone else."

- When he came to practice this morning, he explained to both DiPietro and Roloson that Lawson was coming and starting tonight. No mention of the injury as a factor.

What I took from all of that is that there is more here than meets the eye. Roloson was healthy. During warm-ups, I noticed he didn't take as many shots that a back-up for the game normally would.

I truly think we are seeing the end of Roli on Long Island. For those of you who remember Guerin-gate from a few years back, I think the Isles are attempting to handle this in a slightly different way, but it seems to be creating problems. Many prominent journalists are raising an eye brow wondering why the veteran who has done nothing but bust his hump for the team gets to ride the pine for a 27 year old rookie.

Quite simply, I think the Islanders are slowly excepting their fate and are staring to look at their other goalies as a pre-cursor to a Roloson move. DiPietro is supposed to get one of the two games in the upcoming weekend. Who gets the other is now up for debate. Heck, who starts Wednesday against the Lightning is up for debate too, apparently.

We'll keep an eye on this story throughout the night, but wouldn't expect anything huge to come out of it just yet. The NHL's holiday trade freeze comes into effect at midnight. So we still have just under an hour of fun speculation ahead of us!


December 17, 2010

Isles Defeat Ducks to Snap 6 Game Losing Streak

Prior to the game against the Ducks, the Islanders received some good news as they learned that both Radek Martinek and Milan Jurcina would be returning from injury for the game. Jurcina had been out since October 29th with the injured hamstring, while Martinek had missed the last couple of games after taking that Zdeno Chara slap shot off of his left wrist last week.

Jurcina only played just over 13 minutes in this one, but he did block two shots and throw four hits. I thought he played well given the fact that he was coming off of a major injury. It certainly was nice to have him back. Martinek, meanwhile, was his typical self - a very stead presence on defense. He also once again jumped in on the offense a couple of times, something that he has been doing more of lately. He's a very good skater and has a heck of a slap shot so if he gets more power-play time he could be deadly.

The real star of the defense for this one was Andrew MacDonald. Those of you who watched the telecast heard Howie Rose and Butch Goring rave about him constantly, while those of you who attended saw that he was selected as the game's 2nd star. He blocked eight shots last night and threw a couple of hits. Those of you who have been checking in with us regularly may have seen a trend coming from recent posts where we have a daily mention of MacDonald's play and this is exactly why. He's been absolutely amazing, and it's great to see that he has not regressed from what he was last year, but rather improved exponentially. This is why he is wearing an 'A' on his sweater.

Rick DiPietro, the games 1st star, played well. Sure, there were some things I didn't like but for the most part he stayed in his net. He fell a couple of times, and flopped around but at the very least he did it in the crease. He didn't have to make any spectacular saves, but there were enough chances where he had to work for his 30 saves. Good game from him after a couple of off ones.

The Islanders got three goals in 1:39 after not scoring in the previous 77 minutes, all in the 1st period. P.A. Parenteau and Blake Comeau scored two of them, continuing their recent trend of getting on the score sheet. I still don't agree with Parenteau getting 1st line minutes, but we won't go into that for now. They had good games.

One thing that is still alarming, win aside, is that when the Ducks got their first goal from Joffrey Lupul, Rose pointed out that we had to beware of the tide turning. That is exactly what happened from that point on. The Ducks continued to to press, and even though they were down by two they came out of the 2nd intermission fired up and it showed. The way they controlled the puck for the first few minutes of the 3rd looked like an Anaheim power-play, and the game the Islanders were playing earlier on was getting away from them. The Isles went into a collapsing defense mode, and quite often all five Isles players were stationed right in front of DiPietro, which is a bad position to be in when you are facing so many skilled players who can find holes and are deadly from the slot area.

It was showing signs of a team, and even a coach as one follower in Twitter pointed out, that are scared of losing and slightly inexperienced. It's not a great way to handle the adversity. But at the very least, they held on for the win and DiPietro made some key saves in the 3rd.

The Isles prevented themselves from going to an all-time organizational record of .500 for the first time in 33 years, as statistician Eric Hornick pointed out to us.

On a personal note, I wanted to give a shout out to all of those who following along with us. Last night on Twitter we hit the 200 follower mark, and it's something we're very appreciative of. We hope that you all continue to spread the word.

The Isles take on the Coyotes next, and I'll be in the press box for that one.

I may have some additional comments to post in this space, so be sure to check back.

December 13, 2010

Injuries Hit, Rakhshani Debuts as Isles Fall to Nashville

The Islanders went into a building that has given them some problems in the past and once again fell to the Predators 5-0.

The game started out fairly well, but a power-play goal for Nashville on a deflection from Sergei Kostitsyn. After that, it all seemed to go downhill.

Nashville began to control much of the play at that point, and the Islanders made some really bad plays that they paid dearly for quite often. Patric Hornqvist scored two goals on the way to the rout, and Dwayne Roloson gave up a couple of weak goals for the first time in quite a while.

The Islanders did get a couple of decent chances on Nashville goalie Anders Lindback, but he was outstanding. He's another big goaltender who played that way and did not look too slow. I'm always amazed at how strong in net the Predators have been in recent history, and they always seem to be able to churn out some solid netminders. For Lindback, it was his 2nd straight shut-out.

Rhett Rakhshani made his NHL debut for this one as the Islanders called him up from Bridgeport in case Matt Moulson was not ready to go after suffering that knee injury in Saturday's game against the Thrashers. He was able to play, but Rhett got into the lineup anyway and played for Trevor Gillies. I thought he looked pretty good, but he's still raw. Obviously, Josh Bailey is nowhere near ready to come back up yet, and if I had it my way he would be down there for quite some time. By some accounts from Bridgeport, while the score sheet looks nice for Bailey, his play away from the puck is still lacking. He's 21 years old and has generally been over matched at the NHL level for the better part of two years now. No need to rush him back just yet. Congrats to Rhett on his first NHL game.

Michael Grabner played only about 10 minutes in this one. I don't understand what's going on there, but it would be nice for someone to ask about that. Perhaps that's a job for me the next time I have the opportunity to. Jesse Joensuu got just a tick under nine minutes. P.A. Parenteau? He got 17. Jon Sim got 15.

Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald both got the A's in addition to the one constant that has had it in James Wisniewski. I found that interesting, but not really odd. The reports on those guys in the locker room are very good, but Nielsen and MacDonald are generally very quiet guys. They have coincidentally been two of the Isles better players this year, so perhaps it is a good way to get a point across to some of the other guys on how the game should be played.

In a not so surprising move, Doug Weight was placed on IR retroactive to November 17th, when he first sat out with back spasms. No word on when the captain will return. My guess? Not anytime soon.

Mark Eaton will miss one to two weeks of action. Here's hoping it's closer to one. Despite the Isles 1-17-3 stretch in their last 21, the team defensive effort is much better with him there than without, as we clearly saw here against Nashville.

That's all I have for tonight, but be sure to check back for any other thoughts making their way into this space.

For those who haven't checked out the latest NYI FYI podcast, feel free to do so here.


December 12, 2010

Quebec Nordiques, Mohawks, Bad Goals, Tavares Fights...Isles Lose

3:42 PM - As promised, we have posted our latest podcast here. We went over a wide variety of topics from the last two weeks since we did not get a chance to get together and record last week. A majority of this podcast is spent talking about news items from the past several days, with some emphasis on the Larry Brooks opinion piece last Sunday and the plight of the Nordiques fans last night.

Enjoy it, and once again, welcome new followers.

9:53 AM - As far as out of the ordinary and compelling are concerned, this game was the most of both as we've seen this season.

As I sit down here to write this, I realize that there are many different angles one can take this from. There was undoubtedly a lot to this game, with a very wide range of emotions that often changed from one minute to the next.

Obviously, the biggest story line of the game was the loyal fans of the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques coming down for the game. As they said in the various different articles written about their plight, they were not in essence here to tell the league that they need to move one of these two teams, rather that they think the league made a big mistake in depriving them of NHL hockey in the first place (and they did). Many of the folks who spoke with Isles fans basically reiterated this, but said that obviously if it came to moving a team they were more interested in the Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers and the Florida Panthers.

The Islanders welcomed the folks from Quebec City by giving them a shout out during one of the intermissions. I know a number of fans took exception to this, but the Islanders knew about this trip, and in essence really had nothing they could do about it. Besides, they were all rooting for the Islanders, starting pro-Isles chants, and it was the loudest and most passionate group of "Isles" fans that have been in there in quite a while.

The Nordiques supporters - all 1,200 of them - were very respectful. I know many Isles fans went in feeling threatened, but came home pleasantly surprised at how things went. Like I said, it added some much needed energy into the building.

Like I said earlier, the Quebec Nordiques never should have left. Perhaps that is the small market fan in me talking, but it seemed like the wrong thing to do. Sean and I have made our feelings known on this both here in this space and on the podcast. In fact, Sean took the time to compare the Nordiques situation to our own here after they had the Blue March in October. I know for me personally, I hope something there works out. Of course, my dream scenario includes the Islanders here in Long Island.

I mentioned that some fans took exception to the Islanders welcoming the fans to the building. While I don't think it was really necessary to do that, I'm not going to go all bonkers on the organization for acknowledging the fact that a good chunk of the crowd was there to make a statement. Besides, when one looks at the Islanders situation, perhaps the organization fed off of the energy from the Quebec fans. This could have been them sort of telling Nassau County "we support this, you better not make us leave." They could have EASILY used this as a threat. Think about it - you have 1,000+ screaming their heads off for a cause they believe in while the Islanders can't seem to make any progress on any type of development, regardless of who you blame.

Meanwhile, former Nordiques goalie and current Islanders GM Garth Snow took the time to address the media ahead of this game. That is something that Isles fans know the GM doesn't do very often. It's on the Islanders home page under a tab titled "Future." Point blank, Snow tells everyone that the Islanders will play until their lease is up and not any longer than they have to. This has been the company line, but Snow has always stepped away from anything regarding the building. Lately, he has been pretty adamant about not playing in the building after 2015. The whole experience is something the Islanders could easily set up to their own benefit when it comes to their situation here.

I will say, however, that both Kate Murray and Charles Wang are to blame for what's going on here as both have been stubborn on several different issues. By many accounts, Murray is willing to discuss things more regarding her counter while Wang wants to hear none of it.

Thanks to those from Quebec. I see that I am getting an unusual amount of traffic from Canada tonight, so a big welcome to those of you who are first time readers. We hope you do stick around and continue reading here in the future as true hockey fans. The Isles fans appreciated how classy you acted tonight, and how you really energized the crowd with your pro-Isles chants. It made the experience a lot more enjoyable than it has been in the last two months.

Meanwhile, fans of the Nordiques, Isles and Thrashers got to see quite the game. It had a little of everything it seems, including the Islanders blowing yet another lead.

Prior to the game, the Islanders decided to do a team bonding exercise in the form of giving everyone on the team mohawks. As Zenon Konopka said on the Twitter video, they feel that they are a tight knit group and wanted to try something to change their luck. It didn't.

The Islanders were actually playing really well until two fluke goals did them in. I can't really describe them because they were the strangest that I've seen, but Rick DiPietro's reaction here pretty much summed up the game nicely.

After the 2nd odd goal, Howie Rose explained that this game could blow the roof off of the Islanders frustrations. On the very next play, that is exactly what happened when John Tavares slashed Alexander Burmistrov across the back to goad him into a fight/wrestling match. Tavares was essentially done for the game, which had just a tick under five minutes remaining. It was certainly a questionable and surprising set of actions from the usually mild mannered Tavares.

The Islanders would try to battle back, getting a goal on the power-play late in the game to cut the Thrashers lead to one. It was their first PP goal in 47 opportunities. By this portion of the third, many of the Quebec fans had moved down behind the Thrashers goal and all you saw was powder blue jerseys with an occasional Isles royal blue mixed in. Their reaction to the Isles goal was pretty neat and generated a lot of noise that in turn made the Islanders buzz, getting some other excellent chances in the final minute plus with DiPietro pulled. Unfortunately, they would fall short.

Like I said, the Islanders had a fairly solid effort until the 3rd, when it all unravelled and collapsed after two bad, weak goals. It was certainly a very fitting end for what ended up becoming a very strange and very odd day.

PODCAST COMING: Sean and I will be returning after our brief hiatus and will record a podcast on Sunday morning. Be sure to check out the podcast site for those of you who are not already subscribed. If you aren't you can do so following the link.


December 10, 2010

Bruins 5, Isles 2; Snow Speaks

The Islanders fell to the Bruins by a score of 5-2 in a game that was rather odd.

The Islanders had some good chances in the first, but not before the Bruins were controlling much of the play. Their first goal was a rather easy one, right off of the face-off. While I understand where James Wisniewski was coming from in complaining to the ref, it is his responsibility to tie up the much bigger Milan Lucic there. A big body like that can't be allowed to muscle his way towards the net from the face-off.

Frans Nielsen had a good game, and has quietly been putting points on the board despite the Isles struggles. I like the fact that the coaching staff has told him to be more offensive-minded. Hopefully, he doesn't let the defensive side of his game stray too far.

I liked Jesse Joensuu on the first line, and hope to see some more of him there. What I didn't like was how he got no power-play time. Michael Grabner didn't get any either, but Blake Comeau still got almost two minutes of time there. A lot of people, myself included wondered if Comeau was next after Capuano pretty much publicly declared that Josh Bailey was a passenger. So far, Bailey has been the only one "penalized" and people who are really struggling and not putting in a complete effort, like Comeau, are still getting rewarded with ice-time. But I suppose this is why I don't get paid to make these decisions.

Rick DiPietro played well aside from that one huge blunder where he successfully cleared the puck right into the mid-section of Brad Marchand. Marchand was able to pick up the puck and easily put it into the empty net.

Speaking of empty nets, while the Isles do give up their fair share of them it is usually hard to put one in, let alone two. That is exactly what happened last night for the Bruins (OK, technically three, but you get the point). When Lucic shot the puck from his own blue line right into the net, it pretty much summed up the game nicely for an Islanders squad that once again started off slow.

The Bruins had a 5-on-3 power-play in the 2nd, and Radek Martinek blocked a Zdeno Chara shot with his left wrist. We all know how hard he can shoot, but try standing five feet in front of him. Martinek, surprisingly, only missed the rest of the period and came back for the next. Given his injury history and how fast you could see that swell up on the telecast, it's a great thing that it appears he won't miss any time. That's the last thing they needed.

Andrew MacDonald had yet another solid game, blocking another four shots. He's not the sexiest player out there, but when he is on the ice the defensive play is so much better than it was in previous weeks. I feel it is necessary to constantly point things like this out.

The Isles did get a lot of shots in on Tuukka Rask, and some of them were tough. He made some nice saves, but not nearly as many tough ones as the should have. Players seem to still be getting a bit fancy out there.

Rask was helped out by John Tavares missing a wide open net in his wheel-house too. Tavares put the puck right off of the side of the net. The play immediately went the other way, where DiPietro made his gaffe. Tavares is still putting up a respectable amount of points, but there have been a few times where a play like this has happened to him. It happened against New Jersey and Johan Hedberg, and Sean made the comment on the podcast that week that those are the chances he needs to bury. This was another one of those.

The power-play, once again, had a weak showing going 0-for-3. That's 41 straight chances with no PPG for those of you counting at home. That 12 game stretch ties the franchise record for the longest streak with no PPG, which was set in the expansion season of 1972-73.

The Isles take on the Atlanta Thrashers in the next game on Saturday night, where more than 1,000 faithful fans are making the trip from...Quebec.

Yes, you read that right. As part of a movement to petition the NHL, many fans of the former Quebec Nordiques have been trying to make some noise to prove that their is still a very loyal fan base and that Gary Bettman was wrong to move them in the first place. Sean also wrote an opinion piece on this back when they had their "Blue March" in October.

GARTH SNOW SPEAKS: General Manager Garth Snow took the time to make an appearance on Islanders TV and answered the fans questions. Much to the surprise of many, a lot of the hard hitters were asked. Snow touched on some and side stepped others, but I appreciate the fact that he came out to give his thoughts and that Chris King asked the questions that many fans wanted to know about.

A couple that stood out for me:

-Kyle Okposo's return is mid to late January. Many of us expected this, but it's the first confirmation from the team. Previously, all we had to go by was Katie Strang's source who said December or January. Mark Streit appears to be returning more towards April.

-In regards to the question of when Snow would admit his hands are tied by the owner, Snow looked into the camera and said he had "no financial constraints." While I agree that it is very hard to get some player personnel business done in the salary cap era of the NHL, I don't completely believe that he has the free reign he has now twice told us he has this season. Anyone who has had their finger on the pulse of this team the last three years saw that. It will be interesting to see who exactly would be available for trade as Snow said he will not trade any of the younger players.

Guys like Trent Hunter or Bruno Gervais have little to no value. Guys like John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo will not and should not be dealt. I would try and see what you could get for someone like Comeau, but I think that Snow considers him to be a "crucial" part to the rebuild. Ditto for waiver wire acquisitions Grabner and Rob Schremp. Some of these guys will be a part of the core, while others won't. If Snow is serious about making this team a contender, part of that will be determining which of these guys can be expendable before their value goes low, while some other teams might value them a little more in a different situation perhaps better suited for them.

-The Lighthouse project is something that has no bearing on his job. This I would agree 100% with. It is not his business to worry about this, but only Charles Wang's.

I'm sure that the interview will make it's way onto ITV, so be sure to check it out. It's only 15 minutes or so, and they will be doing another one like it. Good stuff.


December 9, 2010

Hamonic Focusing on Short Term, For Now

When the Islanders went through injury problems on defense the latest call up was one of their top young defensemen, Travis Hamonic. Originally placed near the lower end of the depth chart after the preseason, Hamonic continues to make a name for himself.

The Islanders recently got Andrew MacDonald and Jack Hillen back from their injuries. MacDonald, when in the line-up has been one of the Isles best defensemen this season.

Despite the returning blue liners, Hamonic did not get sent down to Bridgeport. Instead, he remained in the line-up, leaving Bruno Gervais and Dylan Reese as the scratches. This obviously sent a strong message to Hamonic about how he has played.

"It's something I'm thankful and grateful for. I feel, especially in the last two or three games, that I've come a long way and the coaching staff keeps rewarding me with ice time, which is nice."

Nice is one way for him to describe it. From watching where I'm sitting though, I find myself pleasantly surprised at how quickly the 20 year old has progressed since the Islanders took him late in the 2nd round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Hamonic grew up in the small town of St. Malo in Manitoba, where he and his three siblings had to deal with the loss of their father at an early age. The anniversary was 10 years ago this past September.

Hamonic was always thought of to be an excellent shut down defenseman, but didn't receive a lot of accolades early on. It wasn't until the defensive side of his game was more established and his offensive game came around when he got some more recognition.

After putting up a couple of solid seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, Hamonic took off for his last two in the league, scoring 88 points in 98 games split between Moose Jaw and the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Hamonic put himself on the map after making Team Canada for the 2009-2010 World Junior Championships, where he was one of the top defensemen along with Isles prospect Calvin de Haan, and brought home a silver medal. Then, in the Memorial Cup this past spring, after battling a lengthy shoulder injury suffered during that WJC, Hamonic would be recognized as one of the top players in the tournament after notching four goals and 11 points in 11 games.

Now, after transitioning to the pro's for just 19 games with the AHL Sound Tigers, Hamonic finds himself getting 20 minutes a night with the big club.

"I have had the opportunity to play with some pretty good defenseman here like MacDonald the last couple of games, James Wisniewski my first two and Mark Eaton also."

There are a number of things that have factored in to this fast transition. However, Hamonic attributes the bulk of it to the veterans on the back end. "All the d-men here really know how to make me feel at home, and comfortable. They have really helped me out."

For those who have watched the games he's played in, it's very note worthy that he is already getting significant minutes on the power-play and penalty kill. As one of the new comers to a power-play unit that has not scored in their last 38 chances, I wondered if Hamonic saw something that was wrong and attributing to the struggles. He hasn't.

"I don't think we're struggling," he explained to me. "Maybe we're not putting the puck on net as much but we're definitely getting our chances. Breaks will come. We just need to continue working hard."

I'll agree to disagree with Hamonic there, but I will say that I really like the optimism from him. He's no stranger to getting captains letters stitched to his sweater, and if he continues to develop this way he will have one for the Islanders in the future.

Although he is thrilled for this current opportunity, Hamonic is taking a very realistic approach to it all.

"I'm happy about it but I just have to make sure I keep working day in and day out."

He adds, "I can't look too far ahead in this situation."

That is a key lesson that many of the players on the team can live by, especially at a time like now. Having lost 17 of their last 18 games, it doesn't get any easier.

The Islanders take on the Bruins tonight in Boston. The good news is that Tuukka Rask is getting the nod over come-back player of the year candidate Tim Thomas, who has been absolutely amazing in net.

Marc Savard has returned for the Bruins, now healthy. Nathan Horton looks like a different player than he one we saw in Florida. Milan Lucic has put together a string of nice games over the past couple of weeks.

Hamonic, starting goalie Rick DiPietro and the rest of the Isles will have their hands full tonight.

December 7, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts

I wanted to give you all an update on our status for the podcast this week.

As some of you may have seen in the post from the press box after Sunday's game, we were unable to get together to do the show due to some prior commitments. The plan was to do the show in the morning, but then we found out that I was going to be covering it so we put that on hold for now.

Many of you who listen know Sean does stuff with WBLI, and they recently lost a couple of people in the same week meaning that others have to pick up the slack. Sean is not exempt from this.

The end of the week we may be able to try and do something, but we're trying to figure out if it's worth it to do that or just wait until Sunday. Once we figure that out for sure, we'll let you guys know.
In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with some quick hit thoughts from the past week, as well as some observations from the Coliseum rafters on Sunday. Some of these appeared during my live Twitter updates from the game, but for those of you who were unable to follow then here's your chance.

I tend to be very forgetful, even when I write stuff down in my notebook, so this seemed like a good way to do that. Obviously, I'll save some of the juicy details for when we record the show since Sean is chomping at the bit to get his two cents in on these topics as well.

So in no particular order, here are some points I want to hit on:

-Worth noting: James Wisniewski has seen his ice time get cut down significantly, from 23 minutes on Thursday to just over 17 by Sunday. He didn't have a banner week, and a lot of deficiencies were exposed (watch the Marian Gaborik or Danny Briere winning goals).

-Heard in the Coliseum press box Sunday, from a member of the mainstream media: "The Isles are starting to look like the Blackhawks under Bill Wirtz."

-On Tuesday, Jack Capuano had Jesse Joensuu on the wing with Matt Moulson and John Tavares. I have wanted Joensuu up there for a while now. Good to see.

-In the game Sunday, P.A. Parenteau saw himself get demoted off of that first line to the 3rd. He remained there for Tuesday's practice. He got just over 13 minutes of ice time Sunday.

-After said practice, which was about two hours long, Capuano was asked what he thought about it: "I Thought it was good. There was a lot of shooting and passing. We want to have a little of that going on." Interesting concept coach. This is not a knock on Capuano, but this quote and the one he gave when asked about Doug Weight coaching the power-play ("I can use all the help I can get") has raised some eyebrows. Watch the next time the team calls a time out or something is being discussed during a quick stoppage. You'll notice Scott Allen is the one who does most, if not all of the talking. So why isn't Allen the interim coach then? Good question.

-Josh Bailey had a strong weekend down in Bridgeport after somewhat of a slow start down there. One of my Blog Box buddies wondered when Bailey could "come back home." The correct answer to that should be not anytime soon. For those that have watched from the beginning of the year, we saw how lost the kid was. He's 21 and to look as bad as he did is somewhat alarming. Let him take his time and get back on his feet and prove himself for much more than a five game sample in the AHL.

-After it was confirmed that Bailey was one of the "passengers" Capuano called out after the game against Florida, I looked in Blake Comeau's direction and said "you're next." Nothing dramatic has happened to him just yet, but that effort against Philly left a lot to be desired (see the play in the waining seconds with the Isles net empty). I think his clock is ticking a bit.

-While it hasn't translated into any wins yet, it is no coincidence that the Isles have had some of their better overall defensive performances since Andrew MacDonald returned to the lineup. At the time of his injury, MacDonald was leading the team in blocked shots. He looked solid against Philly, and led the game with six.

-Former Isles captain Bill Guerin announced his retirement on Monday. While I never got the chance to be a part of the Blog Box and interview him when he was here, I always appreciated reading comments from him. The team fell on some tough times when he was here, and he always told it like it was and held people accountable. He was always one of my favorite players in the NHL, and I was thrilled to be able to watch him for a season and a half here. I wish him luck, and look forward to seeing him in another capacity in hockey be it here, in Pittsburgh or New Jersey.

-Tavares looks a little lost too. On one of the Isles power-plays against Philly, he had a great chance for a one timer but hesitated, which led to an easy save. He's not the only one guilty of this, especially with the man advantage, but when someone is supposed to be so deadly offensively it is a cause of concern.

-Speaking of the power-play, on Sunday Frans Nielsen was playing the point for the first unit. Both Mark Eaton and Travis Hamonic saw some time on the second. It seems as though Capuano may start to tinker with the power-play lines, from the blue line in.

-On Monday, there were a couple of articles written about the Isles. They are not of a positive nature. Larry Brooks calls for the Commissioner to get involved with the operations of the Isles, while Kevin Schultz picks on some of the points Brooks brings up but seems to agree with the whole general idea.

I will save my detailed thoughts on the subject for the next podcast. However, I will say this. I liked a lot of what was in both articles. I do feel that both are very fact driven. I know very few folks took exception to Brook's article, however he uses that unique style of writing of his to convey his points. It is meant to sound a bit condescending. My basic point: I appreciate Mr. Wang buying the team in 2000. But I can't continue to give someone the benefit of the doubt because they did something for me 10 years ago. Sooner or later, something has to give and some things are going to have to be talked about, just as it was promised to us on media day.

-Kyle Okposo has finally started skating with equipment. Sean said to me he has a problem with him coming back early just to create some excitement. However, we really don't know if it's early or not. The team never came out and said anything aside from "out indefinitely" and Katie Strang reported the December-January return time table. So it would appear he's on track, and not rushing. Milan Jurcina has started skating with equipment as well. It will be nice to get yet another good shot blocker back. He was really playing well when he went down.

-Radek Martinek was named the Isles player of the month for November. He had a good month, with five points and a lot of solid defensive play. One could have made a strong case for Dwayne Roloson, though.

Speaking of Roloson, the Islanders once again failed to give him any offensive support in his last start. It is quite astounding that a guy with such a good GAA and save percentage could have such an awful record. If things don't change, and the trade deadline day approaches with teams calling about Roloson, the classy thing for the Isles to do would be to deal him to a true contender, no matter the return. I have been nothing but impressed by Roloson on and off the ice. No matter the record, no matter the score he is giving it his all. On many of the days where he is the back-up for DiPietro, he is always caught on camera giving a lesson to a young defenseman or two. If something comes up where Roloson can find himself in a better situation at the tail end of his career, the Isles must do it.

So that covers most of the important stuff. As time goes on, some things will be talked about in greater detail, but this was meant to be a quick-hit list of statements and observations more than anything.

Expect a small feature on Hamonic to come next.


December 5, 2010

Isles Drop Tough One to Flyers

4:52 PM - The Islanders lost their 3rd straight game as the Flyers pulled off a comeback, winning 3-2.

For much of the early going of the game, it was pretty even. The Islanders looked very hesitant to play more of an uptempo offensive game, often hanging back in order to prevent the skilled Flyers team from getting any easy chances.

The Flyers would end up scoring in the 1st period. Matt Carle took the puck below the goal line off to Dwayne Roloson's right, threw the puck towards the net and it trickled in. The original scoring there was that it was Jeff Carter's goal, but that was later changed by the second period. The Islanders were only able to register four shots on net in the period to answer the Flyers eight.

The second period provided some more offensive chances for both teams, but no one was able to score. The Islanders had a huge power-play opportunity, which became a 5-on-3 for 28 seconds. They failed to score on it and the struggles continued.

Despite the struggles, rookie defenseman Travis Hamonic seemed optimistic that the Isles power-play, now scoreless on their last 35 chances, will come around. "I think we're generating some chances. It's one thing to be worried about if you're not getting your opportunities, but we're getting them and things are going to break for us."

The 3rd period prooved to be a bit of a whild one when P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen scored 36 seconds apart to give the Isles a 2-1 lead.

Radek Martinek skated into the zone, and dropped the puck back to Rob Schremp who made a nice cross-ice feed to Parenteau for the one-timer goal. Parenteau has come under fire from many Islanders fans for his often missed chances at shooting the puck off a pass, but he got all of this one.

Nielsen came in on the right wing and took a quick shot at Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky that trickled in. There was a bit of a delay after that because they had to be sure the referee did not blow the whistle on Bobrovsky's initial save.

Matt Moulson took an offensive zone penalty, which lead to a Flyers goal by Andreas Nodl which tied the game at two. Andrew MacDonald, who made two blocks on the play, had the 2nd one just get by him and Hamonic didn't see Nodl blow by him originally. It made for a rather easy chip-in.

Shortly after that, Danny Briere would receive a nice pass in the slot from Ville Leino to give the the Flyers a lead and ultimately, the win.

Parenteau was very upset with the way the team started, and even told me as much in the post game.

"It was embarrassing in the first. I don't know if it was the 1 PM start or not, but after that we came out to play."

"It was a lot of the same things," interim Head Coach Jack Capuano said after the game. "Two things went wrong - we made some bad decisions, and we didn't get the pucks deeper when we could have."

"We have to find ways to win again. Losing is unacceptable."

"It seems like the same story over and over," Nielsen said. "We lost on the special teams again."

The Isles will once again go back to the drawing board and try and figure some things out. Their have their next chance on Thursday when they go on the road to face the Boston Bruins.

PODCAST UPDATE: As many of you already know by now, Sean and I usually record our podcast's on Sundays. Obviously since I was in the press box for the game and Sean had a commitment in the evening, we have to put this one on hold for now. Once we come up with the day for it to be recorded, we'll let you guys know. But for now, just hold tight and don't be alarmed when you don't see anything new to download.


December 4, 2010

Rangers Sweep Home and Home Against Islanders

The Islanders and Rangers played a much different game than the one they played Thursday night. While that one may have had more of a pond hockey feel to it, this one was purely defensive for both teams.

The Rangers out shot the Islanders 20-17. The lone puck that beat a goaltender was when Marc Staal's shot from the point got through three Isles on a power-play for the Rangers. Brian Boyle would add an empty netter to give the Rangers a 2-0 win.

After the Thursday night game, I didn't really bother to go into much detail about the defensive play since the game was pure offense all around. Friday, with the Islanders offense non-existent and the Rangers offense almost non-existent, the only details to point out are really only on the defensive end.

While Thursday's game was not a banner game for many of the Isles blue-liners, Friday's game was a little bit of a different story.

Two of the Islanders biggest culprits of poor play in the first go around were Mark Eaton and Radek Martinek. I felt both of them were the most solid Friday. It was quite a change from a day ago, but a very welcome sight indeed.

Eaton did a lot of what he does best - block shots. He finished the game with four registered blocks. Throughout the night, especially on the penalty kill you could see him using his stick and making some nice poke checks and stick checks.

Martinek blocked a good amount of shots too, and got more involved with the offense. He had a couple of nice shots and even made a little toe drag move on an offensive rush. The speed he showed there was something that I don't recall seeing before.

Travis Hamonic played well once again, while his defensive partner Andrew MacDonald threw some nice checks and looked very smooth again. It's not taking him very long to get back into the swing of things.

Once again, you can't say enough about Dwayne Roloson. He was solid once again, and made a few spectacular saves.

As far as the offense goes, the Islanders had some chances to get pucks towards the net and quite simply they did not. They hold on to the puck, and take too long to make decisions. When they are going on an offensive rush, there is way too much East-West movement, giving the opposing team the chance to get back in. I understand wanting to have strength in numbers, but there are some times where you can wait for your teammates to come back into the play. Sometimes, the puck carrier has to go in by himself, get the puck in deep and go from there.

Frans Nielsen got hit in the head by an elbow from Ryan Callahan, and while he did not get injured it was still a penalty. It was the right call by the refs, and the right move for Jesse Joensuu to go after him. Joensuu is no fighter, and Callahan is much tougher than he is. I give a lot of credit to Joensuu for going after him, even if it cost him 19 minutes in penalties.

Now the Isles will turn their attention to Sunday, where they will turn their attention to the Philadelphia Flyers as they return home.


December 2, 2010

Rangers 6, Islanders 5

Given the way the game started, if anyone told me that in the middle of the 2nd period that it would turn out to be a game of pond hockey, I would have laughed.

But that is exactly what happened.

A total of 11 goals were scored as the Rangers defeated the Islanders 6-5. For the Islanders, it was the first time they scored more than four goals since October 16th when they beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

There literally was not much defensively in this game from either side. It seemed that no one wanted the lead.

What was one of the more encouraging items from this game, believe it or not, was that the Islanders twice erased two goal deficits. Considering how many times this team put pucks in the net over the past month (not many) the offensive outburst was great to see.

What wasn't great for the Isles however was Marian Gaborik's hat trick. Gaborik has been in and out of the Rangers line-up all season, so for him to be able to come up huge is a big story for the Rangers. They will hope that he can use this momentum and add to the scoring of Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.

The Islanders goals came from Zenon Konopka, Matt Moulson, Rob Schremp, Michael Grabner and Blake Comeau.

Obviously, Comeau is the least surprising name on that list given how well he always plays against the Rangers. It was great to see him get the goal to tie the game up at five though. Despite the loss, here's hoping that big goal gives him the momentum to get back on the track he was on early in the season.

Grabner scored his goal on a tip-in off of a shot by Radek Martinek, but he played so well throughout the night. It's been really nice to see him perform as well as he has. He and Moulson have really been the Islanders two best forwards over the past month.

The Islanders only had one power-play chance tonight, and they failed to convert on it. It was the first chance since the injured Doug Weight coached the units. The movement was slightly better, and shots came from area's we hadn't really seen. When the Isles get more chances, hopefully we can have a better sample size and see if it truly will pay dividends.

Rick DiPietro let in some soft goals in my opinion. I don't solely blame anyone for the loss because it was one of those games where both teams let things get away from them, but he'll have to be a bit better. However, like I mentioned before, the defense did leave a lot to be desired tonight, and in fairness that shouldn't go unnoticed.

In his post game press conference, Jack Capuano stated that Dwayne Roloson will go tomorrow night in MSG. That's the right move here.

For those of you who followed on Twitter, you may have remembered me questioning John Tortorella's decision to swap Martin Biron for Henrik Lundqvist after Schremp's goal. It turned out that it was a good move and the Rangers stormed back to get a 5-3 lead. Even though they coughed it up, for quite some time that move really turned the game around, and it wasn't even due to Lundqvist. It was a while before he was really tested with anything tough. It was more just the Rangers responding, realizing how poorly they were playing after grabbing a 2-0 lead.

I would expect many of the same players to be in for round two tomorrow night. Both Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin got into fights, and given the nature of this game you can bet tomorrow will be an equally as fun re-match.


Islanders Begin Home-and-Home with Rangers

After five off days, the Islanders finally get back in action tonight as they take on the New York Rangers.

Andrew MacDonald and Jack Hillen have been taken off of IR, and MacDonald will definitely be in the line-up tonight. Hillen and Bruno Gervais are the healthy scratches, meaning both Dylan Reese and Travis Hamonic are playing.

Doug Weight remains out with the back spasms. He has spent the last two days helping out to coach the power-play. There is something to be said for that, but I'll save that for the coaching candidates post that will hopefully come soon.

Rick DiPietro gets his 4th straight start in net, and he deserves it. However, part of me wanted to split this home and home up and have DP go in MSG, where he seems to always play very well. Jack Capuano is riding the hot hand for however long. If DP plays well once again tonight, then he most likely will get Friday's game at MSG too.

Matrin Biron gets the start for the Rangers against his former team. Biron has become an Islanders killer over the years, so this is not good news for the blue and orange. He has looked strong this year.

The Rangers provide a tough test for the Islanders despite some of their scoring problems. Their defense has surprisingly been one of the best in the league, leading the way in blocked shots. Marian Gaborik has been in and out of the lineup with some injuries, which is one of the main reasons for the scoring issues. Both Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan have picked up a lot of the slack this season, and both always play very well against the Islanders. They will surely be ones to watch.

From the Islanders side, Blake Comeau always has excellent performances against the Rangers, and I would expect this to be a two day outburst from him. Will it last longer that these two games though? One would like to think so, considering he only has one point in his last 10 games. But at the same time, we have seen this act many times before. We can only hope that this serves as a wake-up call for him. If practice lines from yesterday are any indication, Comeau will be on the third line tonight with  Rob Schremp and Jesse Joensuu.

Trevor Gillies most likely will find his way back into the line-up tonight seeing as it will be an intense game. The Rangers are angry from losing their last game to the Penguins, where Sidney Crosby had his alleged "slew foot." I would expect this one to get chippy.

Get ready for a fun one.