December 30, 2011

Isles, Nabokov Snap Funk to End Calgary's Streak

The Calgary Flames entered Thursday night's game with a four game winning streak. Meanwhile, the Islanders went in on a three game losing streak, with two of those losses coming at the hands of their rivals from New York City. One thing that the Islanders did have going for them was the fact that this was a Western Conference opponent.

At this rate, the Islanders may want to petition the league to have them play in one of the Western conferences when relocation happens next season.

December 27, 2011

Isles Sleepwalk at MSG

The Islanders had a shot at redemption on Monday night against the New York Rangers, but ended up failing in their attempt.

Neither team got a lot of shots in early, but the Islanders looked disinterested and disoriented at various point of the game. They really could have done themselves a favor and taken advantage early on as the Rangers tried to find their game, but they didn't.

December 24, 2011

Isles Comeback Falls Short as Refs Make Questionable Calls

The Islanders got off to one of the slower starts that we've seen in the last few weeks. A minute and a half into the game, Clarke MacArthur went wide around the Islanders defensive zone coverage and lifted a shot over Evgeni Nabokov's right shoulder. A few more rushes like that and it was 2-0 before you knew it. It looked like it was going to be a long night on the Island.

December 23, 2011

Isles Can't Sustain Momentum against Rangers

Any time the Islanders and Rangers get together, you sort of know what to expect. A good effort from both teams, with each alternating momentum and a close score.

Thursday night was already different right off the bat, however, as Henrik Lundqvist sat in favor of Martin Biron. It was the fist time in the past 16 contests against the Rangers that the Islanders would not face the star net minder.

December 21, 2011

Isles First Trip to New Winnipeg A Success

The Islanders made their first trip to Winnipeg since 1996, and it turned out well for them, and better than I actually expected it to.

Both teams came out pretty strong offensively for the beginning of the game, with neither looking too strong on defense.

December 16, 2011

Isles Lose as Injuries Mount

The Islanders dropped yet another game, this time to the Dallas Stars. The losses are once again piling up as injuries continue to mount, and the Islanders are in danger of going through another loosing streak.

The sparse crowd was not treated to a very strong Islanders effort, and certainly not anything like the 5-4 heart pumper these two played the last time they met, in Dallas.

December 9, 2011

From The Checking Line: Isles Fight Back to Grab Point Against Blackhawks

Read the post game report from the Islanders-Blackhawks game on the new Islanders edition of The Checking Line. Be sure you're following myself and the other Isles writers there on Twitter (and follow the main page for coverage of the 29 other teams). Also, become a fan of the Isles TCL sub-site on Facebook.

More to come.


December 4, 2011

December 3, 2011

Isles Come Up Just Short on Blackhawks

Last season when the Islanders came into the United Center to face the Blackhawks it didn't go over so well. Corey Crawford was sharp on the way to a 5-0 win for Chicago. Friday night was a bit of a different story. With Crawford struggling at this point in the season, the Islanders seemed to have a new game plan: shoot early and often on him.

November 29, 2011

The Future of The Podcasts

Hey all,

On Sunday, Chris and I attempted to upload the podcast as soon as we wrapped up the show. As you all know by now, the podcast is always uploaded immediately after the end of the live show. When we could not connect to, we didn't think much of it. We figured the website was down for maintenance and would be up and running shortly there after. The day went by, and the site did not return.

November 27, 2011

Islanders Get Revenge on Devils; NYI FYI at 10 AM Sunday

The Islanders stuck to the basics and made some changes after getting shut out 1-0 on Friday afternoon. The slight changes they did make resulted in a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils about 24 hours later.

November 26, 2011

Comeau Claimed on Waivers by Calgary

For the last few weeks, Jack Capuano has publicly warned his team that if some of them didn't start to perform, actions would be taken. It started with simple, yet necessary scratches. Now, changes will involve eliminating players from the roster all together.

Isles Shutout by Devils

There is quite an alarming theme going on with some of the Islanders home games this season. It seems every time they get a fairly large crowd, they put a goose egg up on the scoreboard.

November 22, 2011

Sid Puts on a Show Against Isles

The Islanders held Sidney Crosby off as long as they could: Five minutes and twenty-four seconds.

Crosby opened the scoring of the game, slaloming through Marty Reasoner, Jay Pandolfo and Travis Hamonic and driving around Andrew MacDonald with ease before lifting a backhand shot over a sprawled out Anders Nilsson.

November 20, 2011

Islanders Have Embarrassing Effort on Westfall Night; NYI FYI Sunday

On a night when the Islanders honored Eddie Westfall, the first captain in team history, they played like they were waiting around for him to step out onto the ice.

Of course, Westfall also scored the first goal in team history. The Islanders couldn't even score a goal in this game.

November 19, 2011

Nabokov, Montoya Hurt; Nilsson Called Up

A week ago at this time, we were all lamenting that fact that the Islanders had too many goalies. Today, it seems like they can't get enough.

The Islanders tried to solve part of their log jam on Monday when they announced they were loaning Mikko Koskinen to KalPa of the SM-Liiga.

November 18, 2011

Isles Withstand Late Surge by Montreal

When you go to the net, good things happen. Ditto for hustling to loose pucks.

The Islanders had a good grasp of this concept on Thursday night against Montreal. Three of their four goals were scored by either crashing the net or winning battles for loose pucks.

November 16, 2011

Third Jersey: Back in Black

The Islanders introduced a new third jersey on Wednesday night, and at the same time introduced a couple of new colors not seen on any previous Isles jersey (aside from certain variations of practice ones, of course).

Isles Come Back Twice, Not a Third Time Against Rangers

Tuesday night's installment of Islanders-Rangers was a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Rangers were coming off their sixth straight victory, while the Islanders had lost nine of their last 10 and had a pretty poor effort in Vancouver.

Jack Capuano said that he was unhappy with the effort some individuals put in that game, and that he would have to adjust accordingly. When asked about Nino Niederreiter coming up, he quipped that he wished two others were coming up with him.

November 14, 2011

Isles Fall to Canucks; El Nino Returns

The Islanders dropped their rare Sunday night game 4-1 to the Canucks as Evgeni Nabokov was tested early and often.

It seems that no Isles goalie can be tested early enough though as Nabokov gave up a goal 1:57 seconds into the game, on a shot by Aaron Rome. It was a bit of a defensive breakdown in front of Nabokov, and would be a sign of things to come for the Islanders.

November 11, 2011

Isles Blow Three Goal Lead in Colorado

Things were looking so good for the Islanders for so long. As the end of the second period came though, you could sense a change in direction coming. The Avalanche peppered the Isles with 18 shots in the second, with one finally getting in near the end of the period. That would be the beginning of the end.

November 7, 2011

Road woes Continue for Isles

The Islanders remained winless on the road this season as they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

You can chalk this one up to a poor defense, which is actually a rare occurrence for this season so far. They were exposed on so many different Bruins rushes, both forwards and defensemen.

November 6, 2011

Winless Streak Ends at Six

As the losses mounted, Islanders fans began to enter into panic mode, hoping that Jack Capuano would shuffle around some of the lines. He didn't do it when many had hoped, but he finally caved Saturday night.

Even though they still looked out of sync at times, and the passing still wasn't great, the lines clicked and gave the Isles a come from behind 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals.

November 5, 2011

Big Changes from Capuano as Lines Shuffled

Remember, remember the 5th of the day Jack Capuano blew up the lines. Of course, that's what anyone should do when their team is only averaging 1.8 goals per game through their first 10 games and is mired in a six-game winless streak.

October 26, 2011

Scoring Woes Continue as Isles Blanked

When you look at the way the Pittsburgh Penguins have been playing, particularly without their two biggest stars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you knew that this was going to be a really tough game.

Marc-Andre Fleury, often an after thought when naming the Penguins stars was brilliant, made some nice saves, but also saw some not-so-great shots from the Isles. Malkin looked like he never missed a beat.

October 23, 2011

Lack of Secondary Scoring a Problem Again; Tune into NYI FYI Sunday at 11 AM

The Islanders lack of secondary scoring has cost them yet another game as the Islanders fell to the Panthers for the second time in six games this season.

The Isles had only taken 10 shots through two periods, before getting some powerplay chances in the 3rd and getting 18 in the final frame. John Tavares had seven shots. Blake Comeau once again had none, while Kyle Okposo only managed one. Tavares would finish with a goal and an assist.

October 20, 2011

Bolts get Revenge on Isles

Somewhere deep down, I think we all realized we didn't see the real Tampa Bay Lightning last week, even if their defense is a bit weak on paper.

On Thursday night, the Lightning showed us why they still are one of the top teams in the East with their offense. Ryan Malone, Vincent Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos all scored to lead the Lightning to victory.

October 16, 2011

Tavares Gets 3rd Career Hat Trick to Down Rangers; NYI FYI Sunday at 11 AM

This weekend, it's John Tavares's world and we're just living in it.

Tavares was outstanding once again, and followed up a two goal, two assist performance on Thursday night with a three goal, four point night against the Rangers as the Islanders continued their fast start.

October 14, 2011

Tavares, Isles Shine and Chase Roloson

John Tavares was probably the Isles most consistent forward through the first two games of the season. On Thursday night against Dwayne Roloson and the Tampa Bay Lightning, he scored enough points to make up for not having any through those games.

Tavares scored two goals and two assists as the Isles went on to beat the Lightning 5-1. Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau and Michael Grabner scored the others.

October 11, 2011

Isles Beat Wild, Unsatisfied with Effort

The Islanders were able to eek out a win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday, during their annual Columbus Day Matinee game. The mascots were out in full force as well, as it was also the Isles annual "Kids Opening Day."

The Isles opened the game putting on a good show for the fans, and after the first period led 2-0 and had a shot advantage of 10-2. All seemed to be going well.

October 9, 2011

Isles Blanked in Opener; NYI FYI Radio Show Returns

The Islanders had an excellent chance to make a statement to their fans, and start the season off in a huge way. Billed all offseason as a different team with different goals and a core that's committed through at least 2016, the excitement was palpable from the moment the Isles came on for warm-ups before the game.

Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.

October 8, 2011

Opening Night is Here; NYI FYI Radio Show Returns Sunday!

Welcome to opening day! In just a few hours, the 40th season of New York Islanders hockey will be underway as they take on the Florida Panthers. We've made it this far, now we just have to wait a little longer.

October 5, 2011

Isles Finalize Roster

The NHL deadline for teams to file their final rosters passed at 3 PM on Wednesday with the season set to open on Thursday.

From the Isles press release, the roster is as follows:

Pandolfo Gets a Spot, Strome Signs ELC as Roster Takes Shape

The Islanders had two major contract announcements during the afternoon drive on Tuesday regarding both Jay Pandolfo and Ryan Strome.

Pandolfo had been in camp with the Isles on an invite, hoping to get a spot on the team after being bought out by the Devils after the 2009-2010 season. Pandolfo didn't look like himself after suffering a separated right shoulder and the Devils decided it was best to move on.

September 27, 2011

Steve Staios Hopeful to Make Team

When training camps rolled around in the middle of September, defenseman Steve Staios found himself in a very unfamiliar situation. For the first time in his 15 year NHL career, he didn't have a contract.

While many players have a hard time accepting the inevitable fate near the end of their careers, Staios has embraced it. He agreed to come to camp with the New York Islanders on a try-out basis.

September 25, 2011

Preseason Game 2: Devils 2, Islanders 6

The Islanders dressed a much more veteran line-up on Saturday night against the Devils than the night prior in Boston, and it paid off in a big fashion as the Islanders defeated their Atlantic Division rivals 6-2.

The story of the game was Mark Streit. Playing his first NHL game since April 2010 after missing all of last season with a severe shoulder injury, the defenseman lead the Islanders to a win with a goal and two assists. His performance earned him the first star of the game.

Mark Streit provided his usual offence. Photo by C. Hessel
The Islanders won this game thanks to their power-play, one that struggled at times last season with Streit absent. The defensive effort was pretty good too, despite the Devils resting many of their regulars. Streit made some good break ups, and did it all cleanly. The return of the newly named captain will provide a good jolt to the defensive unit.

As far as the forwards go, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner all looked like their normal selves. Grabner used his speed to create fast breaks. Tavares looked like he worked on his skating a bit and made some really nice passes. Nielsen and Tavares, along with Matt Moulson all were on the same powerplay line that created some nice chances and a couple of goals to boot.

Nielsen told me after the game that while the effort was good, their timing is a bit off but that's why they play preseason games. To be honest, if their timing was off it was only by a little bit. It's great that with a limited preseason schedule, they are already at that level. The offense will definitely be fun to watch again this season.

Al Montoya got the start and was replaced in the middle of the 2nd period by Kevin Poulin. Poulin looked the better of the two, but they each had a couple of missteps here and there that didn't really cost the Islanders. But, we'd have to see that improve because those mistakes will be cashed in by the likes of the Sidney Crosby's and Ilya Kovalchuk's of the division. Montoya had to scramble a couple of times, perhaps from going down too soon. But this is when a goalie works on their timing, and the fact that both made it work out despite making an occasional mistake here and there is a good way to start.

Defensively, the effort was good too. Mark Eaton got caught a couple of times, but he played in his first game since December. Travis Hamonic had a strong showing, and looked even better on offense than last season. He'll obviously look to take on a more offensive role this season as he'll likely be on one of the powerplay units and may even be on the first pairing with Streit. Good to see him start off on a good note.

Other guys who impressed me on defense are Steve Staios and Aaron Ness. Staios was very steady, and made up a good pairing with Streit. It allowed Streit to play his game as the two were good compliments to one another. At this point, something would have to go terribly wrong for Staios to not get a contract from the team. Ness showed good speed, and played his usual high risk game. However, he was very sure not to get caught out of position and used that speed to get back if need be. He's fast enough that he was able to spring ahead of an opposing forward before turning around to skate backwards and get into defense mode. There is definitely some workable talent there, and he'll have a chance to do great things in Bridgeport this season with Mark Katic likely out for the year.

The Isles have a couple of days off now before their game against the Calgary Flames, on Tuesday night.


September 24, 2011

Isles Come Home to Face Devils; Blood Drive Scheduled

The New Jersey Devils, coming off of a 4-3 preseason loss to the New York Rangers arrive at the Nassau Coliseum to take on the Islanders. It's the Isles only true home preseason game on the Island.

According to the Isles website, the lines are as follows:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Nino Niederreiter
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Jay Pandolfo - Ryan Strome - Tim Wallace
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Trevor Gillies

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
Aaron Ness - Travis Hamonic

Al Montoya
Kevin Poulin

Pandolfo appears to get a bit of an upgrade in linemates, and for good reason. His showing on Friday night with Trevor Frischmon and Jeremy Colliton (until the latter left with an injury) was pretty strong and warrants more of a look.

Steve Staios, who wore an 'A' on his jersey Friday night in Boston returns to action as Mark Streit's partner on the top pairing. Thats another guy to keep an eye on.

Ryan Strome will be playing his first professional game (sort of, I guess) against a decent NHL line-up. We've seen already what he can do against other prospects both in the orgianization and abroad, but now we'll get to see him against NHL players. He's hoping to stick, even if it's only for nine games. A strong performance Saturday night can go a long way in helping him make the case for that.

BLOOD DRIVE: The Islanders and the American Red Cross are teaming up for a blood drive before the game. Fans who wish to participate can donate blood at any time from 12 noon up until game time at the Coliseum. There is an effort to help replenish the blood supply, which is rather depleted. According to the Red Cross, Hurricane Irene cancelled close to 150 blood drives, causing this sudden drop in levels across blood banks.

It's always good to help out those in need, and this is no different. If you are able to do so, it's highly encouraged that you participate. The first 200 people who participate will receive two vouchers to a future Isles home game. Those who donate and are also attending Saturday night's preseason game will be entered into a raffle to "high five" the players as they come out to the ice.

For more info, check out the Isles press release on the blood drive and remember to do a good deed that can go a long way for others.


Preseason Game 1: Isles 3, Bruins 6

The Islanders finally got their preseason schedule underway Friday night in Boston, falling 6-3 to the defending champion Boston Bruins.

What you really need to know for the game? Trevor Frischmon and Jay Pandolfo got significant minutes. So for those lamenting the final score and slagging on anything you can possibly think of, my recommendation is you tone it down - especially in the preseason. Save it for when the real thing starts.

The only thing I can really gripe about, in my opinion, is the play of Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau. Neither of them looked particularly great, and the floated a lot. The only thing I will say for Bailey is that he was good on faceoffs. If he can keep that up, it can only help as gaining control of the puck can help him put more points on the board. It seems that every season preview done on the Isles, Bailey is listed as a wild card or a player to watch. He needs to step up a bit from what he's done in past years.

Guys like P.A. Parenteau I wasn't worried about, and he looked fine once again. He did a good job to carry the puck into the zone, and use his speed to try and force defensemen to the wall.

I know earlier I made the crack about Frischmon and Pandolfo, but I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Both looked fantastic on the forecheck and Frischmon was able to add a goal.

Dylan Reese looked good too, putting a couple of pucks past Tim Thomas. He reminded us why he's a good option to have as one of the top guys down in Bridgeport and for depth up at the NHL level. He's not afraid to pinch and can play a two-way game.

Ty Wishart on the other hand didn't look too good, and it goes beyond him fanning and falling on that gift wrapped one-time opportunity. He seemed out of place at times and scrambling to get back into position. He was knocked down a couple of times by smaller players. That shouldn't be happening too much when you're 6'4".

The real story of the night, however, from the Islanders side was Rick DiPietro. After proclaiming that he finally feels healthy after going through the offseason with no surgery, DiPietro played his first game and actually looked pretty good. His side-to-side movements were quicker than in past years and going down into the butterfly and getting back up didn't seem to be much of a struggle. It's still a tad off, but the hope now is he'll get some of that timing back in preseason and go from there. Very solid effort.

One more note: Justin DiBenedetto is a solid, hard working kid but with a reckless game at times. We saw why Friday night with the game a blowout. He went after David Krejci, who said after the game he was not pleased with DiBenedetto's actions. I would agree - Krejci's hit was clean in my opinion. For DiBenedetto, who's been described as an agitator of sorts, it is his style and what he does. But there comes a time where he needs to tone it down a bit. The team knows what he can provide, and we saw it last season. There was no need for him to do it, to impress the staff or for any other matter. He'll serve an automatic one game suspension for getting a checking from behind game misconduct.

The Isles next game is Saturday night at home against the New Jersey Devils.


September 22, 2011

Media Day Brings Plenty of News, New Captain

Since I didn't get to go to media day last season, I wasn't going to bypass the chance to go this year. But little did I know that this one would be more busy than others in the past.

On Tuesday night, the news broke that the Islanders plannned to announce the new captain and rumors spread about who it could possibly be. Smart on them for making the announcement when anyone in the media who mattered was standing there before them.

Mark Streit was the best and most logical choice for captain at this time. Many folks, myself included, thought for sure that Tavares signing his extension would also bring on the 'C' but we were wrong, and believe me at this time that is a good thing. Tavares just turned 21 on Tuesday.

Mark Streit gets the 'C'. Photo by Chris Hessel
Streit has been a captain for the Swiss national team, so this isn't anything new to him. He's been a part of the Islanders leadership structure since signing his five year deal back in 2008, so you could see this coming. He's got two years left on the deal, and that should give ample time for any of the kids to properly develop and hopefully go on some nice playoff runs prior to getting their crack at it.

Streit is obviously looking forward to the challenge, and with good reason. Can you imagine being the team captain and taking a team like this one back into the playoffs? Can you imagine doing that after missing an entire season with a shoulder injury? It would make it that much sweeter.

It remains to be seen who will be named the alternate captains, and Head Coach Jack Capuano said he and Garth Snow hadn't talked about that yet. They'll go with rotating ones throughout the pre-season though and go from there.

Aside from that, it was a nice day of watching the team go through their drills. One thing I quickly picked up on was how much less vocal Capuano is than Gordon. That's not a good or bad thing, just an observation. Capuano's drills did seem to be a little more of a 'hands off' approach and werent interrupted as many times as Gordon's were. But if guys messed up on a play and laughed about it, Capuano did remind them to get back in line and get ready to try again. We've seen how well the team responded to Capuano at the end of last season, so lets hope it resumes from the beginning of camp.

The goalies looked pretty good. Rick DiPietro's side-to-side movements were faster than in years prior, and there was virtually no odd moments of stretching during down time. That was a pretty frequent occurrence last season. However, the Islanders are taking their time with DiPietro. All three goalies in the first group (Al Montoya and Mikko Koskinen the others) rotated on a fairly regular basis. Meanwhile, group two saw Evgeni Nabokov get most of the time in net (while Kevin Poulin and Andres Nilsson generally split time). When you think about where both of these guys are, this makes sense. Nabokov has stated many times he's using the camp to get into game shape the fastest way possible, and the Isles seem to be trying to accommodate that. I was pretty impressed with Nabokov's glove hand as he made three or four real nice snatches out of the air. If he can get back to the level he was at not too long ago, we might have something fun to watch.

The line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreiter looked pretty impressive to me. The three of them compliment each other so well. Tavares looks to have improved his skating yet again. Don't forget the fact that he now has nothing weighing on his shoulders for the next several years after signing the long-term extension. He has nothing to worry about now but on-ice performance and within the first few days of camp, he's showing even more improvement.

I'm really hoping Milan Jurcina can stay healthy for much of the year. Jurcina really impressed me last season, and I really liked how effective he was particularly on the PK. He looked really strong during some of the defensive drills. It's great that he's healthy right now, but will that last? Groin injuries seem to have been the only things that can slow him down, so if the Isles new health philosophy changes that we'll have some solid play to look forward to there.

As I mentioned, it was the first time I got to participate in media day but the event was an enjoyable experience. I viewed it as the "kick-off" of sorts for the season, even though the team had been at it for a couple of days already. There is certainly a different feel surrounding the team, and Jack Capuano looks like a man who means business. I don't want to say he seemed really laid back last season, but he has a much different feel going into his first full season as head coach. He'll still be a players coach and still fool around here and there, but it seems there are more levels of seriousness now with a clean slate for all.

In all honesty, Charles Wang and Snow didn't tell us anything we didnt already know. A reporter asked Wang a question about the announced proposal from ABLI that came down yesterday just before the press conference started, but he refused to comment. I can't blame him since he likely hadn't seen all the details yet. But more on this news in another post.

It was a nice day put together by the Isles, to get all the media under one roof and give us the opportunity to get lots of good coverage just prior to preseason games being played. The Isles first one is in Boston on Friday night at 7 PM.

I got to speak after practice with Travis Hamonic and Islander hopefuls Jay Pandolfo and Steve Staios. Look for posts surrounding those individuals over the next few days as well.

For a photo gallery from Wednesday, be sure to check out this link.


September 14, 2011

John Tavares to Sign Six Year Extension; Captaincy Next?

No matter how many times he repeated himself people just didn't want to listen.

Time and time again, John Tavares has repeatedly stated how much he wanted to be a member of the New York Islanders and how he was in it for the long haul. The most recent comments came last week during the ESPN media tour. But people were still skeptical, still scoffed and still looked at the situation from their own point of view rather than from the players.

This is a rare player in the sports world today - one who was drafted by what was a miserable team at the time, one who vowed from that moment that he wanted to be "the guy" to turn them around and the one who is so far standing by his commitment.

When all is said and done, Tavares will have himself a new six year, $33 million extension in addition to the year remaining on his entry level contract.

It's a fantastic deal for all involved. For Tavares, he gets to head into a crucial season for the team and not have the whispers surrounding his future with the team. He can play with a clear head. For the Islanders, they get their franchise player signed for a very nice $5.5 million a season, hardly a back breaker when it comes to building a team. The term is also perfect, since we've seen time and time again what can happen with super-long term contracts both first hand (Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin) and abroad (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter). Tavares also gives himself a chance to earn more money in the prime of his career as he progresses towards his potential.

The press conference to make all of this official will be Thursday afternoon at 1 PM. But will there be more of an announcement than just the signing of an extension?

Many have speculated on the idea that Tavares could also be named the team's new captain. I'll admit this is something I never put much thought into because I didn't think they would go with one of the young guys. But I would not be surprised to see this happen now. I'm still leaning towards wanting it to be someone like Mark Streit, but if the Isles plan on having Tavares be the captain down the road, then they may decide to get it over with sooner rather than later.

Time will tell, and we'll find out tomorrow. For now we enjoy the news of the impending extension.


September 11, 2011

More Emotion on Tenth Anniversary than Other 9/11's for this Fortunate Blogger

Ten years. I can't believe how fast it's gone. It's amazing for me to think how time seemed to just slow down on September 11th, 2001. It was a feeling that is often difficult to put into words.

Growing up, my parents always talked about one of the biggest events from their childhood - the assassination of President Kennedy - and how every detail of that day is still engraved in their minds. I never understood the magnitude of the stories they were telling me.

For me, the day started off just like many other September 11ths had for the previous 13 years. It was a sunny day, with temperatures floating between that late summer/early fall range. Seeing as it was just the second week of school, the "beginning of the year excitement" was still there. Not to mention, it was also my first time in a new school as I had just began high school. Shortly after waking up, I was greeted by the voices of my mom, dad and brother singing "Happy Birthday" and received gifts and cards to celebrate the occasion. Little did I know what I was in store for on my first birthday in high school.

Still in the process of getting acclimated and navigating a school much larger than what I had been used to for the previous nine years I was able to find my way to my second period class, Social Studies. This, ironically is the same class that Sean and I talk about on the show as the one we first became friends in. I sat in the second row from the door, first seat. Our conversation on ancient Asia was interrupted by the very shaky and unsure voice of our principal, explaining what was going on in Manhattan.

Panic set in, and no one quite understood what was going on. We knew it wasn't good. My social studies teacher turned all different kinds of colors. It was his first year teaching, and you could tell how unsure he was as he tried to decide if it was better to continue with the lesson or just stop all together. He tried to continue.

The way Northport High School is set up is a bit different from other schools. In the main part of the school is an area that students and teachers alike refer to as the "commons." This is where students can hang out, and it consists of TVs which usually have some kind of news broadcast on them. People surrounded the TVs that day. There weren't many classes that day as many teachers were too distraught to teach, so students congregated around the TVs to try and fathom what exactly was going on.

Students were taken out of school during the duration of the day. My mother didn't come to get me out that day early, but did show up at the end of the day to pick me up. After talking with her for a few seconds, my attention immediately turned to wondering about the well being of my cousin, who worked on the 86th floor of the North Tower. I consider myself and my family very fortunate as he was called out to a meeting in New Jersey at 8:30 that morning.

People always feel bad when they find out that I celebrate my birthday on 9/11, and their wishes often come with condolences. I consider myself fortunate to have not lost anyone close to me. Meanwhile, others have had their lives turned upside down. A birthday seems like small potatoes to me at that point.

However, in 2001 it gave me a terrible feeling as it would for any 14 year old. Just like any good grandparents would do, mine called me as they always did every year to sing and wish me a good day.

"Thanks," I said. "I completely forgot it was my birthday, actually. I didn't want fireworks on my birthday."

Both my grandfather and grandmother tried to explain to me that the day was still special because I was born, and I had the ability to do special things as I move on in life. It's the same grandfather who's viewing will be today, on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks after passing away on Friday morning. There isn't a better person I can think of when it comes to who I want to spend the day with.

I recently came across an interesting article on ESPN about the healing power of sports. While many will downplay it, I truly feel that time and time again it has been proven that they do.

I was always an avid baseball fan, but spent that summer learning about hockey after going to my first Islanders game in December of 2000 and falling in love. I knew I wanted to be a super fan of the sport. For someone young, having entire leagues shut down temporarily just showed you what kind of magnitude this had. Unfortunately for some of my friends, that's what it took for them to get it.

Sports served as the perfect distraction for New York that year. The Mets came back against their hated rivals in the Braves and defeated them in grand fashion in the first few days after play resumed. The Yankees went all the way to the World Series, leaving us with some really memorable moments from late October and early November. And the Islanders, who had been so bad for so long stormed out of the gate to an 11-1-1-1 record. They would finish with 96 points and a 5th place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Sports brought everyone closer together in the days following the events. They gave a lot of folks plenty to be proud of and provided that distraction we all needed. It's these same sports that we can still enjoy thanks in large part to those who either died in the attacks or fighting overseas so we don't have to deal with something like this every again.

For those who were affected by the tragedy, I offer my condolences and my thanks for the part that you're loved one played in me being able to sit here and write about a sport and a team I am so passionate about.

Thanks, and God bless.


September 8, 2011

Isles to Induct Four to Hall of Fame for 40th Anniversary

The Islanders announced on Thursday their intention to induct four players - one from each decade of their 40 year existence - at upcoming games this season.

The first Captain and goal scorer in Islanders history, Ed Westfall will have his ceremony on November 19th against the Boston Bruins as the rep for the 1970's. The 1980's rep is former defenseman and current Pro Scouting Director Ken Morrow, who will be honored on December 31st against who else, but the Edmonton Oilers. The 1990's rep is Pat Flatley and he'll be honored on January 14th against the Buffalo Sabres, while Kenny Jonsson rounds out the group, representing the 2000's on February 11th against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Isles hadn't had any new inductions since Bob Bourne was installed into their Hall of Fame back in 2007. It's a nice touch to do this and try and hit on each decade while planning it around some teams that had significant meanings going against the Isles in those decades. In all honesty, it would not have made sense to put Morrow's night on any other aside from the game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sean probably knows more about the 90's than I would, seeing as I was more of what you would call a casual fan back then. But I know the 2000's intimately, and grew up for much of my childhood life only knowing of an Islander defense that included Jonsson. To say he was always under appreciated is an understatement, and that includes myself.

It wasn't until I had a better understanding of the game when I appreciated more of what Jonsson had to offer. This was obviously magnified after the lockout ended and the Isles have had problems constructing a competent defense since.

Are there other players who are more deserving? Absolutely, but I think for what they were trying to accomplish, it's a nice touch. None of these guys may have been the flashiest, but they absolutely were unsung heroes of their decades. Do I think it was a stretch trying to include someone like Jonsson? Yes and no. I think for the 2000's, he's a good choice - was a big part of the rebirth and as I mentioned, relatively under appreciated. In all honesty, there weren't many others you could make a case for. Times were lean for so long, and Jonsson came along and remained for a few years before things really got going again. He may not have been able to handle the captaincy, but I respect that he tried and then knowing his limitations, ultimately handed it off but still did his job more than adequately.

In any event, a good move by the Islanders to honor some good players from the past, and cover each decade so as to reach out to all generations of Isles fans.

More to come soon regarding noteworthy items from the summer, and some thoughts on the plane crash that took out all of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. I've been working on a piece, but due to some family issues have not completed it. Just bear with me.


September 6, 2011

Jay Pandolfo Comes to Training Camp, What About Others?

The Islanders announced on Saturday that Jay Pandolfo has agreed to a try out with the team when camp opens in a couple of weeks. About a week ago, Newsday's Katie Strang posted a list of players who the club could possibly have in camp on invite: Pandolfo, Sergei Samsonov, Chris Clark and Bryan McCabe. There is strong reason to believe that all were extended invites - among other players as well - but so far, going this route only made the most sense for Pandolfo.

Pandolfo hasn't been in the NHL since the 2009 - 2010 season with the New Jersey Devils. After that season he was bought out and participated in a handful of AHL games last season before his Christmas Day release from the Springfield Falcons.

Neither Pandolfo nor the Islanders have anything to lose with this, and I'm disappointed in some of the comments I see from fans regarding this. The point of an invite is that it gives you a look at someone without having to give them a guaranteed spot on the roster. I want Nino Niederreiter, Matt Martin and others to feel their jobs are at stake and be pushed. Now, how far can someone like Pandolfo push them? Well that remains to be seen, sure. But with so many forwards already on the roster, if I'm a young player and I see a 36 year old veteran coming in, I'm not taking my chances or scoffing at the competition. Especially with an individual who has proven for many years he can be an excellent penalty killer, even though his game has eroded over the past two seasons.

According to Strang, McCabe and Samsonov appear "reluctant" to take the invite at this time, and I can't blame them for that. With camps set to open, any injury could have them signing a guaranteed contract, perhaps for terms even better than they are expecting (see Mike Mottau and his two year deal from the Isles last September 25th). I would imagine the invites are always open, so Clark could still come if he wishes too, despite a similar player in Pandolfo coming (EDIT: Not sure how I missed this, but Strang reports Clark has accepted an invite with the Bruins, who offered one to Pandolfo too). I think as time goes on, McCabe accepts his invite too. Samsonov though, I would be surprised.

I've been asked this a lot over the weekend - if McCabe comes to camp, am I upset? It's a good question. McCabe is not the ideal defenseman this team needs. But at the same time, that's why he'd be coming in as an invite. If he plays well? Then it means he looked fine, looked like he still had enough in the tank and will suffice until someone better comes along (or one of the kids are ready, such as Calvin deHaan). If he looks awful? Then he walks away and is free to talk to other teams (like Brent Sopel did a few years ago after his camp with Detroit). At the end of the day, an upgrade for me in the most basic sense was a guy more durable than Radek Martinek, Jack Hillen or Bruno Gervais. McCabe would certainly be that and a great shot to use on the 2nd power-play unit to keep the opposition guessing after seeing Mark Streit on unit one.

I am always curious to see what players go on invites to other teams, and see who can crack lineups. It's a popular way to fill out rosters or find an extremely cheap gem. The Islanders generally have lucked out with guys like this under Snow, and it'll be a good story line to follow as a distraction from some of your usual ones. We'll see if any of the others accept soon.

More to come on some items we missed on discussing while we were away.


July 31, 2011

Attention Nassau Voters: Long Island Needs a Facelift

If someone asked me what this process was like, I wouldn't even know where to start. When you're a die-hard Islander fan who is a Suffolk County resident, words cannot describe how helpless you feel at times.

It's very painful to sit on the sidelines and not know what you are about to witness. It's even tougher when you have many friends who live in Nassau County, all of who are in their young 20's. You get responses like "voting is irrational" or so much complacency it drives you mad. One thing I'll never understand is how someone in West Hempstead can have such a blah attitude about what the surrounding area they live in looks like.

Nothing will be as bad, however, as what the area will look like with a "no" victory on Monday. A no victory means there is no building up of an area on an island that should have a sports and entertainment destination given what activities go on around here. Instead, all a no vote does is still increase taxes and put up more Starbucks, Targets, WalMarts and -gasp!- low income housing.

It's really disturbing to me to see how short sighted some folks have been in the entire process. I'm 23 years old, and graduated from SUNY Stony Brook in 2009. Since then I've heard so much about how "I'm the future" and that "Long Island needs to look after" kids like me.

That's great and I would fully agree. One problem: I don't see it. Not one bit.

There is absolutely no reason why it should take me 16 months to find work. There is no reason why I should graduate with 5,000 other students, with 17% of those having jobs on walk day. None.

I can't begin to tell you the amount of people I've had conversations with - folks entering retirement age - where I tell them what I'm being trained for at work and the programs they have me in and they think its the greatest thing ever. "Long Island needs more people like that" is usually a response I get.

But then don't try to ask them for something that helps your future. Good lord, don't do that.

A common complaint is that people "don't want to see their taxes go up." A fair complaint, sure. But a simple look at the track record of politics on LI and you'll see a trend (hint: they always go up). And what exactly have they gone up for? If you're having trouble answering that, don't feel bad (more money for snow removal for blizzards that don't happen!).

We live in a nation where states set aside money for the study of cow flatulence. Yet here, we can't get people to open their eyes about the area they live in and understand the situation. Private financing to revitalize the area around Nassau has come and gone. We had the chance to do that for a number of years, and no one had the guts to call Kate Murray and her cronies out for stalling on that. Now, we offer the only solution left. It's unfortunate we've come to this, yes. But it's all that's out there. A guys patience can only go on for so long, and I can't believe Charles Wang has given Long Island this long of a chance to wake up, but that's a story for a different day.

I know I'm probably preaching to the choir at this point. But if you were on the fence or a "no" voter who happened to stumble across this entry, know this. There are many people out there my age who are depending on you to help make this happen. Contrary to popular belief, there are many of us who want to stay here and spend our money here. But we're never given that chance.

Some of you may not think you can change the world, and are at an age where it may not seem fitting for you to pay more in taxes. But what about those who have young kids? What about your grandchildren? I can guarantee you that some of you who vote "no" will end up being the same ones complaining when your son or daughter is forced to move because of how high taxes soared when that low-income housing complex (complete with many inhabitants living on welfare) went up in Uniondale.

I have lived on Long Island my whole life, and going to Islanders games is a family affair. It brought my family closer together. My mom and dad lost track of the sport and because of me, they're back into it. If we had the chance, we'd be voting yes. But we don't have that option.

Nassau County, you have that chance to do it for us. You may not know me from a hole in a wall, but my story is on par with many others. Before you pull that lever for your vote I need you to think: Who do I know that's out of a job? Who do I risk losing that I don't want to lose? Who in my life has dreams and desires that won't come true here if I say no?

I like to think of myself as living an ultimate dream and desire. A kid always wishes he could talk to the players he idolized growing up. Thanks to the Islanders, I had that chance this past season and will continue to do so as long as voters let me. I'm not alone in this and I can see it from the various other people out there who have gone out to try and make a difference.

There are a lot of us who you'll be making a decision for. Let's keep those with high aspirations here. Let them make a difference on this Island they grew up on.


July 28, 2011

Hunter's Tenure Ends, Isles Acquire Brian Rolston from Devils

Who would have thought a late July trade for Brian Rolston would have created as much buzz and talk as it has?

Everyone seems to be making more comments than they probably should be on the Islanders acquisition of the overpaid 38 year old forward who they got in return for the 31 year old oft-injured and painfully slow Trent Hunter.

Many people right away were able to jump to the conclusion that a big motivating factor in the swap was money, and I'm sure it was - no matter how much Garth Snow tries to play it down.

However, some thought that this couldn't possibly be all Snow was working on and that it had to be a part of a bigger deal. As we sit here on Thursday night, it appears that is the case.

It appears now that Rolston comes in to replace one of the current forwards, at least one of which could presumably be moved to bring in a top defenseman.

Photo by C. Hessel
At any rate, the Hunter for Rolston swap by itself is still a good one. It's not earth shattering, but it's a slight upgrade. Hunter had trouble staying on the ice and went through some prolonged scoring slumps. Rolston is far from the player he once was, but can still contribute 15-20 goals in a checking line role while playing all three forward positions and still be solid enough defensively to get tome PK time. He's also still got that powerful slap shot that will be useful on the power-play.

At the very least, it's better than Alexei Yashin! (Note: I'm not completely against the idea of Yashin back on a one-year deal, but understand what his buyout represents. I'm not going to go into much detail about the rumors on him since I truly think it's helping out a friend to get a better deal in Russia).

I'm noticing a lot of people reading too much into the deal, saying you can do better for the money. Yes, you absolutely can - but when you look at how far behind this team is in overall salary, you can't think about it. Its irrelevant. Snow has maintained all off-season that he wants a top defenseman. There is no reason why picking up $3 million should cause him to deviate from that. If it does, then shame on him.

As far as "helping the Devils out," who cares? If you honestly thought that the Devils were going to have a problem signing Zach Parise to a long-term deal, then you clearly have not been paying attention to the way this league operates. Just look at the New York Rangers. If the Devils want someone signed, they'll get them signed.

As mentioned earlier, this appears to be a precursor of some kind to another move with Rolston replacing a body. Good. It's nice to finally be a part of some exciting rumors now.

Who would move in a trade? Josh Bailey? Blake Comeau? Both? It would all depend on who is coming back. You can safely assume though that the player coming in return would be a defenseman.

Things just got a little more interesting around here. At least it's something to track for a bit to take our minds off of the referendum stuff.

More to come after the possible move. Also look for a referendum related post in the next day or so with my thoughts - those of a 23 year old Long Island kid.


July 2, 2011

Islanders Sign Marty Reasoner for 2 Years

The Islanders didn't jump into the fray with some of the other players in what is a fairly weak free agent class, but were able to address one of their needs.

The Islanders signed center Marty Reasoner to a 2 year, $2.7 million contract. Reasoner is a fine 4th line center and will replace the departed Zenon Konopka, who is still searching for a new team.

Reasoner put up 14 goals and 18 assists in a slightly more expanded role than your run-of-the-mill 4th line center last season for the Florida Panthers. He was also in the top-10 in the league in faceoffs.

One of the key things with Reasoner is that he's been around the league for quite some time, and has always been regarded as a leader on and off the ice. He'll fill in the leadership role very well.

Often the Islanders put Konopka on the ice in crucial situations, especially if they needed a faceoff win on the PK. The problem there was that when he didn't win the faceoff, there wasn't enough time for him to get off the ice and a 5-on-4 seemed to become a 5-on-3. Reasoner is the better all around player and can play defense, especially on the PK where he averaged 2:45 of ice time.

It's a nice start as far as upgrading one minor area, but certainly wasn't the top priority. Garth Snow really seems to want to add a top four defenseman, and while he admitted a lot of what's left on the UFA market isn't exciting he still has some lines in those waters. However, a trade is a more likely scenario here to fill that role.


July 1, 2011

It's Free Agent Frenzy Day (And Canada Day Too)!

Good morning everyone and welcome to July 1st! The day many hockey fans look forward to in general.

A lot of guys have elected to re-sign with their respective teams, while a few realized that they could cash in on a weak market. Some had their rights traded, and they cashed in big time (Steve Montador). Christian Ehrhoff said no to the Islanders and before I could get a post up about it, and signed a deal that blatantly circumvents the cap with Buffalo (10 years, $40 million with $18 million in the first to years).

As hockey fans, we love days that have player movement. It's hard to judge what the Islanders will do now after losing out on Ehrhoff, but they have plenty of time to make their team. There are some solid pieces out there though for teams looking to improve, and a few players that if signed by the Isles will only help them in getting out of lottery territory.

As is the case every year, we'll be doing our live show today from 12 - 4 PM. We're going back to our roots at WCWP. You can listen to us through the WCWP sports website.

Special guests today include Kevin Allen, Andy StricklandPat Hickey and Ted Wyman.

We'll give you details about how to submit your questions be it through AIM, chat rooms or by calling in to the show. Be sure to listen to what we say for details.

Enjoy the day everyone!

June 28, 2011

Islanders Acquire Rights to Christian Ehrhoff

For the longest time, fans have been hoping that this summer was the one where Garth Snow would begin to make significant moves to improve his hockey club. A funny thing happened on the way to that idea.

On a day when many of the top UFA targets were retained by their old teams, the Islanders made a statement and acquired the rights to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 4th round pick.

The move is a bold, low risk move and a perfect chance for the Islanders to try and take the next step that they need.

Does this become a familiar scene on the Island? Photo by C. Hessel
The Islanders were expected to scourer the free agent market for a forward, but over the last few weeks gave subtle hints that they were less than thrilled with their defense, which finished 27th in the NHL this past season in goals against. Bruno Gervais was traded to Tampa, while Jack Hillen and Radek Martinek have been cut loose and are free to sign wherever they like beginning Friday.

The Islanders now have the exclusive ability to negotiate with Ehrhoff over the next 72 hours and try to sell him on the idea of playing for the Islanders.

The sell is going to be a very tough one - make no mistake about it. This is a team that is banking on a 'Yes' vote on August 1st, which Ehrhoff will undoubtedly hear about from Snow, Charles Wang, Doug Weight, John Tavares, Michael Grabner and maybe even Mike Bossy. Make no mistake that those currently associated with the Islanders will come out in full force to bring Ehrhoff here.

Ehrhoff was offered a deal similar to the one Kevin Bieksa signed with the Canucks, which was a five year, $23 million front loaded deal worth $4.6 million per season. Both Bieksa and Ehrhoff reportedly were willing to take hometown discounts in order to stay with the Stanley Cup Finalists, but Ehrhoff decided he would take his chance at 27 to go for the gold in his prime.

Many feel that by leaving a contender to go for the money, he is not necessarily about winning immediately. If that's the case, then there is absolutely no reason to think the Islanders can't get him signed, sealed and delivered by July 1st. Then with Ehrhoff in the fold, this team automatically catapults itself into the conversation for the bottom part of the Eastern conference playoff race but not as a cup contending team just yet.

If it unravels and Ehrhoff decides this isn't for him, then it's nothing lost. The Islanders won't simply whimper and say "we tried." This move says anything but. If Ehrhoff doesn't come, then the Islanders will move right on to their next target.

Snow says he'll have a better indication Wednesday morning of where things are at with Ehrhoff, which indicates to me if something is to be consummated here, he wants it ASAP so they can hold their heads high going into Friday and point to Ehrhoff as an example of them being serious no matter what the future holds. If not, then like I said it's on to the next target be that via trade or free agency.

At the end of the day, this is a right move for a team that is in need of some excitement and buzz from around the league, and on the Island where they are trying to get their arena. The fun has just begun on this ride folks. Buckle your seat belts.


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Free Agent News: Isles Not Qualifying Hillen

Monday was the deadline for NHL teams to extend qualifying offers to their RFA's or risk losing them on the open market when it opens on Friday.

While there were a number of surprises that were not extended offers around the league, Isles fans had one that surprised them in Jack Hillen.
Hillen will look for new work. Photo by C. Hessel
Starting out the year as the odd man out, Hillen had a nice finish to the season, ending up with four goals and 22 points with 137 blocked shots. The last couple of months seemed to be the first time he had gotten the confidence back that he had prior to taking the shot in the face from Alex Ovechkin a couple of seasons ago.

It appears that a lot of fans are upset about the news of Hillen testing the market, and that is understandable. Some are going with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage, but for the Islanders case it is broken. Very broken. They finished in the bottom five in goals against.

Hillen is a quick, solid puck moving defenseman who can get knocked off the puck at times, leading to a loss in possession and a gain in momentum for the other team. The Islanders seem to realize they need to add some more size to the blueline and the exits of Hillen along with Bruno Gervais allow them to try and go down that path. Hillen likely isn't in line to take a 2-way deal as a depth defenseman now for the Isles and will try his luck on the open market and look for a one way.

A contending team may not be willing to give him an NHL spot, but if those teams came calling Hillen would definitely jump for a NHL/AHL deal for a team like that. On this team, it was evident that he was going to be depth once again. The Islanders already have Ty Wishart, who they did qualify, as the go to guy as the 7th man, and Dylan Reese is being kept for his AHL experience and some leadership in Bridgeport.

It remains to be seen if the Isles agree with the consensus in that they need to add one solid top-four guy this offseason, but this move adds some fuel to that argument.

OTHER RFA NEWS: After failing to offer a qualifier to Tomas Marcinko, the Isles agreed to a one year, 2-way deal with the big center. Marcinko doesn't look like he'll become much of an NHL player, but has been a solid defensive forward down in Bridgeport and will continue to provide that this season.

Defenseman Dustin Kohn, a 2nd round pick in 2004 has likely seen his last days in the organization. Kohn was not offered a qualifier and will try to latch on with a team starting on Friday.

Gervais signed a new deal with the Lightning, getting a one way deal at $550K. That's a bit of a pay cut for him, but it's worth it on the one-way deal to try and re-establish himself and get his confidence back up. Good luck to him.

Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Micheal Haley and Jesse Joensuu also received offers from the team.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE CONFUSED: A qualifying offer is extended to a player so a team cannot lose their rights. A player doesn't have to accept it until later in the summer, but it gives teams the ability to match any offer sheets that come the players way.

Often times players will not be given QO's and come to terms with their teams anyway (like the Isles did with Marcinko and the Penguins will likely do with Tyler Kennedy).

A QO gives a player a 10% raise if they made less than $660K in the previous season or 5% if they made up to $1 million.

More can be found here.

If you missed our live show Sunday, you can find the recording here or download the podcast of it or previous shows here.


June 25, 2011

Bruno Gervais Traded to Lightning

While many were focused on the madness that was draft weekend, the Islanders made a separate transaction that marks the end of an era for one Islanders defenseman.

On Saturday the Islanders announced that they had dealt defenseman Bruno Gervais to the Tampa Bay Lightning in return for future considerations.

Those future considerations will likely be a late round draft pick in the 2012 draft.

The deal marks the end of a six year run for Gervais on Long Island, a roller coatser ride if there ever was one.

Photo by C. Hessel
Gervais was originally drafted in the 6th round back in 2003. While many players in the later rounds were long shots, after a couple of years it looked like the Islanders may have found a gem. After a solid rookie year in the AHL with eight goals and 30 points in 76, Gervais followed that up with 17 goals and 42 points in just 55 AHL games during the strike year of 2004 - 05 leaving many to wonder what he could do at the NHL level.

Gervais showed flashes, most recently near the end of 2008 - 09 after being paired with Mark Streit. The strong play is what made the Islanders keep him over Chris Campoli when it became abundantly clear that they were very similar players, as Campoli began to show signs of regressing. Unfortunately, Gervais would be unable to keep that up for his remaining two seasons and became a depth defenseman on a team that already had plenty.

Seeing as the Islanders still do have all of that depth and not quite enough top-end blue liners, Gervais became the first casualty of a potential house cleaning on the back-end.

Current Lightning Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix seems to have successfully sold Head Coach Guy Boucher and General Manager Steve Yzerman on the idea of bringing in yet another recent ex-Islander player, of which they are three-for-three so far (Dwayne Roloson, Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim). Gervais is due to become an RFA on Friday but I'm assuming Tampa plans on him staying for a year.

Personal Note: Bruno Gervais was one of the first Islanders Sean and I interviewed following one of the opening days of training camp, our first in the Blog Box. We walked into the locker room with one of the other bloggers, and Bruno immediately looked in my direction. After introductions were out of the way, he looked back at me and said "Please don't tell me you're cold!" On the way out he requested that I bring a jacket next time.

It's no secret that Bruno was a great guy off the ice, and that part will surely be missed on the Island. We can take solace in the fact that there have been other players who have had the chance to see that side of him for the past few seasons and will undoubtedly pick up where he left off.

Best of luck to Bruno as he opens up the next chapter of his career.


Isles Take Strome 5th Overall

Over the past couple of seasons, the Islanders have made no secret of the fact that they wanted to add some more skill up the middle. On Friday night, they took a huge step forward in accomplishing that goal.

After missing out on Ryan Johansen at last years draft when they ended up taking Nino Niederreiter, the Islanders had their choice of a couple of centers in 2011. Many fans seemed split on whether they wanted Sean Couturier or Ryan Strome.

As many of you know by now, I was a big fan of Couturier's and wanted the Isles to select him. But in the weeks leading up to the draft as we learned more about Strome, I was warming up to the idea. It seems like the Isles did as well.

Strome fits a need of what the Isles are looking for. They wanted to add that skill, but in Strome they also add some speed and a great style. Strome is a guy who isn't afraid to cut to the net, and by many accounts is as far from a perimeter player as you can get which is remarkable when you consider he isn't the biggest guy out there.

Knowing that, it definitely puts some more attention into Josh Bailey's corner. While his primary position is center, Bailey has also spent some time at the wing. The Islanders need to decide if they prefer to have Bailey at center or wing, and at the same time Bailey needs to step up a bit and prove that he can play anywhere at any time. He's now going to have Strome breathing down his neck for that 2nd line center spot for sure in the future.

When it comes to analyzing some of these guys that we may not know much about, we usually always rely on scouts. While that is obviously one of the better means, it's also good to hear from analysts who watch him more regularly.

Enter Jeff Marek. In the end, he really sold me on the idea of Strome.

Marek, an analyst/radio host for Hockey Night in Canada, sang the praises last season of Jeff Skinner. I'll have to be honest - as much as people pointed that out, I didn't listen because I was too enthralled with what the "scouts" had to say.

Last week in an interview with Chris Botta, Marek sang the praises of Strome. He even went as far to say the Islanders hit a "home run" with their selection after they made the pick.

I really like the pick of Strome because it helps to solve some of the issues that this team has up the middle. We all love Frans Nielsen and how he plays, but in a perfect world he is centering a 3rd line. Strome has the ceiling to center one of the top two lines, but given the fact John Tavares is a center and should remain there will make for an excellent second line pivot.

Some folks were upset in not grabbing a defenseman, but I'm fine with leaving Dougie Hamilton on the board. The defenseman I really wanted was Adam Larsson, and do think that if he slipped past the Devils at 4th then Snow would have taken him.

The Islanders will have some chances to get some solid, big defenseman in the second and third rounds at the beginning of day two (11 AM ET). Look for Scott Mayfield as a potential target. He's a big, nasty defenseman who spent last season in the USHL. The Islanders have gone down the USHL pipeline before and have picked out a couple of solid guys (Kyle Okposo and Matt Donovan to name a couple).

We got some great video footage last night, and have put up some of the clips from last night on our YouTube page. We have a couple of more that will be uploaded as the day goes on so be sure to check for those. We're also going through some of the photos we took to put into a photo gallery. We hope to have that up for our draft round-up post.

Be sure to check back later for any possible big news in Isles Country.


June 24, 2011

Don't Expect Trade of 5th Overall for Big Name

As we get down to the final hours before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft takes place, I'm seeing more and more people saying that Garth Snow should trade the 5th overall pick for NHL talent.

The calls for this seem to grow with the news of the blockbuster trades made by the Philadelphia Flyers as they sent Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Don't get me wrong - this line of thinking is a great one. Sean even brought this up during our podcast last weekend, saying that he expects them to trade the pick - but was more hinting at trading down to pick up other assets and then parlaying some of those into NHL talent.

In all honesty, while the second scenario seems like it could be a fantastic approach to Friday night, I think that if the Isles are moving down for a player they like then it's with the idea of drafting one or two of those players high on their draft board rather than to move the picks.

When Sean mentioned that he wanted to see that pick moved, I pressed him on who had in his head that could be had in exchange for the 5th overall pick. The only (realistic?) idea he could come up with is Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche. Other names he came up with? Zach Parise and Drew Doughty.

As nice as Paul Stastny is, he's not a player I'm giving up a 5th overall pick for. In reality, there is no one out there that could be had for a top five pick.

When people talk about making trades for "proven talent," you have to keep in mind what they were traded for. The last time a top five pick was traded for proven talent? Our very own New York Islanders did in 2001, in a package for Alexei Yashin (2nd overall).

There are only extenuating circumstances where a player like that becomes available, and as usual that is not the case this year. But what about the trading back scenario? Well, that would be more plausible.


- The Avalanche traded Alex Tanguay to the Calgary Flames for Jordan Leopold, a 2nd round pick (59th) and a conditional pick.

- The Kings trade Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild for Patrick O'Sullivan and the 17th overall pick.


- The Flames trade Tanguay and a 5th round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for a 1st (25th overall) and 2nd round pick (48th).
- The Kings trade Mike Cammalleri to the Flames for a 1st round pick (17th).
- The Flyers trade R.J. Umberger and a 4th (118th) to the Blue Jackets for a 1st (19th overall) and a 3rd (67th).


- The Anaheim Ducks trade Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle to the Flyers for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, a 2009 1st round pick (21st) and a 2010 1st round pick (29th).


- The Florida Panthers trade Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich to the Vancouver Canucks for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a 1st round pick (25th).

At the end of the day, if the Islanders are bringing in that proven vet at the draft then it would most likely come after trading down once or twice to gather up assets they can use to move for talent. Those of you hoping for it to play out this way can keep that in mind with thoughts of Brent Burns, Ryan Malone, Scott Hartnell and whoever else you may have dancing in your head.

What do I think? I think the Islanders are going to stay right where they are at five and make their pick. After the dust settles, the Islanders will have drafted Ryan Strome.

Sean and I will both be at the draft today and are planning to make our way around the parking lot. We'll both have cameras, and I plan to take some candid shots of fan activity for a photo gallery of some kind. So if you see us roaming around, please do come up and introduce yourself. We'd love to meet some of you.

There are couple of things going on that you may have noticed I haven't written about yet (Doug Weight's award, Radek Martinek update, analysis of the Flyers' trades) but that will be coming at some point later. We're trying to focus solely on the draft items for now and go from there.


June 19, 2011

Weekend Update: Isles Bring Back Gillies; Third Jersey; New Podcast

The Islanders kicked off a weekend that would bring plenty of news by announcing the return of controversial pugilist Trevor Gilles, agreeing with the forward on a one year, two-way contract.

Many wondered out loud if Gillies' antics leading to two lengthy suspensions would mean that the Islanders would part ways with him. While many folks enjoyed the bashing of the Penguins back in February, some voiced their displeasure for the way Gillies acted in injuring Eric Tangradi.

Personally, I was done with Gillies and really don't see any more use for him on this team. While it's nice that he's a fan favorite and the players might really like him, I'll point out that this is usually the case with tough guys all around the league. Gillies could have been replaced with many other guys who the fans and players would have loved just as much. For example, Zenon Konopka last season. People fell in love with him right away.
Gillies' deal means Konopka is likely out. Photo by C. Hessel
Now, the better hockey player in Konopka will most likely be sent away. It's not hard to be the superior hockey player in this scenario, but when it comes to having additional muscle aside from Matt Martin this should be coming in the form of Konopka, not Gillies.

Furthermore, don't let the two-way part of Gillies' contract fool you. He was on the same kind of contract last year and ended up sticking with the Isles for most of it when not sidelined serving suspensions.
I'm not trying to deprive the developing youngsters on the team of having a guy willing to throw fists around, but there are plenty of guys out there you can bring in who won't provide as much bad publicity, would be liked just as much and can play a semi-regular shift if need be.

To each their own, I suppose.

Third Jersey: There has been a lot of talk since the season ended that the Islanders are coming out with a third jersey to wear for various dates next season.

While nothing has been confirmed, there does seem to be some information available that leads many to believe that we will indeed have one next season, and it will be black.

I wasn't always a big fan of incorporating black into the Islanders color scheme for the sake of trying to produce a new jersey, however there are a few scenarios where I could see it working. Some fans have posted on message boards what they have heard it might possibly look like and have tried to come up with some designs based on that. Like I said, some things seem to work pretty well, others not so much.

While Sean discussed what he heard and his feelings of the idea of a black jersey in the latest podcast, I let it be known that this is so far down on the totem pole for me.

Many teams love trying to put black into their alternates because of the fact that it "goes with anything." I personally don't care so long as it's done the right way and as long as it doesn't affect player performances.

If a well known, respected player is going to be wearing it next season after being signed or traded for a pick in the upcoming draft, then I'm all for it. As long as the product on the ice is superior to anything we've seen for much of the past four years, they can wear what they want.

One Big Happy Podcast: As mentioned earlier and as promised a couple of weeks back, Sean and I got together this weekend to have our annual pre-draft podcast. In the past when on a time constraint, we would normally restrict this to just talking about the draft. But we were able to expand on our thoughts for this one, and talking about the draft went into talking about trade possibilities for the pick (or other picks currently not in the Isles possession), to talking about past drafts, third jerseys, some referendum stuff and a whole lot more.

Two hours later, we were finally content with ending the show. Hopefully, you guys enjoy the extra long banter. The podcast is split up into two parts.

You can download the podcast by going here.


June 3, 2011

Belated Thoughts on Doug Weight, His New Job and a Personal Story

We'll file this post under "better late than never."

It's been a week since Doug Weight officially announced his retirement from the NHL and the Islanders announced his new title as Assistant Coach and Special Assistant to General Manager Garth Snow.

Weight announced his retirement at a press conference in the Marriott next to the Coliseum in a ceremony that was done the right way for a guy of Weight's stature.

"It's very difficult and humbling to be here today to officially announce my retirement after 19 seasons," Weight opened. It was in the middle of that first sentence where he really felt it, and you suddenly started to realize that one of the greatest US born hockey players would no longer lace up the skates.

Photo by Chris Hessel
That Weight took the time to talk about every team he played for shows you the class that he was and still continues to be filled with. With each team, he had to take various pauses when speaking about the opportunities that were provided to him and how he ended up in each spot.

When Snow spoke, he brought up a word that a young player used to describe Weight at the team's end of the season dinner: presence. Snow agreed with this and acknowledged that key attribute as a huge reason why he was keeping him on in the new role.

I can agree as well with "presence" as being a perfect word for Weight. Anyone who watched parts of the press conference can see how he was able to capture the audience's attention, leaving them hanging on to every word, perhaps waiting on the next wisecrack.

Weight spent most of my childhood years on a talented St. Louis Blues team that was in the midst of a long streak of making the playoffs - one that would last 25 years and end in 2004. He along with talent like Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger were a huge part of those talented teams, but they would never bring home a cup.

Weight had always been one of my favorites growing up. He was one of those players you would have loved to see in his prime play for your team, but unfortunately you sort of knew there was no shot you were going to get him.
Given that, you can imagine what it was like for me to deal with Weight personally in my first year as a member of the Blog Box. Unfortunately, I didn't get to have as many interactions with Weight the player as I would have liked, but there's nothing you can do about that when someone has serious injury issues like the ones that plagued  Weight in his time as an Islander.

It was September at the first day of training camp. Sean and myself showed up to interview a few players and get some liners from them. No one skated that day as the players only did their off-ice workouts. One of the first players we bumped into upon our arrival was none other than Weight.

He was on his way out, but stopped for a few minutes to introduce himself. After joking with him that he needed no introduction, he asked our names and spoke to us briefly before helping us out with some audio for the first podcast of our new adventure. He ended our conversation by explaining that if we needed anything to have the team contact him, and he "looked forward to dealing with us this season."

So here we were, two guys who love hockey, the Islanders and idolized Weight as we did with many of the Team USA guys, having a conversation with the guy as if we knew him for years.

Presence. That is why the position the Isles have given Weight is perfect for him. This is why the NHL needs to keep Weight around.

Weight will undoubtedly play an important role in attempting to recruit prospective free agents. It's not a bad thing to have a resume like he as, not to mention a reputation.

That reputation is obvious to many players - even those who never met the guy. Upon hearing about the retirement of two Team USA mainstays in Weight and Brian Rafalski, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney tweeted "Congrats to Doug Weight and Brian Rafalski on two amazing careers. Both American born players, Stanley Cup champions and great guys."

"Best part is I've never met Doug Weight but hear he is a great guy and me saying that makes my other tweet sound better."

Unfortunately, the Islanders spent much of the past year devoid of "names" in high positions to bring some credibility. Weight is a name that brings a good chunk of that back. It's going to mean a lot for some players when they hear from Weight, who spent extended periods of time with some fantastic franchises, speak so highly for the Islanders where he spent only three years.

The Islanders have made some positive waves this offseason with the re-signings of Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo and maybe the arena bit, but this move for Weight is a very underrated one. Don't underestimate the power of his voice going to bat for a franchise that, to anyone on the outside, may not seem like it would mean as much to him as Edmonton or St. Louis.

Sean and I are both thrilled for Doug and happy we'll still be able to see him around the ranch, so to speak. Hopefully we'll be able to do some interviews with him as he makes the transition from the on-ice to off-ice stuff.


June 1, 2011

August 1st the Official Date

The first day back from a nice, long weekend brought news for fans of the NHL from all angles. While one area officially lost their team, another one - Long Island - took a (small) step towards retaining theirs.

The Nassau County Legislative Board got together as they were supposed to, one week after discussing the proposal by Ed Mangano and agreeing to vote on it.

A week ago, it seemed as though the plan would have a decent amount of support behind it, although not a majority. But when the discussions opened up on Tuesday, there were plenty of disagreements.

Legislator Wayne Wink brought up his ideas again, the main argument being the changing of the vote to Election Day on November 8th. His line of thinking was that you could get more people to vote and get a better representation of where people stand on the arena issue.

This amendment failed however, and that should be a big sigh of relief to us all. A vote on election day would have given this thing the kiss of death that it didn't need. Even if it passed on Election Day, you're losing three months that really need to happen to get workers lined up and estimates complete to do the job.

Dave Denenberg would then try to amend the referendum, asking for the vote to be held on the day that New York holds it's primary in September. Although not too far from the August date, you need to be affiliated with one of the parties to be able to vote in a primary. So, this too was a no go for the legislature.

Denenberg fought tooth and nail up until the part when he was declared out of order.

The real kicker in his antics for the day though? When the time to vote for having the referendum on August 1st came, the vote passed 11-7 with Denenberg being the only Democrat to vote yes. Was that out of spite since he already knew the minor majority needed was in place with more Republicans than Democrats? Or was he being sincere and realizing that he doesn't want to be one of the main reason why the Isles leave if a no vote happens in August?

Remember, there are still plenty of hurdles to climb here. The people have to vote on August 1, and the legislature will have to approve it once more. While I find it hard to believe they won't give it the majority it would need if the people say yes to it, I would be a bit concerned about the NIFA factor. I think that's a greater hurdle than the potential of one of the politicians saying "I'm still saying no because the people who came out to vote in the middle of summer aren't indicative of my constituents," or something to that effect.

Welcome to politics on Long Island folks. We'll provide you with some barf bags.

Please remember, especially if you are in Nassau County, that you must make your voice continuously heard in a respectful manner. If you have friends who live in Nassau, explain to them how important it is they vote for the project. Not just from an Islanders standpoint, but as something we could all benefit from. Offer to drive them to the polls or even buy them a meal after they do their civic duty.

If you're around my age, you understand the importance of trying to get something we can be proud of built somewhere here on this Island. So tell your legislation how you feel. Write to them. Write to NIFA and explain how you hope they won't hold anything up if this is what the people are asking for. Talk to those you interact with on a daily basis. If you're friends with enough reasonable people, just you being so passionate about this could make them more willing to do you a favor (and them in the long run although they might not realize it just yet).


Please make sure you are following "Vote Yes for NYI Arena" on both Twitter and Facebook for updates and some clarification on anything that may confuse voters.

May 25, 2011

Okposo Re-Signed for Five Years; Thoughts on Tuesday's Hearing

The Islanders entered this offseason with a number of items on their to-do list seeing as it was the first year that some of the major players in the rebuild were due for contract extensions.

Two weeks ago and a little more than a day after having the press conference to announce the plan for the referendum, the Islanders made a statement by re-signing Michael Grabner to a five-year deal.

Today, a day after the Nassau County Legislature officially "kicked off" their seven day review process prior to voting 'yea' or 'nay' for a special election, the Islanders made news once again as they agreed to a five-year, $14 million extension with Kyle Okposo.

Okposo's deal will be structured in a very similar fashion to Grabner's - an incremental increase until the final year where Okposo could be earning $4.5 million. With the way the salary cap works in the NHL though, the cap hit will be $2.8 million for all five years. That's not terrible by any stretch.

The amount of years is a bit surprising, to me at least. When you have a player who is still for the most part unproven, you're always going to have the concerns in the back of your mind. What this move was based on however is potential, and we know what we potentially have in Okposo. He already does have a 50 point season under his belt too.

The RFA most likely to be signed next is Blake Comeau. For him, I would only go two, maybe three years. He had a nice season and should get a decent chunk of change for it, but I'd like to see more of a consistent effort before I commit for a longer term there.

Josh Bailey is another RFA who needs to be signed, and I would think the Isles may take their time there. I don't think that they should be looking to deal him for whatever they could get, but if a deal comes up and you need to deal a young player to bring talent in, then he would be the most expendable in my eyes.

The deals the Islanders are signing now, length aside, are not bad deals and won't be coming around to bite them. They know how useful both Okposo and Grabner can be, and for $2.8 and $3 million respectively, don't break the bank. It also allows the Islanders to re-sign John Tavares next summer to a deal.

The one concern I do have is how much these deals take away from needing to get within the salary cap parameters. The Islanders have some solid players in the organization, but need to make a little bit of noise in the off-season to generate even more excitement and give this team a real shot. I don't want to see them blowing all of their available money in just re-signing their own players. I don't think this will be an issue with (relatively) small raises coming so far in relation to the expected jump in the cap floor and ceiling for next season.

CLOSE TO PASSING THE FIRST HURDLE? One of the first milestones arrived on Tuesday as the Nassau County Legislative Board had that meeting I alluded to earlier to "kick-off" their week long discussions prior to deciding if an August 1st vote is in the cards for the referendum put forth by Charles Wang and Ed Mangano.

The day started off with a rally outside of the County's Mineola offices at 8:30 AM, with many union folks in attendance holding signs and chanting. It's been estimated as many as 300-400 workers showed up for the event. Following the rally, folks assembled in the Mineola offices and did what we've come to do best: wait.

The waiting would go on for quite a while, as the Republicans and Democrats started their hearing by spending the first 15 minutes arguing about which items on the agenda they would argue about first. The Democrats got their wish, and they spoke for the first four hours about redistricting, another big issue and fine mess Nassau County has unsurprisingly been able to get themselves into.

When the time finally came, some folks tried to haggle over the date of the vote with opinions stating a vote on election day or even on the primary election day in September as being better options. Both of these were seemingly killed though, and we have a good shot at August 1st being the date - barring a NIFA smack down of the idea.

As the meeting went on, there seemed to be a good deal of support from the legislatures. There only needs to be a slight majority in order to proceed, and it appears that will happen when the vote happens at the end of the month.

It will be at that point where things will begin to get interesting as it'll suddenly become a two month sell job. Citizens need to understand what's at stake, what they are paying for in the interim and what dividends it'll pay in the long run.

One of the more interesting notes to come out of the proceedings was that as part of the contract that is being negotiated, any overages of the Nassau Coliseum contsruction would be paid by Wang himself. That is rather noteworthy, and something that cannot be overlooked in this whole thing.

Mangano says that the details of the plan will be available in June. The Legislators want to see something by July 1. I don't foresee any issues with that request. Mangano, Wang and all others involved however, MUST make everything clear as crystal. Don't say that the plan will be "transparent" and lie like many politicians do. You can't play games anymore - this is it. Answer all questions the first time around, and if you don't have the answer to one get it ASAP.

In the meantime, as fans we can keep doing what we have been doing. Advocate for a "Yes" vote, speak to friends and relatives in Nassau. Tell folks what this means to you, especially if you are a younger person living on Long Island. Remember: this is, and always will be more than just a new arena for a hockey team. This is a transformation of an entire area to make it more attractive to tourists and those looking for places to live.

DOUG WEIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE THURSDAY: Doug Weight and the Islanders have scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 11 AM, where it is expected that Weight will announce his retirement and new position in the organization.

I've missed many of the events so far this summer, but will be making the trip to the Marriott for the conference. Be sure you're following our Twitter account and I will try to update early and often.

Many folks seem split in thinking if Weight will be getting a front office position or a coaching job. I think for now he prefers to stay in the front office, but being one of the coaches is certainly a possibility. We'll see what it is he prefers tomorrow obviously. I think everyone can pretty much agree though that this isn't to announce he plans on continuing to play.