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.


No comments: