Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tavares Watch Begins!

That may seem like a controversial title, but I've come to praise the Islanders, not to bury them. OK, not necessarily praise, but I couldn't resist the Shakespearian reference. Do you get this kind of hockey talk and high culture on other blogs? I think not!

In all seriousness, after Friday night, I was ready to rip the Islanders severely for letting Filatov and Schenn go. Not just for passing them by, mind you, but by proxy, putting a massive amount of pressure on Josh Bailey. The kid shouldn't have to worry about being compared to those two players, but as a result of the draft, it will inevitably happen.

But I slept on it. Saturday came, and the Isles made what appear to be some savvy picks in the later rounds, winning fairly rave reviews around the league. XM's The Hockey Show went so far as to call the Islanders the winner of the draft (I don't know if I'd go that far). While your estimable co-bloggers discussed the goings-on last night over some Mexican brews (seriously, why do none of the bars we go to have Canadian beer?), I decided to give it another night before posting my thoughts.

And so, after giving it measured thought, I think the Isles did a decent job in the draft. With that said, Tavares Watch can officially begin, because I think the 2008-09 version of the Islanders has good potential to be terrible. And frankly, that's not such a bad thing.

Let's be realistic - with the current version of the roster, the Isles are in no position to pull a Celtics and trade their way to a Stanley Cup next season. At best in my opinion, as currently constructed, the team could hang around for about a half season before inevitably falling toward the cellar. Free agents are not going to come to the Island right now unless the Isles overpay them, especially given the lack of adequate facilities available to them. So rather than fight for mediocrity yet again, the Isles are going full bore into rebuilding. This is a good thing.

In order to do that, the Isles needed to gain depth from this year's draft. They appear to have done so. More importantly, next year's draft will supposedly be even deeper. Unless the Isles surprise next year, it is very likely they will be contending for John Tavares or another potential franchise player. Plus three second-round draft picks will provide further depth for the farm team, which will essentially be barren after Tambellini, Walter and Nielsen get their shot in the big leagues this season.

In other words, Isles fans should set their sights on 2009-10. And frankly, so should the Isles - in other words, play the youth and play them often. Let's see if they're keepers or they don't fit. And in order to help that process along, Ted Nolan's contract should be extended an additional two years for two reasons - 1. He's done as good a job with this team as possible in my opinion; 2. Without being concerned about being a free agent coach after 2008-09, he can fully buy into the youth movement.

So to sum up this long post, there does appear to be hope for long-suffering Isles fans (are there any other kind besides long-suffering at this point?). But it's still at least 15 months away from actually being on ice. Thus, Isles fans should have at least one more year of pain before the turnaround begins. But I am finally starting to see an actual strategy in place - and that's a good thing.

Of course, if the Isles get the #1 pick in 2009 and promptly trade it down, then forget I ever wrote this post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wrapping up

Most of the crowd has left. They stuck around to see the pick and frankly, most of them left disappointed. It's not that they think Bailey will be a bad player; he is the type of player the Isles sorely need, if the scouting reports are true. I just think the crowd wanted a potentially franchise-altering "name" player, and they did not get it today.

I have a gnawing fear that this draft is going to be known as "The One Where Filatov Got Away." I hope I am wrong about that.

Remember, rounds 2-7 are tomorrow (Saturday), and the Isles will be busy picking all day.

Take care, everyone.

The stats on Bailey

Position: Center
Shoots: L
Height: 6'
Weight: 188 lbs.
Born: 10/02/1989
From: Bowmanville, ON
Team: Windsor (OHL)

In 67 regular season games with Windsor, Bailey netted 29 goals and 67 assists for 96 points.

With the 9th (!) pick the Isles select...

centerman Josh Bailey from the Windsor Spitfires.

Here's what they're saying:

TSN: Regarded as a skilled playmaker, the Windsor Spitfire centre is a good, solid two-way player who is conscientious in his effort at all times although scouts would like to see a little more grit to his game.

NHL Central Scouting: Josh is the quarterback on the power-play, from down low, for the Windsor Spitfires. He is a good play-making centerman with the ability to feed his linemates when he needs to and shoot the puck when the play requires that.

Now the Isles trade the 7th pick

To Nashville for the 9th and 40th picks.

Columbus takes Filatov

With the #6 pick. The Isles are once again on the clock.

Trade confirmed

The Islanders have traded down to the #7 and have acquired two conditional picks as well. The Isles will select 7th in the first round. Meanwhile, GM Garth Snow is on the big screen and the crowd is roundly booing him.

Toronto has selected Luke Schenn with the 5th pick. Hmm.

The picks so far...

1. Steven Stamkos (C) Tampa Bay Lighning
2. Drew Doughty (D) Los Angeles Kings
3. Zach Bogosian (D) Atlanta Thrashers
4. Alex Pietrangelo (D) St. Louis Blues.

It looks as if the Isles have traded the #5, and the crowd is ANGRY.

Isles on the clock

The Blues have chosen fourth, with Alex Pietrangelo, and the Islanders are now on the clock. The draft has gone pretty much according to plan, and the good news is that crowd favorite Nikita Filatov is still available. We keep hearing a rumor that the Isles have traded the #5 to Toronto in exchange for the #7, but there's nothing concrete so far.

Stay tuned. The pick awaits.

Up and running at the draft party

Well fans, we are live at the NHL draft party! Fans are filing in for the 7 PM Eastern start time. People are free to check out the locker room and meet Jack Hillen and Rob Figren.

As for us, we're gonna grab a hot dog and return with an update when the Isles are on the clock. If anything massive breaks before then, of course we'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Draft Party Reminder

Just a reminder to all: Okposo Net will be LIVE at Nassau Coliseum for the 2008 NHL Entry draft on Friday, June 20th. We urge you to join us there for what promises to be a potentially franchise-changing day for the Islanders. Doors open at 5:30 PM, and there's sure to be some hearty debate about whom the Isles will select this season. If you attend, also be sure to stop by and say hello to the Blog Box crew. We need the attention. See you there!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Missed It By THAT Much

Fans, the 2007-2008 NHL season is finally over. Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings, who won the Stanley Cup with hard work, determination, skill, and some great goaltending by a former Islander, Chris Osgood.

Heartfelt congratulations are also in order for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who provided a wonderful six-game series but just did not have the firepower or experience to hang with the Wings, although they gave it a damn good try. Friends, if you couldn't get excited about watching NHL hockey during this postseason, and especially this series, then you've just missed the boat.

The fans of Pittsburgh should be commended for the loud and spirited support of their team despite having a mostly young side, an aging arena, and having been under the threat of relocation just a few seasons ago. We Islanders fans can certainly relate to those situations, and hopefully we can copy your team's model for success in the near future. Take heart, Pittsburgh, your guys are young and scarily talented and will be back in the Finals soon.

Speaking of the future, it certainly appears to have come to Nassau Coliseum. It seems clear that Dubie, Satan, Vasicek, and Fedotenko have all been voted off the Island by management in favor of continuing full-on with the youth movement. We can expect to see Kyle Okposo take a larger role on next year's squad, assuming all goes well in training camp.

And while we're thinking about training camp, let's not forget that the hockey-starved among us will still have plenty of chances to mingle with the young Islanders. The Entry Draft is just about two weeks away (June 20th), and while we're not going to Ottawa with our friends Mike and Tom, we will be at the Coliseum draft party. We heard that prospect Rob Figren and others will be on hand too, and there will even be some parking lot tailgating. Sweet! The staff of Okposo Net will be happy to meet and greet anyone and everyone, and even talk some hockey with you. After all, the draft is really one of the special days that fans get to enjoy.

Lastly, remember that on July 12th the Isles will be hosting a Kyle Okposo meet and greet, also at the Coliseum. You can check the official team website for details on that. It should be a good chance to get to know Kyle and ask him a few questions; maybe get your jersey signed by him too if you're lucky...

Before we do all of the Isles' promotional work for them, let's hope that this time next season we'll all be a lot happier about our team's standing. While we probably won't be celebrating with the Stanley Cup, perhaps we'll have just enjoyed a solid playoff run and will be discussing how this team can be where Detroit is now. With this dreadful season now finalized, we say again, there's nowhere to go but up.