Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Underwhelming Effort in Calgary

I'm going to keep this one short. There was very little to take away from the Islanders' 2-0 loss in Calgary on Tuesday (9/27) night.

The good news, I suppose, is that it was only preseason and the Islanders dressed a team of mostly prospects and guys fighting for jobs. Additionally, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov looked fairly good for a guy who hadn't played a real game in, well, forever. He saved 15 of 16 shots in two periods of work.

The numbers pretty much tell the story: 13 total shots on goal for the Isles. 0 for 3 on the power play. No shots from Ryan Strome or Kirill Kabanov to even make Flames goaltender Henrik Karlsson sweat.

In a word: meh. But that's what preseason is for.

I don't know if it was the cross-continent flight or just a lack of NHL readiness by some of the guys on the ice, but I was hoping to see a better effort. Matt Donovan showed a bit, if I had to pick a player wearing white.

Compounding the woeful display were the injuries that struck Milan Jurcina (strained left groin) and Rhett Rakhshani (injured left knee).

The Islanders' top two lines, barring injuries, are basically set and have looked good this season. Defensively, Mark Streit has looked like a man on a mission after being named captain last week.

But if the Islanders want to be a playoff team this season, as Kyle Okposo told me they must be, they'll need to get a better showing from their role players than they had in this tilt.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blood Drive Before the Game

If you're going to come out to Saturday (9/24) night's preseason game, I would ask you to strongly consider helping your community beforehand.

I realize that there are a lot of good causes out there, and many of you give your time and money generously, but this is something that may directly save a life: The American Red Cross blood drive.

Hopefully you or your loved ones will never be in a situation where you need blood, but if you do it is comforting to know that a supply will be available. It's more important than you think.

As a "thank you" from the New York Islanders, you'll also receive a pair of tickets to a future weeknight game (first 200 fans). So it's a win-win all around.

For more information, please see the official website. I hope you'll think about giving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tavares Extension and Rookies to Watch

I had been waiting until something official was announced, but it seems that whispers of a long term extension for center John Tavares are true. TSN is reporting the contract as a 6-year, $33 million deal. That's quite an early birthday present from Garth Snow. Tavares will turn 21 years old next Tuesday (September 20th).

I have no idea what John's beverage of choice is, but I imagine he'll be able to afford plenty of it now.

Garth Snow has done an excellent job of acquiring and keeping his young core of players on Long Island. This is another feather in his cap. In the last several months he has locked Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, and now Tavares in to long term deals. Well done, Garth.

I didn't think much of it at the time, but yesterday I noticed the players' dressing room at Nassau Coliseum had been freshly painted. Over the door sit images of 4 Stanley Cups and the word COMMITMENT beneath.

Mr. Snow has certainly taken the word to heart and put his trust in what he has assembled.

Speaking of assembling a championship caliber team, the pieces of future Islanders teams were on display the last two nights.

The Islanders held two rookie games against Boston's rookies, and while the first game didn't go so well for the young Isles, Tuesday night's showing was much better. They won 7-2, and a few players really shined.

Without too much analysis, here are some young guys who impressed me:

Nino Niederreiter - He is going to make the Islanders out of training camp. After a decent 9 game look last season, he is poised for a full time role in the NHL. Am I crazy to think he might even have a big impact at the NHL level? Could he score 20 goals? I wouldn't rule it out.

Ryan Strome - The early returns have it looking like Garth and company have struck draft day gold. He's a long shot to make the Islanders right now, but I wouldn't rule out a nine game trial with the big club at some point this season. He put up 106 points in the OHL last year. Can he improve upon it?

Casey Cizikas - A center taken in the 2009 entry draft. He's not John Tavares, but who is? He played a really nice two games, scored some goals, and didn't shy away from contact.

David Ullstrom - Another center that looked pretty good to me. The young Swede wearing the 41 sweater scored 41 points (17-24-41) at Bridgeport last season.

Tyler McNeely - The Northeastern University product took me by surprise this week. I would imagine he'll see a lot of playing time at Bridgeport (AHL) this coming season after a short 10 game stint there last year.

Anders Nilsson - The Isles have a logjam at goal, but the large Swede has been working with goalie guru Sudarshan "Sudsie" Maharaj and looked really solid in the win. He squared up nicely against Boston's shots and made some nice saves when his team was on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Decade Nights" and Isles Hall of Fame Thoughts

The 2011-2012 season is right around the corner! As many of you know, this will be the Islanders' 40th season on Long Island. Management has already put a number of tributes in place to honor the special season (just look at that beautiful logo on the ice).

In a nod to their storied history, the Islanders will hold four “Decade Nights” throughout the
season. On each night, a vital member of the Islanders' past glories will be inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame.

Ed Westfall, the face of the early Islanders, will be honored on November 19th. Number 18, who played 18
seasons in the National Hockey League, will be inducted on a night when the Islanders face the only other franchise he played for, the defending champion Boston Bruins. As most of you know, he was the first captain in Islanders history and is a fine choice to represent the decade of the 1970s.

Ken Morrow, who I had the pleasure of meeting, was a critical part of the 1980 "Miracle" Olympic
team and the Islanders Stanley Cup dynasty. In a career spent entirely on Long Island, he was a great defenseman during the Cup years. I am still amazed at his +53 rating during the 1981-1982 season, arguably the greatest Islanders team ever (54-16-10, 118 points). His night will be held on New Year's Eve, December 31st.

Pat Flatley, who tallied 488 points in
his Islanders career, will be honored as the player of the 1990s. He was the fifth captain in team history, and captained the last Islanders squad to win a playoff series (1992-1993). (Hopefully we won't be able to say that much longer, but I digress). Islanders Hall of Fame honors will be bestowed upon him on January 14th, 2012.

The last of the honorees will be Swedish defenseman, and one of my personal favorites, Kenny Jonsson
. The quiet defenseman's work is sometimes overlooked by fans, but he was a key to the teams that returned the Isles back to respectability in the early 2000s. He is now a coach in his native Sweden, but will return to Long Island for a very special evening on February 11th, 2012.


While I am pleased that the Islanders are choosing to swell the ranks of their Hall of Fame with the
above men, I have one constructive criticism of its setup.

The aforementioned men all played vital parts in franchise history. They will each be honored with a bronze
plaque and have their names added to the banner that hangs from the Nassau Coliseum roof.

However, I believe Halls of Fame are for the people to enjoy, and a way for the fans to connect with
their team's history.

The Islanders currently mount their plaques immediately outside the home dressing room, in the hallway.
The players pass images of former great Islanders on their way out to the ice. Many of these men have been honored in the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto also. The idea is to inspire the players to greatness.

However, I think the team would be better served moving the plaques to a public area where they could be
seen and enjoyed by the fans. I know there are plans to do this if and when the Islanders get a new building. I just think it should be done now. Perhaps the lower concourse, where the New York Sports Hall of Fame once occupied space, could be used.

I once visited Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. At the time the building was old, the team was miserable,
and the entire atmosphere was bland. But one thing they did right was to have their Hall of Fame plaques on display in the concourse. Fans could stop by, read them, touch them, and perhaps hear a story from a family member about a player.

Similarly, the New York Mets now have a public Hall of Fame, a great improvement over what they had at Shea Stadium.

It serves the Islanders no purpose to have their legends tucked away in an area that the fans can't

I know it seems petty, but I think it would be a positive change for the new season.


Fans, remember that the Rookie game versus Boston is on Tuesday night (9/13) at 7 PM at Nassau Coliseum.
See you there!