Thursday, March 29, 2012

Milestone Night For Kyle

Kyle Okposo reached a personal milestone with two goals on Thursday night (versus Pittsburgh). Okposo, who has struggled to score consistently all season, reached the 20 goal mark in a season for the first time in his professional career.

His play has been much better of late, evidenced by his five goals in the team's last four games. The pair also gets him over the 40 point threshold for the second time in his National Hockey League career.

His season line now stands at 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 total points.

He won't reach his career high of 52 points set back in the 2009-2010 season, nor will the team make the playoffs. However, his recent play may serve as a shot of confidence for the remaining five games of this campaign and into next season.

Kyle's career line as of this post is 64 G, 93 A, 157 PTS.

As someone who has followed his hockey career dating back to his days at the University of Minnesota, I am pleased for him. And I know he still has the will and ability to improve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nabokov: From Tolled To In The Fold

News broke on Wednesday morning of the New York Islanders re-signing goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a one year deal. The team announced the deal via press release and Twitter at around 11:30 AM, though major news sources had the information just moments quicker.

The deal will pay Nabokov a reported $2.75 million in 2012-2013 and comes free of any movement restrictions. The soon-to-be 37-year old, who has been the team's steadiest goalie this season, can leave on his terms next year, if he so chooses. It also allows Islanders management to use the Russian as a trading chip next season, should it come to that.

As you'll remember, it was little more than a year ago that General Manager Garth Snow selected Nabokov on re-entry waivers, then tolled the goalie's contract after he chose not to play the end of the NHL season in New York.

It seems that with today's news the sides have clearly reconciled, with Nabokov saying
“I’m thrilled to commit to this team for next season.”

While his season's line (17 wins, 2.56 GAA, .912 save %) will not nominate him for the Vezina Trophy this season, it has been his performance between the pipes and leadership that has prevented this season from become a true disaster.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Late Breakdowns Leave Isles Adrift

I'm not going to lie. I thought the season would turn out a lot better than it did. Unfortunately, Thursday's (3/13) game against Washington featured another blown lead, another overtime loss, and more fan angst.

Leading 4-1 late in the second period, the Islanders allowed three unanswered Capitals goals and lost in a shootout, 5-4.

The fact that this year's Islanders have failed to close so many winnable games has left me (and surely all of you) completely discouraged.

The scabs don't need to be picked again. Pointing fingers doesn't solve the glaring problems that plagues this team. But I am haunted by the fact that this team has let (and continues to let) so many points slip away. Against Washington (again), New Jersey, the Rangers, and so on. And that has just been within the last two weeks!

The Isles blew the lead yesterday in a game that typified the types of stumbles and missteps they have endured all season. Sure, there were good individual efforts, such as John Tavares' three points and Kyle Okposo's pair of assists.

However, the parts haven't nearly added up to a competitive sum.

Some fans and media are suggesting that the parts need to be replaced. Others have gone with the old motto of "You can't fire the players," suggesting that fresh coaching is the way to go.

I, however, don't think either is the right approach. I think that the only thing that can right this foundering ship is a major influx of talent. Only then will the fans become more receptive to season ticket renewal letters without bouts of anger and scorn.

Manager Garth Snow has his work cut out for him. He has little more than one able scoring line and some serviceable goalies (both of whom are pending free agents). He has some goaltending prospects in his deck and a possible scoring threat (Ryan Strome) on the way.

And that's about it.

He needs to completely rebuild a defense which was an utter failure, save for Travis Hamonic, Mark Streit, and Andy MacDonald. And even Streit didn't have a very good year.

If he can make trades for the Ryan Smiths and Christian Ehrhoffs of the world, and pay veterans like Brian Rolston over $5 million for very little, surely Garth can pull this off. Maybe not build a Vancouver-like powerhouse, but a team at least good enough to capture a #7 or #8 playoff seed.

Sure, it's nice that Tavares has set his career high in points and Matt Moulson has his third straight 30 goal season. But if it means missing the playoffs year after year then it's worth nothing.

To continue on this path is just wasting these players' careers. And that's a shame.

The young players who really care about this team and Long Island deserve better. I, who have been writing about this team for five seasons and have yet to attend a postseason game, deserve better.

Most importantly, the fans deserve better.

I hope that Charles Wang, with an understandably uncertain future in this market, at least allows Garth Snow to try this offseason. That's all we can ask.