Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stick a Fork in Em - They're Done

"Be aware that a halo only has to fall a few inches to become a noose." (Dan McKinnon).

When he was hired, Gordon was viewed as the perfect guy for the job - and that job was rebuilding. We also heard a lot about his "system" and how it would generate excitement and offense. It's obvious that the "system" is not generating offense and in fact, it seems to be more successful at generating discontent.

Earlier this week Witt complained about defensive breakdowns (this could be one of those - if I shoot my mouth off they'll send me packing statements) and then Gordon somewhat reluctantly concurs. They now have a 9 game losing streak (0-8-1) and they have averaged a mere 2 goals per game (20 goals in the 9 games). That's pathetic - and they can't even blame it on facing top notch goalies (e.g., Brodeur, Luongo, etc.). Guys have been in-and-out of Gordon's "doghouse" for failing to play "the system" for a full 60 minutes and the team has shown it can hang with most teams if the games were only 40 minutes. (Note to Snow: ask league to shorten games to 40 minutes).

I've been saying it since DAY ONE - this team does NOT have enough talent to win consistently - regardless of what "system" they play. That being said - I do like Gordon's approach. It can be more exciting & daring. They need to get themselves more talent. The fact that Snow & Gordon apparently stepped through the looking glass and the funny looking hare with the big watch told them that Park & Hilbert could be first-liners and score enough is symbolic of this team's mushroom induced fantasy that they can compete. Even with Okposo (and I firmly believe he will never be more than a 15-20 goal scorer) and Comeau (he too, will never put more than 15-20 in the net) they just DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TALENT. And all of you "Weight is putting up big numbers" need to take your heads out of your asses and realize that 90% of his points come with the man advantage. So unless teams are going to start playing with only 4 guys during the weight's shifts - he will continue to be largely unproductive during even strength.

We are closing in on the trading season - expect the Isles to be big time sellers of bodies and collectors of draft picks. You don't need a sixth sense and a swami hat to know that. The question is - which of the bodies will be sold.

Next up: Bring out your dead, bring out your dead! (who will be dealt)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gobble, Gobble - Puke

It's the day after Thanksgiving & after spending the morning hanging the outdoor Christmas lights I decided to relax for the afternoon on the couch and watch the Isles vs. Bruins.

First - hate the Bruins uni's - what happened to the "B" on their chest? Is this their version of a 3rd jersey? Anyway - like the turkey in the attached cartoon - I think the Isles are "done" Yeah - I know its only 21 games in - but they have not shown much growth or development. They are STILL making the same mistakes they made in the first dozen games. Playing on 40 minutes of hockey (see the result of the Penguins game); still sloppy with the puck and having difficulty scoring (see the Bruins game); they are still taking stupid and careless penalties (see Tambellini in Bruins game). I think we are going to watch as this team wins a few, then loses more than a few, then wins a couple, then loses more than a couple - for the rest of the season.

They still have not established a consistent and sustained offensive attack. They are good on special teams -- Weight with lots of PP goals and the PK is still playing fine. They are just not potent enough.

Last blog I remarked that I wasn't buying the feces that some bloggers were selling about them getting better --- and I was right. I do think, however, that after 9 games Bailey has shown himself worthy of staying in the NHL. I've seen him live in a few games and on TV the rest - and I am impressed with his poise, his maturity, and definitely his gift with the puck. Now he just needs to find the back of the net. As we get deeper into December and then the new year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Garth start moving some bodies & collecting draft picks. In fact, I think that is the smartest strategy at this point.

On to the topic I promised: Fighting.
All 3 of my boys play both ice & roller hockey. Right now - they are playing roller (in the spring comes ice hockey). Anyway - the roller league they play in -- St. John of God CYO Roller Hockey in Central Islip -- is a fantastic league. This is my boys' 4th year in the league. It is FULL CHECKING and NHL rules play. So my boys all know how to deliver & take a hit - and they have taken & delivered their fair share of gorgeous hits. But the one thing the league does NOT tolerate is fighting. Many of the non-hockey or casual hockey fans point to fighting in the NHL as a reason to hate the sport - or call for a ban on fighting altogether. As Charles Barkely once said -- he can't believe you can get into a fight, sit out for 5 minutes, and then play the rest of the game. Yet, amazingly it works.

It's now the "new" NHL - so gone are the days of my childhood when each team had their resident goon who was no more than a glorified boxer on skates. Guys like - Dave Shultz, Joey Kocur, Marty McSorley, Tie Domi, Tiger Williams, Rob Ray, Chris Nilan... and others. Granted, some of these guys could play too - but many just earned a roster spot with their fists. That is really not the case anymore. Yeah - their are some goons left - but they are rare, and most can at least skate, pass, and not embarrass themselves. I think a guy like Mitch Fritz is an old-time tough guy - a/k/a he ain't being put on the ice for his offense, his defense, or wonderful puck handling skills. He dropped the gloves in the Pittsburgh game - and it was largely a draw.

Anyway - kids understand more than we give them credit for - well, at least the one's who possess at least a minimum of intelligence & discipline (and I know the number of those is dwindling). Yes, my boys stand, cheer, hoot & holler when there is a fight. But they understand why there was a fight and not one of them desires or dreams of mimicking the experience. They "get it" and quite honestly I think what they see in the movies and on video games is MUCH MORE harmful to their psyche than watching 2 guys drop the gloves and "have at it" during a hockey game.

Just my 2 cents on the issue.
Next up: Bringing my home equity checkbook to games!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fat, Drunk & Stupid is No Way to Go Through Life

What are you people on? Dope?
(Mr. Hand: Fast Times At Ridgemont High)

I've been reading some posts over the past few days about how the Isles' measly 3-game winning streak was a sign of better things to come for the team, etc, etc, etc. Quick wake-up call here -- 2 of those victories were against the Senators, a team with a worse record than the Isles, and that's hard to do since there are only 2 teams in the whole NHL with worse records. I might be a buyer of the feces these delusional prognosticators are selling if the Isles were going to play Ottawa another 20-30 times this season. Reality is - this team is still a collection of unproven (and largely mediocre-talented) young guys and some overly ripe veterans of which the sum total seems to still be difficulty in scoring.

Since tonight's game (against Buffalo) is game 20 - we have reached the quarter mark. So let's look at some stats:

There are 30 teams:

  • Isles are 27th overall
  • Isles are 23rd in scoring (and 4 of the teams behind them all played 1-2 games less. So they would probably be even lower (possibly even 28th) if everyone played the same number of games)
  • Isles are 22nd in goals allowed (and 3 of the teams behind them have played more games)
  • Isles are 27th in PP percentage
  • Isles are 6th in the PK
  • Isles leading scorer (Hunter) has only 7 goals and, if he continues on this pace, will have 28 goals and 52 points.
  • Tambellini has 2 POINTS and NO GOALS; Comrie has 2 GOALS and 8 points - on pace for a huge 8 goal, 32 point season; Okposo - 2 goals; 3 of Weight's 4 goals have been on the PP, so he has been largely invisible at even strength; Sim has only 4 points; Gervais has no goals; Thompson has only 1 point (and that was when shorthanded); Neilsen with only 2 goals and 9 total points (most of which have been on the PP) and on and on and on.
OK - let's sum up. This is a bad team, except for the PK. With guys like Park, Hilbert, Witt, Sutton, Campoli, and Bergenheim you'd expect the PK to be good. In fact, they have 6 shorties. So the PK appears the be the one bright thing.

By the way - some in the psuedo-media (a/k/a - us bloggers) have anointed Bailey the next great play maker after a mere 5 games. I'll give you that the kid looks decent - but when you look at the team he plays on its no wonder he stands out a little. Plus - as we all know - 5 games does not a season or a career make. Plus - 3 of the 5 games were against the lowly Sens and .500 Flyers. Not exactly the best tests.

So - at the 20 game mark - I think the team gets a C. I'd give them a lower grade except they get some consideration due to youth and spirited play. If they continue to play this way for the rest of the season - they will succeed in one very important mission - getting a nice high pick in the 2009 draft.

Next Up: Explaining fighting to the kids.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

News Flash: Santa Slashes Elf Workforce in Half - Christmas Will Officially Suck!

It's the holiday season. So - instead of talking about the Isles (that's for the next blog) I'm gonna talk about the dilemma faced by many a parent this holiday season. No... not the ethical quandary associated with deciding whether to return most of the gifts friends & family gave to your kids and pocketing the cash to pay the mortgage or car loan - although in the current economic climate that presents less of an ethical problem than perhaps it did in the past - rather; the question centers on purchasing "gear" - Isles' gear to be precise.

As you readers may remember, I have 3 sons who are hockey players and huge Islander fans. Last Christmas, one of their favorite gifts under the tree was their authentic Isles jerseys. My oldest son got number 32 (Witt); my middle guy got number 26 (Fedotenko); and my youngest got number 39 (DP). At the time - these were their favorite players. Well, my middle guy got screwed and is struggling with wearing his jersey since Fedotenko is now a Penguin (with 4 goals, 4 assists) and not an Islander. As a quick aside, his second favorite player was Bergeron - go figure. Anyway, I am debating whether to replace his jersey this Christmas - and of course, if I do, then in fairness to the other 2, I should probably get them new jerseys as well. Now before any of you go & tell me I really only need to buy 1 jersey and that I should tell the other 2 kids that "life's not fair" and they should just deal with it since Witt & DP are still on the team - let me just say.... I agree. That being said, as a Dad - I like getting sports gear for my boys.

OK - so let's get down to brass tacks here - the real question is - who the hell do I put on the back of their jerseys? There is the old-school fan in me (I've been a fan for 30 yrs) who says they should get one of the retired guys' names - Bossy, Trots, Nystrom, Smitty, etc. By the way, this also appeals the frugal (a/k/a cheap) side of me since I never have to worry about those guys being traded or leaving as a free agent. In this day & age where there is no loyalty between players and teams you are taking a risk by having a current player's name stitched into the back of your jersey. Here today, gone tomorrow. But in all honesty - like some of my blog box cohorts - my boys are so young they never experienced the thrill & pride of watching the Dynasty guys play and they are really not much more than mythical figures or sadly, another story Daddy trots out about "the good ole days."

On the flip side - how do I get my kids to be invested in the current players on the ice and root for more than just the jersey if I don't let them get their favorite player's numbers & names on their gear? They can't live in the rafters like so many of us do as we wait for this team to mature & compete. But, if I buy a current guy's jersey, am I going to be making another short term purchase?

Of course, whatever I decide - Mommy will NOT be part of the equation. I remember my 16th birthday & my parents surprised me with an Isles jersey. It was a big deal b/c we didn't have much money. Since my dad is not a hockey fan and knows nothing about the sport - my Mom picked out the jersey. I saw the logo on the front as I opened the box... but imagine my horror as turned the jersey over and saw the big #16 in the middle, and then above it MY LAST NAME. I felt like Ralphie from Christmas Story when he opens the bunny pj's. How could she!! I can't walk around wearing this! Everyone will think I'm gay with LaFontaine's number on my back and that I'm an idiot because it had my own last name on it and not his. That is just NOT correct protocol for jerseys - any self-respecting hockey fan knows this. Of course, Mom's rationale was - it was your 16th birthday, so I got you number 16. She should have just bought me a dress. Needless to say - I hardly wore it.

Back to my dilemma - and Mommy will not be part of the decision here because quite frankly, she doesn't understand the nuances of picking a jersey and what your choice says about you. This is an important decision as a fan. First and foremost - I have to decide - old school rafter guys, or new possibly temporary guys?

Some of you may say - what's the big deal, just get the damn jersey and stop whining. You may be right, except for some of us, the $150-$200 we spend on a jersey (and in my case, multiply that by three) means we don't have that $150-$200 to put toward some other important bill. Let's face it, the stock market has gone in the toilet, the economy is a disaster, every day more huge layoffs are announced, and some of us are praying we don't have to figure out how to squeeze a Christmas tree into the cardboard box we'll be living in after the bank forecloses on the mortgage. So - yeah, a few hundred bucks is important. Fortunately, things are not that dire for yours truly. But - money is money and I don't want to just throw it away.

After weighing the options I decided to take the safe route.......
No, I didn't buy the jerseys with the Hall of Famers on them -- I bought 3 Charlestown Chiefs jersey with numbers 16, 17, and 18 - and they all say Hanson. Now I just need to get them the glasses!!

Until next time... subject- a 20 game report card.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

And sometimes - that lining is draped in a Ranger jersey.
Boo hoo! Isles beat the sinister Rangers!
Rangers SUCK.

Guess having the best record in the NHL doesn't guarantee a win against the team with the worst record. Just goes to show you - with some of these rivalries, throw the stats out the window, all bets are off. These teams "get up" to play one another.

OK - I am not delusional, I know the Isles didn't necessarily outplay their evil sibling to the west. But sometimes being lucky is better than being good, and lucky the Isles were. When was the last time they got 2 shorties in a game? It also looked like the Isles win helped continue the start of a slide for the girls in blue. NYRs have lost 4 of the last 5 - gives me a reason the smile.

Today - this blog comes to you live from the Isles v. Broadstreet Bullies. Although at 4-6-3, they look less like bullies and more like what comes out of the back of a bull. Isles come into today's game after yet ANOTHER 3rd period collapse. I hear Wang is petitioning the Bd of Governors to change the rules to make the games only 2 periods. If that was the case - Isles record would be 7-6-1 instead of 4-8-2; and they would be one point behind the Devils for 3rd place instead of dead last in the east. The Isles have allowed a staggering 21 goals in the 3rd period and have been outscored by a two-to-one margin. Maybe Witt & Martinek would help. But I still think they need someone who is a true sniper - and this team doesn't have one.

The OT loss to Cindy Crosby & the Penguins over the weekend was just depressing. Most telling - being out shot in the 3rd period by a margin of 18-1. I must confess - as games enter the 3rd period I am fairly confident they will lose. Not a good mindset. If I had the answers - I'd be behind the bench instead of ranting behind this screen.

Today - military appreciation day. Nice! Isles have done a great job acknowledging these fine men & women who kick ass around the world while wearing Old Glory on their shoulders and the hopes & fears of loved ones in their hearts. Take a moment today - and thank a vet. Gen. Colin Powell (wouldn't it be nicer to say Pres. Elect Powell, or VP Elect Powell instead of just General?) dropped the ceremonial puck to open the game. Army guys rappelling from the rafters & the Air Force brass band playing the Anthem - gives you the ole lump in the throat. Kudos to the Isles for putting on a good show. One side note - the little "military" costumes the ice girls are wearing should do wonders for recruitment into the armed forces. Grrrowl.

Game Notes:
Big news to start the game - - Comrie is out - he of the pathetic 2 goals & $4 mill in salary. Good grief, Streit, Sim and HILBERT all have more goals. In his place - rookie 1st rd pick - Bailey. He is playing on the 4th line with Sim and Jackman so he probably won't have too many chances or too much ice time. He did pop his "penalty cherry" by getting called for hooking at about 9:00 into the first period. All-in-all, the first period was fairly even with the Isles having a few more scoring chances and a 5 on 3 power play that they did NOTHING with. On to the 2d period.

Second Period:
Bailey makes a few nifty passes with the puck & seems to possess that intangible "awareness" of the whole ice. Tambellini on the other hand - can't buy a goal. Isles are expecting him to contribute - and no goals and one assist in 12 games is just not enough. Early prediction here - he doesn't finish the season as an Isle. He'll either be gone in a trade or playing for Bridgeport. He had another great chance in this period & buried into Biron's chest. One positive - I like the D-pairing of Campoli & Gervais. They are poised, tough, and responsible in their own end. Sutton - another great hit at the blue line. Then again - this isn't the 3rd period so they should still be playing well.

They get their second 5 on 3 power play - and they are equally sucky. Then, less then a minute after the PP ends - BANG, goal for Briere. With only 6 minutes left in the 2d the Isles must be trying to start their 3rd period misery early. Well - at least they go into the 3rd period without the possibility of blowing a lead.

Third Period:
Okposo, Hilbert, and Bailey now on a line together. Isles just cannot establish a sustained attack. Oops - late in the period Flyers get a shorty. Roll up the carpet, close the door & turn off the lights - this one is over folks. Of course Hunter gives the fans a tease by breaking the shut out & making it a 2-1 game with under 4 minutes to play. No confidence they'll pull it out. In the end - I am right.

Joey MacDonald looked good. But this game was all about the SPECIAL TEAMS play - or lack thereof. Some startling stats:
Isles were 0-8 on PP
They gave up a shorty
They were 0-2 on the 5-3 PP.
Even sadder - they never really even established a sustained attack.

Be interesting to see what Gordon has to say about this effort.

Next up: More Gripes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And What Would You Like Mr. Lion? Courage!

"Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat." (George Eliot).

Alas, it took me a week to post this - tough to write after a week of games like the ones the Isles played against Dallas, Carolina, NYR, Flyers, and the Habs. Let's take the disasters one at a time:

Dallas: (5-3 Loss) Horrendous penalty-kill, too many penalties (making Avery look good), and some sloppy play in their own end = a recipe for disaster. The 5-3 score makes it sound like a closer game then it was. Isles were outplayed, made mistakes, and DP looked shaky. We find out days later - his shakiness could be because he just wasn't 100%

Carolina: (4-3 Loss) The story of this game - 60 shots by Isles and Weight's missed potential game-tying penalty shot with under a second left in the game. First - 60 shots sounds like they sent an overwhelming barrage on net - when in reality, many of those shots were not high quality or high percentage shots. They did have plenty of chances - but again, their lack of scoring punch was evident - as is their lack of a sniper to take the penalty shot. Can't fault Gordon's choice of shooter - Weight knows the Canes & is a crafty veteran who likely wouldn't be impacted by the pressure of the situation. All great - except in the end, he didn't get the job done.

One ancillary observation -- DP's handling of the puck has been awful. He leads the team each night in giveaways. He needs to get better in his decision making when he goes for or has the puck. He is now pretty much a veteran - he's gotta cut down on the mistakes.

NYR: (4-2 Loss) Another example of 20 minutes of good hockey and then tailing off with defensive lapses and too much time spent with guys in the penalty box. MacDonald has at least shown that he can play at the NHL level - but they will need him to step up his game if they are going to hang with the big boys.

Flyers: (3-2 OT Loss) Well, now they upgraded to 40 minutes of good hockey. If they could just remember the game is 60 minutes long. Hilbert's goal was pure luck -- shouldn't be a reason to think he is going to do much this season. I am getting a little tired of the post-game "we are playing the system, I see improvements, we had good momentum in the 2d period, if we could just do what we did for 20 or 40 minutes for a full 60 minute, we are getting better" coach-speak. Please, save the Kool Aid for someone else. Fans are shelling out LOTS of money - not just for game tickets but for food, parking, beverages, and gear, and they DESERVE better than half efforts or excuses about adjusting to a system. This is starting to get extremely frustrating.

Habs: (5-4 UGLY Loss) I will cover this game in my next blog otherwise I'll just vomit.

Since reporting on the games is beginning to be a bit boring -- how many ways can you find something positive to say about another horrendous loss? - Next up, along with a Habs wrap-up, I will provide some insight for those of you out there who wonder what it is like to be part of the "media." Yes, as a blogger, I am considered media - sometimes, I am amazed myself. It is a nice perk. We get little badges at the game (not very sophisticated - made of flimsy cardboard & a sticker); we get the "game notes" that are provided to mainstream sports writers; and we get access to the post-game press conference with Gordon & can interview players. So.........

Next up: A window into the life of a blogger.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Absence of Offense Can Be Offensive!

"Futility = playing a harp before a buffalo" (Author unknown).

On Saturday night that could have read: "Futility = believing the Isles will have a consistent offense." OK, against Florida they weren't dreadful - but that's like getting excited about only having to eat half a sh*t sandwich instead of a whole one. The Isles play was sloppy and they generated very little in the way of decent scoring chances. Vokoun easily brushed aside those high-percentage shots from the outside, the one's from past the circle, and the lazy floaters from the point. The Isles were definitely out skated -Florida has some speed - and they used it to neutralize the Isles' speed.

Oh well - you win some and then you lose a few more. As predicted - this season will be filled with ups & downs. Looking at the games against the Blues, then the Sabres, then Tampa, then Florida - I feel like I am riding a see-saw with this team. One night they skate well and put the puck in the net and the next night they get outplayed and barely look capable of sustaining any offensive pressure. This teams makes me think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!!! Only I wish we saw a little more Mr. Hyde and a lot less of that pansy do-gooder Dr. Jekyll.

Alas - for me, the dilemma became - how do I explain the Isles' inconsistency to my boys? The answer - I don't, I just tell them the Isles, like everyone else, occasionally have an off day. Like when Daddy comes home smelling like booze and rants about the mean Mr. Prickstein he works for and then shouts at & argues with Mommy, and then Daddy cries like a little girl and takes his "medicine" and then..... ahem.... a little off course here. That of course, never happens to yours truly. I digress - like I said - I chalk it up to a "bad day" and tell my boys the Isles just need to work harder and it will take time for them to adjust to such a different system. Then I gently pat my boys on their heads, send them off to bed with a warm cup of milk, and look for the misses to help console me!!!!

Next up... I'm seeing Stars!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Good Sign Emerges

"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did." (Newt Gingrich)

Last night's victory was a good sign for the Isles. No - not the fact that they blew a 2 goal lead in the third period, or that they appeared to play Gordon's system for 40 minutes and then started to look a little lazy & tired. The fact that they didn't quit and kept fighting back to scratch out a win. When the Rays tied it at 2-2, it looked bad. You could see a momentary & collective slumping of the shoulders of the guys on the ice. It looked like the Isles were getting tired from all the work they did in the first 40 minutes. In the past, I would have shut the TV off, gone to bed, and expected to wake up this morning and read about a loss -- and not just any loss - but a painful one, where the winning goal is scored on some defensive breakdown or scramble in front of the net with under a minute to play. We've all seen plenty of those in the past few years. But I decided to take my chances & leave the TV on and see what this team is made of - and I was able to go to bed with a smile on my face (and not just from my post-game celebration with the wifey!).

The Isles' aggressive play and fast skating put them right back in front. They kept moving the puck and pressing. I was really impressed with their aggressive attack on the PK. I used to scream from my seat in section 318 (or from my couch) for them to put pressure on the point men - skate at them and force them to make a play instead of sitting in the box defense and hope to break up a bad pass. I like Gordon's aggressive approach. Sure, they will inevitably get burned on occasion. But is seems to be working and is more exciting to watch.
I think we are starting to see some really good things. Now, like the players, the fans (including yours truly) need to have a little patience as this team gels, the young guys develop, and they get better in the system. Perseverance.
Next up - the return of DP

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Braveheart - Witt Would Eat Mel Gibson for Lunch

"Toughness is in the soul and the spirit, not in muscles." (Alex Karras)

Good news ~ the warrior Brendan Witt should not miss any time as a result of the cut to his head that occurred in the game against Buffalo. When interviewed about his injury he said, and I quote, "Brendan Witt - 1, Nassau Coliseum ice - 0." He is the definition of toughness. He guts it out night after night and plays hurt. He is not a superstar - but he is solid and steady. In previous blogs, I've mentioned that my oldest son (who is 11) proudly wears a Witt jersey - and he also tries to mimic Witt when he plays defense for his hockey team. Witt is not only a good player - he is also a good guy off the ice.

I had the privilege of meeting Witt once - away from the Coliseum. He was making an appearance at an elementary school as part of the Isles literacy program. He was there with Josef Vasicek. They were finished & had already left the building and were walking across the parking lot to their cars. I happened to also be making a visit to that school that day (I have my own business on the side wherein I present a fun, interactive educational & mock trial program to 5th graders). We were in the parking lot - they were done with their appearance - there was no reason for them to stop & talk to me. But stop he did.

I introduced myself to Witt and he shook my hand & asked me why I was there that day. I told him a little bit about my program and he stood there listening intently (OK - maybe he was feigning interest but he waited patiently until I was done). He asked me a few questions about the program and then asked if I was a fan - which of course I responded yes, and told him about my son. He offered to autograph something for me to give to my son. We are not autograph collectors in our house so I said "thanks, but I didn't have anything with me." He wished me luck, told me to say hi to my son for him, and went on his way. Immediately one word came to mind - Gentleman.

In this day & age of overpaid, Prima-Dona athletes who can't be bothered to spend 5 seconds with a fan, give a kid an autograph, or give back to the community with making sure they are seen by the press but not bothered by the fans, Witt's attitude was remarkable, refreshing, and only bolstered my respect for him as a professional and a man. Islander fans are truly lucky -- we have access to the team's players & management that is unparalleled in today's professional sports. Between all of the fan-friendly events they run (visit the locker room, bar-b-ques for ticket holders with players present, and special events over the summer with management to talk about the direction of the team) and their many community service activities (visiting hospitals, schools, and camps) the Isles are truly a team that is connected with their community.

Are they the most talented team? No. Are they the best run & managed sports franchise? Of course not. But there is NO doubt they are the franchise that makes the biggest effort to give something back to the community & the loyal fans that support the team.

Brendan -- it's good to know you won't miss any games. My son & I were happy when you agreed to a contract extension. Your toughness on the ice is not the only reason my kid looks up to you. We'll be looking for the old number 32 next game.

Next up... Isles are going to Disneyland! OK, not Disney - but Florida.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Martinek Injured Again - Along with Isles' Pride

"No, I never broke my nose playing ice hockey; but eleven other guys did." Gordie Howe.

Martinek is out for 4-6 weeks again. Is it me or does this guy seem a little fragile? Don't misunderstand me here - he plays hard, has grit, blocks shots, and battles in the corners - but that is only when he plays. He seems to be snake bitten with the injuries. Looking back over his tenure with the Isles - he has never played more than 74 games in a season - and he did that once - and he averages just 54 games per season (about 65% of the games). It's not just the loss of games played - but the injuries obviously add to the wear & tear on his 32 yr old body. On top of that - he has 10 career goals and 74 total points in 6 seasons! He averages 12 points a season! Are you kidding me? And in the past he was given some time on the PP and was expected to "move the puck" - it appears someone was snorting ice shavings when they came up with that expectation.

With the 2008-2009 Isles being a team that looks like it will struggle offensively, and they already have Witt, Sutton, Meyer, and young unproven guys like Gervais & Hillen on the backline, I think management needs to re-evaluate the roster spot taken up by Martinek. Of course having a solid puck-moving, 2-way D-man is a rarity in the NHL. Too bad they don't have a guy like Zdeno Chara, Bryan McCabe, Wayne Redden, Eric Brewer, or a Matthiew Schneider --- oh, yeah that's right, they gave those guys away. Well then... too bad they didn't have a shot at a 2-way D-man in the draft. Oops - that's right, they did have one in their sights... and passed him over too. I could go on - but I've already made myself a little sick.

I am thankful I wasn't able to attend yesterday's disaster against the Sabres. I actually sold my seats ($50 face value) for $10 a piece. At first I thought I was "giving them away" - but after the game I felt like I should call up the guy that bought them & give him his money back and apologize! Messy play, stupid penalties, mystery surrounding DP & his availability (I think the Coli is too close to the Jets facility & Gordon is doing his best Eric Mangini impression), woeful special teams, and just an all-around poor effort. Well, we all have a bad day from time-to-time. Luckily most of us don't have to have our bad day in front of 10,000+ people!

This weekend in Florida will be another test for this team in transition. First up, Tampa (with Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis and company) and then on to the Panthers. I think I'd be happy if they got 1 out of the 2 games.

Next up: ...where have you gone Blake Comeau...?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Games 1 & 2 - A New Hope

"In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first." Harry S. Truman

In the first 2 games we've seen a very disciplined and energetic hockey team. Despite the 2-1 loss to the Devils, I thought the Isles played well. The Guerin, Weight, Sim line appears to have good chemistry. The kids were flying around the rink and the play was fast - just as Scott Gordon promised. There were a few defensive miscues and some sloppy passing - that will improve as the lines flesh out and they gain some confidence & familiarity playing with each other. But they appeared to play well in the new system. Who knows what the outcome would have been if the game went to OT - after all, the goal by Elias was obviously a blown call by the refs. Last time I checked the rules, you can't be in the crease (actually, he was almost in the net) when you score. Replays also showed he wasn't pushed into the crease or MacDonald -- he got there all on his own. Should have been 1-1 at the end of regulation. Before I move on to Game 2 - I have to mention Okposo & the penalty shot. That old fox Brodeur gave Okposo the bait of the open window in the upper corner - and Okposo bit - and bit hard. Brodeur has a great glove as veterans all know. Chalk one up for age & experience over youth & skill. Okposo is going to have to bury those opportunities in the future if he is going to become one of the offensive leaders on this team. The Devils don't give away too many chances - and if you are lucky enough to get one - capitalize, because he who hesitates, is lost.

On to Game 2 - the Home Opener. Just a few side words about the game experience. The band that played before, during & after was awfully loud, and just so-so (maybe I'm getting old); the new t-shirt Gatling gun was kinda neat; but, the elimination of the Gary Glitter song after a goal was sad. My kids liked pumping their fists in the air and shouting "Hey" (followed by the less formal "you suck") after a goal. We all know it has literally nothing to do with hockey - but the crowd seemed a little lost on what to do after a goal. Look - I know Glitter has some creepy legal issues - but I don't think playing the song after a goal is an endorsement of his activities. Bring back the "Hey" song! While we are on the subject of music - if you ask me (and my boys) we used to love when the Isles played the music with the video of the pirate ship & skeletons shooting pucks - right before the start of a game. The music was pretty cool - and besides, mixing hockey with pirates & skeletons - it's a 10-yr old boys dream!!

Back to the game. The Bergenheim, Hilbert & Thompson line was quick & aggressive. FYI - kudos to Andy Hilbert on his 2-pt night. In BOTH of the last 2 seasons it has taken Hilbert more than 20 games to get his first POINT - that's right, I said POINT, not goal. Imagine going 1/4 of the season without a single point! Let's hope this is the new & improved Hilbert and not the one who for the last 2 seasons couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

The Guerin, Weight, Sim line produced some good chances - and it seemed like everytime Sim was on the ice there was a scrum in front of the net or on the boards - good old-fashioned hockey. The line of Park, Comrie & Okposo skated well, and their aggressive forecheck, nice passing & crashing the net led to the first goal. While I don't think anyone is going to be afraid of any one of the Isles 4 lines, they all seem to be somewhat balanced. Balanced with average or slightly above average talent - but balanced nonetheless. I think the fact that the 5 goals came from 5 different guys is a good sign; getting one goal from 3 different lines - plus one shorty and one PP. That's balance.

On defense - the guys took the body and kept the front of the net clear. I can't say enough about the old warrior - Witt. He is an animal. My son (also a defensemen) proudly wears his Witt jersey to every game. Martinek left the game in the first period - so the D-men did a geat job picking up the slack and gobbling up the ice time.

One of my initial concerns with the Isles has been - can we score enough to win? You obviously can't answer that question after a mere 2 games. I think it's fair to say the team is capable - and if they stay disciplined in Gordon's ludicrous-speed system - and they drive to the net, we might just see more exciting games like we did Saturday night.

Leave you with a little hockey trivia - who said, "Jesus, what did the old man trade for these a**holes, a used puck bag?"?
Until next time......

Going to a Party at a Trailer Park

"You can check out any time you like... but you can never leave." (Henley & Frey)

Last night was a night of firsts. First win of the season for the team, first win for MacDonald, and first NHL win for Coach Gordon. Great job guys! Before I lay out my blow-by-blow analysis OF the game - let me talk about my experience AT the game. Let me preface this by saying I am a season ticket holder who also pays for an additional 21 game plan to bring my 3 sons to games. So I am invested here - I am a dedicated fan who "antes up" and supports the franchise - and in light of the recent implosion of the stock market, we all know how hard it is to back up the Brinks truck and dump a load of cash for hockey tickets. Alright - I made that decision - so I ain't looking for sympathy (cause I ain't getting any) and I am not suffering from buyer's remorse. But, I literally feel like I am paying to go to a party at a trailer park! The Coliseum is a complete and utter dump.

Let's start by talking about the parking situation. Since I bought season tickets - I get to park in the special pre-paid parking lot. One might think this is a nice added bonus - but parking at the Coliseum is just miserable - special lot or not. First - as I approach from the east on Hempstead Tpk I see a big electric sign telling me that the pre-paid lots are closed and everyone must use the general admission lot. Of course, once I weave my way through this sea of jackasses behind the wheel of various vehicles the size of ocean-liners, I notice a wave of cars rolling through the pre-paid parking entrance! What the...? So, I've barely entered the Coliseum grounds and I've already been lied to. So I park, put on my jogging sneakers, pack an overnight bag, and make the long trek across the windswept tundra known as "the Coliseum parking lot." After using my sextant, refilling the canteens a few times, and navigating through an army of scalpers, I finally reach the tomb... I mean the Coliseum. Then, lines you wait on just to get into that miserable heap of concrete!! Everyone frantically sucking on their cigarettes trying to squeeze the last drop of nicotine out before going inside while my kids stand there in a cloud of cancer while their clothes absorb the stench of Marlboro. How pleasant.

Finally, you pass through the turnstile and you can almost feel the transformation -- and I am not referring to some cheesy sports experience here, or some lame magical transformation where some fairy godmother (or hockey mom) dressed in orange & blue smacks you with her hockey stick and makes you an Isles fan. No! I am referring the transformation from man to beast. I can immediately relate to and sympathize with the millions of cattle, horse, chicken, or other livestock that spends time standing closer to its fellow species than it desires. I won't even mention the menagerie of odors you get to sample in this cross-section of humanity. The choice of direction is not mine - I am quickly absorbed into the crowd and it feels like 5:00 pm on the LIE. We move en-mass, elbow-to-elbow, shoulder-to-shoulder, and I just shuffle along with a line of people that resembles a giant anaconda slowly weaving its way through the jungles of the Amazon. All the while I'm praying that the tug I feel on the bottom of my Isles jersey is my kid's hand and not some pervert's pathetic attempt to cop a feel. Next, comes the dismount. "There is the entrance to our section," I proudly announce to my kids - who thankfully are still in tow; however, the look on their faces tells me they've clearly had a more aromatically offensive journey than I since their little heads are parallel to the gastro-propulsion section of the adults.

Alas, our journey is complete - we finally make it to our seats. We climb over the 2 elderly gents, trying not to kick over their beer or brush against their pretzels drenched in mustard. We collapse into our seats and are only moments from the opening ceremonies when one of my boys announces that he has to go to the bathroom. He might as well have kicked me in the groin! My head starts to throb just thinking about going back down the soda & beer slicked steps to the one of the most disgusting rooms on the face of the earth -- a men's bathroom at a sports arena. Of course, I can't take one kid and leave the other 2 at their seats in this era where kid-touchers seem to be hiding everywhere, wearing disguises like priest collars, scoutmaster uniforms, and nice older guys in plaid. We gingerly tip-toe down the steps and re-enter the madding shuffle of people wandering around the perimeter of the Coliseum. We find the men's room fairly easily - it's the only place where the circulating wave of humans has come to a stop - then creeps forward like an assembly-line, step-by-step. But good luck finding where this line ends. After trying to decipher which line I need to get on - it seems like the line for beer, the Premio sausage stand, and the bathroom all blend together. Strangely, it seems logical to me that these lines all should intersect. I must say though - I've seen shorter lines at Disney World.

I don't think I need to go into the nuances & gymnastics that need to be employed to keep your kids from using their hands to touch ANYTHING in the men's room. They become chimp-like, using their feet to flush, push doors, etc. No matter how careful you are, you always leave feeling like millions of toxic germs, bacteria, and splashes of bodily fluids have stowed away on your kids' sneakers and other parts of their anatomy.

Then back out to the sea of humanity, pushing, shoving, and shuffling along - just trying to get back to their seats or to fill their guts with a $5 hot dog. If the above trip were to take place during the period - you can be certain to miss out on at least 5-6 minutes of action and sometimes, half a period. And that's if you only go to the loo. If you have to drain the pipes AND buy something for the ole pie-hole... well, you can kiss half a period goodbye. So yes, you can get up from your seat any time you want... but can you truly leave and not have it seriously & negatively impact your game experience? Of course not. You go anywhere else in the NHL and you do not get nearly the same miserable experience. This is not the fault of the Isles, Charles Wang, or even Mad Mike Milbury (although we can blame him for so many other debacles, why not this one too). It is the sad reality that the Coliseum is just not a suitable building for a professional sports team. I am not speaking out of school here - Isles management acknowledges that the facility blows.

The current Isles management places a lot of emphasis on making the games a fan-friendly experience, and they do a great job with the things they can control - but the building, that is another story. To quote Elizabeth Taylor - "What a dump." Even so, YES, I will continue to drag my rear end into that concrete tomb we affectionately call the Coli. And YES, it does have some great sight lines. And YES, I hope the Isles continue to play well. But NO, I will not "enjoy" the various & many shortcomings while I am there.

The only thing that makes me feel better is...... "up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light." That light is the beam of salvation that shines from a Lighthouse. I just hope its not a mirage... and that I can afford to get in.

Next up... analysis of Games 1 & 2.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Beginnings

"From small beginnings come great things."

Tomorrow night is a new beginning for the Isles. But will it be the start of great things? Hopefully, yes... realistically, probably not. I think it's obvious this team is some distance from truly great things. I think Isles fans need to look for and be satisfied with some "good things" this season, and maybe look for those signs that say - 2-3 seasons down the road we will see some great things.

We will see a significantly different look this season from the product that was on the ice during the 2007-2008 season. Yeah, some of the same bodies are in the ole orange & blue - Guerin, Okposo, Tambellini, Comeau, Gervais, Campoli, Bergenhiem, etc. But now, some of those bodies will be spending a lot more time on the ice and less time sitting on their keister on the bench. The arrival of Scott Gordon not only infuses youth and a new vision into the coaching ranks - but it also propels youth out onto the ice. Don't get me wrong, I was a Ted Nolan fan. I shook his hand at several fan functions and I respected his leadership & coaching style. That is, until I started seeing guys like Hilbert and Park on the powerplay while Bergenheim, Okposo, Comeau, and a list of other more offensively skilled players watched from the bench. I understand the philosophy behind rewarding hustle - but these decisions just didn't seem to make sense when you consider that the Islanders had a harder time scoring than a porn star in a convent.

So now we wind these young guys up & turn em loose & see what they've got. Yes, there will be some bumps in the road. Hell - bumps! - there will probably be craters filled with defensive lapses and games with goose eggs next to the name "Isles" on the scoreboard. But, alas, for us fans to stear clear of the island of despair it will probably require us to have the mental fortitude of a navy seal.

Some serious questions will get answered over the next 6 months. Does the captain have another decent year left in him? Can he reinvigorate Weight? Will Campoli remain healthy enough to blossom into the solid 2-way D-man he's shown flashes of being? And of course, what will Okposo, Comeau, Bergie and Tambs bring to the table? Will DP accept an occaisonal night off & stay healthly to avoid another end of the season stint in the trainer's room? Tomorrow night starts the journey toward finding the answers to these questions.

We may not know where this trip will take us - and it's going to be bumpy - but let's try to enjoy the ride!

See you at the Coli - section 318
Mr. LawyerDude

Friday, March 21, 2008

Which Cards to Keep & Which do you Discard?

If, after the first twenty minutes, you don't know who the sucker at the table is, it's you. ~Author Unknown.

The question for all Isles fans is - will Garth Snow & the Isles be suckers at this summer's draft & free agent tables, or will they be sharks?

In a 12 month span we have seen Garth Snow look like a risk-taker & shark with bold moves; such as last year's trading deadine when he threw caution to the wind by dealing 3 first round picks (2 already picked and the 2007 pick) to Edmonton and scooped up top-liner Ryan Smyth. It was a risky move that after Smyth's summer defection seems to not have paid off. Then last summer we saw Garth shift to a more conservative position -- bringing in steady but not flashy veterans like Guerin, Sutton, and Comrie to fill some holes. But these moves certainly didn't scare anyone in the East. Then Garth took an even greater leap into the world of GM restraint at this year's trading deadline - the team essentially stood still.

Which version of Garth Snow will we see this summer. Gun-slinging risk-taker or Pat Robertsonlike conservative?? There is not a tremendous amount of talent to be had as free agents in 2008 - particularly if teams keep locking up their players with long-term contracts.

Players like Satan, Fedotenko, Vasicek, Dubie, and Meyer will all be unrestricted free agents. Do you let some or all of these guys walk and maybe open the door for a permanent slot for Okposo, Tambellini, Nielsen, and others? These last handful of games should give a little bit of a peak into what these young guys can bring to the table at the NHL level which will either make Garth's life easier or more difficult.

Balance this situation with Nolan's apparent preference for the veterans -- how else can you explain the amount of ice time given to Hilbert & Park (even on the PP for goodness sake) when you have guys who have greater scoring potential sitting on the bench. Alas - that is the defense - it is just potential, nothing proven.

One thing is for sure - the Isles will have a lot of tough decisions to make this summer. All to be impacted by where the team lands in the draft lottery. At this point all we can hope for is some quality play for the young guys and a high draft pick.

Gotta have something positive to root for.
He will have some major to make. While some criticized his inaction -- either lock up certain players or deal them -- none of us can say we sat next to Garth & were privy to what his options were. We can only hypothicize, theorize, and outright guess.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NY Isles: A Team in Transition - Some Real - Some Imagined

Another game - another loss. I take small comfort in the fact that Blake was kept off the scoreboard.

After watching the last 2 weeks of games and reading the papers & blogs it has become painfully obvious that the season is over and that the Isles are now officially a team in transition. In the spirit of keeping things positive - let's keep in mind that transition is not always a bad thing. But what transition am I talking about - is it the "real" transition from this being a team of veterans to one of free-wheeling young guys; or the "imagined" transition I read about in the paper - the one involving the alleged rift between DP and Nolan that may result in the transition to new leadership behind the bench?

Let's address the rumored transition before dealing with the obvious one. I don't think Nolan is going anywhere - and quite frankly, he shouldn't go anywhere. I think most experts (and realistic fans) would agree that Nolan got more out of this year's squad than what was expected when this team broke camp. Yeah... we could all dream that certain guys would return to their productivity from past seasons and put in 30+ goals, while other players would magically "find themselves" here on LI and become the players they had the potential to be. But the stark reality is - that was a lot to ask to come true all at once. This team was never more than a playoff "possibility" from the get-go.

Considering the talent pool he had to work with, along with the overwhelming number of injuries to the blueline, Sillinger's injury, Simon's lunacy, the anemic scoring, and DP's midseason hip problems, it is a wonder the team was able to remain competitive and in the playoff hunt for three-quarters of the season. That says something for Nolan and his ability to inspire, keep things positive, and get the most from his players. While some may lament all those free agents that got away last summer - let's remember that with those guys this team sqeaked into the playoffs last season as a result of Dubie's now famous poke-check in a last game shoot-out. They then proceeded to make a quick and painful playoff exit. Let's not look upon last season's team with rose-colored glasses.

I think Nolan has done a great job. Yet the media seems to believe a rift has been created between Nolan and DP because Nolan criticized DP's puckhandling in a few recent games. Quite frankly I am glad Nolan said something --- for many a game I've sat in the stands and cringed as DP wandered from his net in pursuit of the puck only to have it take a weird carom off the boards or he makes a bad pass that results in a scoring chance for the opposition. Don't get me wrong - its great to have DP as that "third defensemen" and his puckhanding makes the game more interesting - but no one can rebut the claim that he sometimes makes mistakes. Just because the guy has a 15 yr contract and is the face of the team it should not make him immune from criticism from the head coach. I've met DP at some fan-friendly events and he seems like a nice guy. He is committed and thrilled to be an Islander and is a good citizen on and off the ice. I think he'd be one of the first guys to say he has no problem with the coach critiquing his game. He is still only 25 yrs old and his game & decisionmaking will continue to mature. But that maturation will not take place if he is not occasionally reminded to be more prudent in his puckhandling decisions. In the end - I think this alleged rift is a lot of nothing. At least I hope it is.

Now on to the real transition. I should stop here & admit that I am a 21-game plan ticket holder. Those games I don't go to - I watch or listen to. I don't claim to be smarter than Nolan or Snow when it comes to hockey decisions -- but I think it doesn't take a genius to know that the organization needs to take a good hard look at what its got as far as young talent goes. I've lived through the agony of watching up & coming talent leave the Island through bad trades (thanks Mad Mike) and flourish elsewhere (e.g.; Jokinen, Chara, Redden, Luongo, Dumont, McCabe, etc - even Nilsson is starting to produce with 10 goals & 27 assists for Edm) and I think we need to see what we've got at Bridgeport that is NHL-quality before going into the off-season. It was great to see Okposo and Tambelli, Regier and Comeau, and Colliton and Spiller all get some real ice time last night. Most of those guys got around 13 minutes of ice time and they were flying. Did they make mistakes - sure; did they score - no; did they get chances - yes. And it made the game more interesting than watching some of the older guys who just don't have it anymore going through the motions. Who are those guys? -- ah, that is the subject of my next blog. The "Who do we keep and who do we discard" blog.

Let's embrace that this is a team in transisiton - heading toward an even bigger transistion over the summer. Between the draft & free agency - we can only hope to see a better product on the ice next fall - with Nolan behind the bench. Even though the team is headed down in the standings, I do think they are headed in the right direction as an organization.

More to come...........