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.