Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Old Fashioned Barn Hockey!!

Tonight I took the family to see some good old-fashioned AHL hockey. We went to the Glen's Falls Civic Center in the Adirondack mountains and saw the Adirondack Phantoms v. Hershey Bears. This is old-school, drop the gloves, grind it out in the corners hockey. Saw 5 goals and 3 fights. Typical AHL game.

One observation did come as a surprise to me -- if this was an NHL game there would have been about 25-30 additional penalties called. The tripping, clutching & grabbing, kneeing, high-sticking, roughing, and interference that went on in this game was mind-boggling! How do these guys expect to play in the NHL if they perfect their game with this style of play. It's madness. Now before you go accusing me of being all sissy-like and into a more European-style game - think again. I think they call too much in the NHL these days - it's almost like you can't even brush up against a guy sometimes without having the referee raise his arm. I grew up watching the Isles of the late 70's into the 80's -- back when every team had a roster spot filled by a resident goon. So I am not adverse to fights and physical play. It's just that this game was ridiculous.

Anyway -- what really made me happy was that hockey returned to Glen's Falls!!! My family has been going to the Glen's Falls/Adirondacks for 35+ years and I used to go see the Red Wings, and then the Frostbite. So I was saddened when the town was without a team for a few years. So while the quality of the play was sloppy and undisciplined, I was glad to see that they were at least playing hockey again in the Civic Center.


I Can See the Future

My ability to look into the future is getting SCARY!
First - I talked about needing the D-men to step up & score and then Witt nets a pair and Hillen, Streit, and Sutton start collecting points. Then I said Bergie needs to step up his game and all of a sudden he finds his name on the scoring sheet and handful of times over the past week and a half.

Last post I talked about how Tambellini & Bailey need and deserve more ice time while Sim should take a seat. Next thing you know, Tambs nets another one and Bailey has points in 4 of the last 5 games. Like I said, these guys need to PLAY and play more than 8-10 minutes a game.

They are still having a hard time holding 3rd period leads; however, they have started to show improvement. They have made significant improvement over last year in their ability to collect points - but they still have a way to go.

Rollie did another nice job in net and I think its becoming obvious that he is now (or should be) the number one and Biron is number two (and on occasion has played like number two). It will be interesting to see what happens when Ricky comes back. He participated in a full practice this week so his return appears to be right around the corner.

One last thing -- no doubts anymore - Tavares belongs at this level and continues to produce.

Next up: As promised, first quarter report card.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I am Mystified

I am mystified about a few things:

1) Why Gordon continues to tinker with the top line of Tavares, Okposo, and Moulson. Last game, Okposo was on a different line again. Now I've heard - on one occasion - that the reason for the line-juggling is to distribute the scoring and maybe help someone else get going. Rubbish! If it ain't broke - don't monkey around with it. That line has been SUPER productive - why screw with a good thing? I just don't get it.

2) Why Sim continues to play and Tambellini, Schremp, and even Bailey take turns on the bench. Oh yeah, I get it -- Sim tries hard. So f**king what! I try hard too - but RESULTS are what matters. Sim has played 18 games and has 3 points (including 1 lousy goal). Tambs has played 5 less games and has 9 points (including 6 goals); Bailey has played the same number of games and has twice the number of points (including 3 times as many goals); and Schremp, who has played a mere 8 games has pretty much the same output as Sim. Keep in mind, Schremp gets less than 10 minutes a game and gets put on the 3rd or 4th line. Bailey has not been playing with guys that hit the back of the net too often and has little PP time. Tambellini finally finds some confidence in his game and he gets benched. I just don't get it. As I said - I understand that Sim tries hard, he skates his ass off (mind you he is still slower than Schremp & Tambs - even if they were going half speed) -- but the fact remains -- he just isn't being productive.

3) Why this team continues to give up leads in the 3rd period. OK - one kudo - unlike last year they have come back on a few occasions too -- but they just seem unable to hold a lead.

4) Gervais has been underwhelming. He made a pathetic pass the other night from behind his own net that resulted in a turn-over and then a goal. He's been getting some PP minutes and is pointless. He only has 3 assists so far. I think the Isles need to acknowledge that he is never going to be more than a 5th or 6th defensemen.

Now -- a few observations:
The Isles need to try to get as much for Biron as possible before he makes himself less valuable by giving up soft goals like he did against Carolina or gets hurt. Let Roloson play a few more games and bring up a goalie from Bridgeport to keep the pipes warm until Ricky is ready to return. It's not like Biron has been blowing people away.

One last note --- 10 of the first 20 games have gone to OT. That is higher than any other team. Imagine if a few of those games went the other way? They are not as bad as some people may think. But Gordon needs to keep the first line together -- let those guys grow, develop & mature as a unit. He also needs to give Tambellini & Schremp some REAL ice time - not that 8-10 minute crap on the 4th line. And let them play for 6-7 games, not 1-2 and then back to the press-box. As I said, the Isles are going anywhere because Jon Sim is getting ice time so it really doesn't hurt them to let him play it out a Bridgport, the pressbox, or trade him somewhere.

Net up: One quarter of the season is complete: Some grades & assessments are coming:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spreading the Wealth

Isles finally stopped relying on the combo of Tavares, Okposo & Moulson to do all of their scoring. Nice spreading the goal scoring around in the game against Atlanta the other night. Six goals from 6 different players. Plus - six goals is their most potent output so far this year.

And... I am feeling a little prophetic again. As I mentioned in my previous post - the Isles need their defensemen to step it up a little and they need Bergie to get started. Just like that... viola! Hillen and Sutton hit the back of the net and Bergie gets off the snide with a goal. I am happy for Bergenheim b/c he has been working hard every shift and has come close a bunch of times. This might be what he needs to boost the confidence & put a few more in the net.

Nice to see Comeau get his first and Bailey to tally his third. If the Isles are going to go anywhere this year --- and FYI, I still think that's unlikely --- they are going to need more production from their 2d and 3d lines and from the blueline.

One more pat on my own back --- I've said it for 2 years now -- Martinek is FRAGILE and will NEVER play a full season in the NHL. And now with his torn ACL he is out for the year. That will give Freddy Meyer & Hillen a chance to crack the lineup more often. Despite the fact that I don't drink the Radek Martinek Kool Aid that Scott Gordon or other front office people drink - I do think they will miss his defense when they play Pitt and Wash and he won't be out there to shadow Crosby & Ovechkin. Someone else will have to step it up and take on this role.

Now the team is off on a long and grueling road trip. Twelve of the next 14 games - between now and December 9th - will be road games. This, I regret to say, is when the Isles will get exposed for the mediocre team that they really are. If they play anything NEAR 0.500 hockey during this stretch it has to be viewed as a miracle. Next opponent is the Caps on Wednesday -- the first test of the Martinek-less Isles and the question will arise - "who covers Ovechkin?" My guess is it will be a forward (like a Richard Park) since I don't really see any of the remaining D-men as being a good fit for the job.

Next up: How the Martinek & Cam Ward injuries impact the Isles trade strategy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Election Day

Tomorrow is ELECTION DAY here on LI. One important race is for the Town of Hempstead Supervisor. The candidates -- (on the bottom) democratic challenger Kristin McElroy and (on the top) the incumbent Republican Kate Murray.

This could be an important vote for the future of the Islanders. While normally I'd be a supporter of Murray (I am more conservative) - I can't help but think her stubborn and personally venomous approach to the Lighthouse project is detrimental to not just the Isles, but to LI as well. Think of the jobs that project would bring to LI. It would also create a real, substantial, and professional cultural center for LI sports and the arts.

So -- Town of Hempstead residents -- the future of the Isles appears to rest in your voting hands tomorrow. I won't tell you who to vote for ---- I think this is one of the rare circumstances where we actually know an awful lot about a very local candidate.

Get out & VOTE!
Let's go Isles.


I haven't blogged in a LONG time -- but now I am back.
Since I've been gone the Isles drafted Tavares, traded up & picked DeHaan, and then picked 2 goalies (one is the Finnish version of Shrek). The Lighthouse project has gone through more drama than Lindsay Lohan, the Isles got off to a slow start and Tavares impressed early.

OK - now that we're up to date -- let's talk 2009-2010 hockey.
Isles are playing Edmonton tonight and are on a 3-game winning - beating some impressive opponents (NYR, Caps, and Buffalo). Plus - their 2 previous games they lost in OT so they still got points. One nice, additional part of the recent surge is the emergence of Jeff Tambellini. Five quick goals - including the trick against Buffalo.

Don't think this streak will last. Isles are still an average team at best - but they do have a bright future. The line of Tavares, Okposo, and Moulson is electric. Ok enough of the happy talk.

Two glaring areas of weakness are (1) consistent net-minding and (2) offensive production from the blueline and Bergenheim. Let's look at them briefly, one at a time.

Netminding: we all know that Roloson is a one-year stop-gap with the idea that Ricky returns to form and can share time with Biron. But Biron has been the subject of trade rumors and the Finnish Mount Rushmore the Isles drafted just had hip surgery (sounds like DP). So what originally looked like an area of strength could become suspect in a hurry. Plus, while Roloson & Biron have played steady, they have not sparkled.

Defense: Let's face it -- Witt's days look like they are numbered. Now those of you that have read this blog know I am a HUGE Brendan Witt fan. That being said - he looke slow and is often unable to keep up with Gordon's face-paced approach. Gervais, Meyer, and Hillen have been invisible on the offensive side of the puck. Sutton has been surprisingly active and Martinek has a pair. Streit's off to a slow start. Look for the Isles to move 1 or more defensemen before the deadline and bring up one or 2 of their youg guys (I hope for DeHaan who was the leading scorer among defensemen during the preseason).

One last rant - and I will repeat this ALL season no matter what points he puts up: THERE IS NO REASON WHY JON SIM IS PLAYING ON THIS TEAM. I don't care if Comeau or Schremp skate in circles with their sticks up their asses - they will still be more effective than Sim. Last season my regular target was Hilbert - and thankfully he is GONE (although I must confess I still get nauseous when I see number 11 on the ice - and then I remember its now Nate Thompson). This season - the bulls-eye is on Sim.

Now, on to tonight's game against Edm: Isles don't seem to have the same jump - lots of action in their own end and not a lot of crisp passing. Finally - 3/4 of the way through the period Tavares buries one off a nice feed from Moulson to tie the score at 1 a piece. Now - just when I started bitching about the defense not scoring, and Witt being slow --- guess what? Brendan Witt puts one in the net about 4 minutes into the period!!! Look out - Witt scored -- next is a plague of locusts and the Apocalypse!!

I am beginning to feel like a prophet! First Witt - next Sim. NO - he didn't score - don't be ridiculous - I said I've been prophetic not a miracle-worker. But he did just make me actually laugh out loud (and those of you that know my grumpy ass know that rarely happens). He blocked a shot with his hand (ouch), he lost his stick so he started a shoving match with the guy that shot the puck. They drift toward center ice jawing at each other - then Sim makes like he's going to drop his gloves, the other guy drops his stick & gloves and Sim skates off the ice leaving the guy unprepared to get into the action b/c he has no stick or gloves. Isles have picked it up a little but have also had a few defensive lapses that Roloson & the post have bailed them out of.

OK - this is getting scary!! I am going to play LOTTO tonight. Brendan Witt just scored his 2d goal. No, that is NOT a typo and I am not high. That's right - Witter with his 2d of the game & 2d of the season. If he gets a hat-trick I know the world is ending! He just got 1/10th of his CAREER output in one night. Witt has 23 career goals and never scored more than 3 in a season (he did that 3 times) and has never had more than 14 pts (he averages 7 pts a year). Maybe Bergenheim is next?

OK -- end of 2 periods - 3-1 Isles. Fans are happy - they get chili!!
Gotta hope they don't repeat the 3rd period collapses from earlier in the season and that they keep the pressure on and maybe put 1 or 2 more in the net.

OK -- about 8 minutes to go in the 3rd -- it's still 3-1. Isles just finished a PP and had some chances but couldn't convert. Hopefully a quick - happy re-cap later.

Next up:
Election Night on LI