Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sloppy & Lazy Play Almost Dooms Isles

Tavares wins the game for the Isles in OT with a nice second effort goal. He played a pretty good game. However, the theme for tonight’s game against the Lightning --- “Lazy.” The Isles played lazy for the first 60 minutes. Out shot in the first period 16-3, beaten to almost every loose puck, and blind passes to no one. Add in a bunch of random swipes at the puck when there wasn't a Tampa player within 10 feet and drawing several lazy penalties like high sticking, hooking, and interference and that sums up the Isles night.

They looked sloppy. They had several chances for odd man rushes but either the trailing player was caught from behind or the leading players couldn’t establish enough separation to capitalize on the chance.

They had a lot of trouble clearing the puck from their own end as well. I know the Isles have had a revolving door on the clubhouse – due largely to injuries – and they have a VERY young team, but that doesn’t excuse sloppy play or getting beat to every loose puck.

Isles need to tighten up their game significantly if they are going to compete. On a positive note – the one player that was consistently visible all night was Bailey. Josh had a number of quality chances and looked like the Bailey from the first couple of weeks of the season.

One last thing of note --- the Coli was EMPTY AGAIN. Suggestion to the Isles ---- block out the top 10-15 rows in the upper bowl to force everyone down lower so it looks a little fuller.

More Changes to the Roster

Isles called up Josh Bailey and put DP and Mottau on the injured reserve. Josh put up some nice numbers at Bridgeport which hopefully was a boost to his confidence. It will be good to have him back on the ice tonight.

The DP situation -- while being portrayed as no big deal -- is troubling. He has swelling on his surgically repaired knee again. Perhaps it was from playing so many games in a row while Rollie sat on the bench. It's troubling because its another example of his inability to stay healthy and on the ice. Hopefully he will be able to play over the weekend but there is no word from the Isles on whether that is a possibility or not.

Mottau - one of Garth's pick-ups over the summer - has been just OK for the Isles so far. No goals and only 3 assists in 20 games. Yes, he plays physical and is fairly solid on defense, but he hasn't been a difference maker at all and now he is gone for the season. So chalk this up as a "push" as they say in the betting world. Not a bust, but not a win for Garth either.

Isles have 3 points in their last 2 games -- so maybe they are slowing turning a corner here. It's too early to get excited - but at least they are showing signs of improvement. No word yet on who will be in goal -- Lawson or Roloson. My guess is Rollie -- dust the cobwebs off and maybe a little showcase for an after-holiday trade.

Isles have a tough opponent tonight - the Lightning. The season series is tied at one win a piece with the Isles besting the Bolts at the Coli back in October with a 3-2 overtime win and then Tampa returning the favor with a 4-2 win at home in November. Both games have been close so you can probably expect another close one tonight.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Can I Say

Ok - it's been a while since I've blogged. Two reasons: first, we went away on Thanksgiving weekend to visit family and then when we got home I took the family to Harry Potter World & Disney in Florida for a week. Sorry fans (and Isles BlogBox bosses) but family ALWAYS comes first. Second, the team has been so utterly putrid that even if I was home to write - what possibly could I write about when the team has 1 win in its last 22 games.

While I've haven't blogged in a couple of weeks, I have been keeping up with the rantings, complaints, analysis, and delusions of many of my fellow bloggers and the main stream media. It's gotten ugly out there! I can't remember reading so much negative press about a team's ownership & management as I've read about the Isles over the past few weeks. Granted, the team has not been successful so some of the criticism is earned -- but some of it has just gotten ludicrous.

So this blog will be a little different. I refuse to engage in a "pile on" against management/ownership ---- so, while I certainly am not drinking the front office Koolade, let me take a different approach at this juncture in the season. A purely analytical one --- not based on some delusion that I, as a mere fan, seem to somehow possess more knowledge about hockey than Garth Snow and the rest of the Isles' front office or that trades and waiver wire acquisitions are as easy to complete as writing a blog from one's parents' basement.

At 29 games into the season (one-third of the season complete) the Isles have a mere 6 wins and 17 points. At this point last season they had almost twice the number of victories (11) and possessed a robust 29 points. They ended last season at just under .500 and right now they are the proud owners of a .200 record. So yes, it's hideous and something is wrong. But I wonder - why are we not hearing the same kind of criticism about the Devils. They have only 3 more points than the Isles, only 3 additional wins, and have one of the top 5 players in the league on their roster. I've read ridiculous suggestions like - "the NHL should take over management of the Isles because Wang is running them into the ground" - yet, I don't hear anything even remotely close to such a suggestion for the equally deplorable Devils (and they have had their share of wacky roster decisions this season). Not to mention, the Devils have not lost nearly as many games to injury as the Isles, nor have they lost such key position players like Okposo, Streit, Weight, Jurcina, etc, etc, etc.

The Isles look like a more sophisticated version of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a nightly basis so why should fans expect an NHL quality result? The team stinks right now -- but there are some serious long-range issues I think the Isles need to focus on:

1 - at the end of the 2012 season John Tavares becomes a restricted free agent. Why would he ever want to re-sign with the Isles if they don't start showing significant improvement. Plus, he has no support. I know it is a team sport - but he has to be concerned with his own numbers - or lack thereof - and question if it is good for his career to stay with such a struggling team. So, the Isles need to make sure they don't screw up John Tavares and/or his desire to play here.

2 - Attendance is plummeting. You can't pay for better players if you aren't generating enough revenue and you can't generate more revenue without offering a better product. The Isles need a serious talent upgrade. We heard about the 18 point increase last season from the previous season -- but now it looks like not only will that gain be lost, but that it's likely they will actually take a step backward. That is not good.

3 - Franchise respectability. When Garth was first hired the Isles were laughed at and ridiculed. Then he drafted Bailey and amassed a collection of draft picks over his first 2 seasons as GM and he gained some measure of respectability. Now, that seems to be sliding backward again. I saw Garth did an interview last week and faced some tough questions. But he ducked most of the tough ones (no surprise) and did remark that he has not been held back by Wang or anyone else with regard to finances. Now, maybe its because I am a lawyer by trade - but that seems like semantics to me. Maybe he hasn't been given a cap on payroll or restricted from spending by Wang. But someone has put some kind of handcuffs on him. There HAS to be; otherwise, Garth is not very bright when it comes to building this team and/or the team is so disrespected by the rest of the league that no free agents will come. There HAS to be a reason that they are BELOW the cap floor other than "building with youth." Any franchise that has built from within has done so WITH the help of a veteran presence. You simply need a blend. Also, there is no surprise the Isles needed scoring and yet the only thing Garth did to address this is to bring in 2 re-tread cast-offs from other teams (Grabner & Parenteau).

Something is amiss here -- whether it is Wang's anger at the failure to make progress on the Lighthouse project, or his ego - but something is preventing him from making a real investment (in terms of payroll) on this team (considering they are in the NY market) and/or turning over control of the team to a person with significant NHL experience (no offense to Garth).

The Isles have some serious soul-searching to do here. Maybe they can look to the west and see their friends the Mets and their approach to regaining respectability. Stop being a meddlesome owner and turn the reigns over to an experienced. respected league veteran who can turn the direction of the franchise around. While I think this season is a wash (high draft pick here we come) the franchise is on the precipice and needs to do something to change it from the laughingstock of the league to respectability. Firing one rookie coach and replacing him with another, signing cast-off aging average players and calling them impact veterans, and continuing to collect draft picks that are YEARS away from making an impact, will NOT resurrect this franchise.