Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
I have been through some pretty atrocious hockey before.
At 36, I have lived through some really, really, REALLY deplorable (I have to use that word right now because why not – everyone is, right?) hockey with the New York Islanders. Post 94, the years prior, Spano and the Gang of Four, Milbury….the beginning, middle and now maybe the end of Garth Snow.
I have even been fortunate enough to cover the team during the leanest of times. Filling rosters out with has-beens, never will-be’s and hopeful reclamation projects that never came to fruition, or worse – would only come around after they leave Long Island. Coaching changes….I have to laugh – I covered them through four.
In between all of that negative, I have witnessed some REALLY good stuff too. I was there for the Bates penalty shot, my time covering the team from 2007-2011, Al Arbour Night/Day, numerous Core of the Four Celebrations, I judged a High Five Competition with Benoit Hogue, Three Entry Drafts – the biggest being Tavares. There’s a lot more I have to write about, but there will be time for that.
Maybe its fitting, firing up my blog now a season and a half before Tavares makes the biggest decision of his career. Will he stay, or will he go?
But to the present, a rather ominous one.
What will change what we are seeing? We have a rudderless team that cannot seem to string together good hockey no matter how hard they try. They give up goals early, late – actually in 7 of 19 games according to Staple of Newsday.
But then you look to coaching.
Management has given the staff a vote of confidence and the new ownership has given a vote of confidence towards management. Great – but why? We just passed American Thanksgiving, a “deadline” of sorts typically for teams to either be IN the postseason or out – and the Islanders are way out. Dead last out.
We’ve allowed some key guys to leave via free-agency, and that happens to everyone. But the Islanders seem to always have a knack for signing guys who – I don’t know, don’t do their part to replace missing pieces or they are the wrong pieces in general?
Paging Andrew Ladd? You’re a notorious slow starter apparently, but you just signed a pretty fat deal my friend – its time you showed up.
Tavares now has no goals in 9 games. NINE.
We are an absolute disaster up and down the roster, but only because we have a coach who refuses to utilize his team to their individual strengths. The Islanders are said to be a possession team, but yet if you watch them play – they dump and chase, often never even regaining control of the puck. In my eyes this is an anti-possession style. They lack the size and tenacity they did to bang along the boards – yet they still try to accomplish that type of play as well.
Something, perhaps everything – is broken, but we’re not seeing change. The only change we see is young players often being scratched for the wrong reasons – and lip service about where they will be playing, especially at a natural position.
I don’t know entirely enough about advanced stats – but I do know this; giving up leads and mis-matching your lines or not shortening your bench late in a game is a recipe for disaster. That is clearly evident here.
At what point does a fanbase deserve change? We have new ownership that is seemingly sitting on their hands and has not been as vocal as they have been previously. It’s to stand up and address us Mr. Malkin and Mr. Ledecky.
Today is Black Friday, and another loss has given this once storied franchise another reason to wear a black eye.
Signing off now, before I say some things i’ll regret..
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs have progressed nicely in Brooklyn, and I can say that I am fortunate enough to have attended Games 3 and 4. Today, I will be attending Game 6 as well. While the transition to Brooklyn hasn’t been the smoothest, the Playoff transition has gone a little easier.
The Islanders and the Barclays have taken a few different steps to make sure that the arena is a little more like home. From league and team logos to the atmosphere in general – it all feels better. They’ve even spent a great deal of attention to the quality of the ice sheet – which is a story for another blog.
Along the way, we have witnessed another 100 point season and various lengths of strong and not-so strong play (some would say typical of the Islanders). We have made new memories with a Game 3 OT winner by Thomas Hickey and rallied behind the team as they tried to come back again in Game 4. It was loud in Brooklyn, dare I say almost as loud as it was at times at the Coliseum.
More importantly, we have forged some new traditions as well.
During my lifetime, I was never more than 25 traffic lights from the Old Barn. The travel to the Coliseum was always easy (unless there was a bunch of traffic on Hempstead Turnpike). That changed a bit when I moved into Eastern Suffolk, but I still made it a point to get to as many games as I could. During the Playoffs, we had the parking lot and the amazing tradition of tailgating and all the fun that came with that. We went out with a bang before the Barn Doors slammed shut after that thrilling Game 6 win over the Capitals.
This year, I made it to TWO regular season games – for various reasons. Those were my first two experiences with the Barclays, we’ll call it a dry run for the Playoffs. With those two trips, I adapted to the change.
It may not be the most ideal of situations, but the train ride to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal has become the new tailgate experience. I’ve met a bunch of wonderful fans and had so many awesome Islanders conversations along the way. Coincidentally, I have run into many of the very fans I used to see regularly as a season ticket holder and friends outside of the Isles that I have not seen in a few years.
And then, you have Brooklyn itself.
In the immediate areas around the Barclays – there are a ton of really fun places to spend an hour or two in prior to the puck drop. We’ve adopted KBH on St Marks as the pre-game venue of choice, a short two block walk to and from the arena.
In the end, the Barclays is not and never will be that “home” just a few traffic lights away from where I grew up, but it’s slowly becoming the home of Islanders hockey. Even if that home requires counting train stations.
Let’s make it loud tonight, just like it was 4 years ago to the day of that Shawn Bates penalty shot against Toronto.
We all know how well the Islanders played and protected leads last season, but it’s with growing confidence I can say that may be a thing of the past.
The ice at the Barclays Center looked the same as it has the last few games – slow, soft and slushy. I understand that the arena personnel there are new to this ice maintainence routine and that the arena is like MSG with a lot of events, but this is a situation that bears watching long term.
There were a few positive takeaways from the game however – the Islanders were fairly physical against their opponent, out hitting them 43-33. At times the Isles did what made them so successful last season, were strong on the forecheck and puck retrieval. Three of their four goals came off plays where they forechecked hard, either causing a turnover or kept the play in the zone and were able to score off rebounds or plays down low.
Surprisingly, both teams were even in draws, but watching I felt that the Islanders were the weaker of two teams.
The Islanders had scoring from all kinds of players – their first line combined for 5 points (Lee with Goal, Assist – Tavares Goal, Assist and Strome Assist) the second line, also with 5 points (Okposo Goal, Grabovski 2 Assists, Kulemin Goal, Nelson Assist). All told the Islanders had 8 different players on the scoresheet, not too bad offensively. When you have two lines going, it’s going to be harder to stop you.
Some negatives, the Isles seemed to scramble in their own zone at times. Zidlicky tried to clear the puck from the crease and hit the post, scoring on his own net. There was also a few occasions where they could not clear the crease in front of Greiss, which was evident on the third goal. The Islanders felt there was contact by a Predator player in the crease and used a coaches challenge for the first time this season, but were unsuccessful in their case. While this burned their timeout, the team got an extended rest during the review process – so it was a smart gamble by Capuano. It’s something we could see more of in those situations throughout the season for sure. Lastly, Brian Strait – paired with Zidlicky. That’s all I need to say there.
Ultimately, this was a confidence builder for the Islanders – a strong team came to town and the Islanders played them well enough to win even though it wasn’t their best performance. The season is still young, but it’s games like this that will matter come April. They face a similar opponent in the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night, they need to play a stronger, more physical game – if they want to come away with two more points.
It’s one thing to watch idly as fans when a team begins to falter after months on top, it’s something completely different as a player in the room – I’m sure….
There’s a large contingent of fans who never get to experience the frustration a player experiences as they step off the ice, the scowl on their face, the expletives they spew as they slam sticks or equipment down or the blank stares of disgust as they sit in the stall of their locker. Instead, television interviews expertly crafted show almost nothing but positive thoughts and statements. Some players, allow a bit of their feelings to slip through, allowing you a glimpse of their human nature and inject a level of realism into the post game.
What I’ve grown tired of this season, the LAST in Nassau Coliseum – a season that matters MOST to a large percentage of the fanbase; everything is status quo.
The 2014-2015 New York Islanders have literally kicked tail for stretches of the season, but have now lost four consecutive games for the first time all year. They find themselves stuck in a rut, sliding down the standings to teams who have multiple games in hand and yet remarkedly they’re holding their ground in the division – for now. They’re failing miserably on the power play, and even strength in the goal scoring department and their most lethal offensive threats are nowhere to be seen, guilty of trying to do too much of anything – trying to do something.
We look to coaching, but honestly – without being a fly on the wall we can only speculate as to what is said or what adjustments are or aren’t made.
I like how the players are quoted as believing they can get through this tough time, use positive and playful antics to keep the mood light – I do. But when it comes down to it on the ice, do stuff. I said those exact words on Twitter.
When the team has been great, they’ve been fast, strong, smart and brutally physical. When was the last time someone stood up for someone? Tavares continues to get frustrated by slashes, hacks or late little hits and has been taking some penalties because of that. Nelson gets head butted last night, and as much as I didn’t watch the game – I didn’t see anything about someone taking exception to this.
Forecheck. The Islanders were relentless earlier this year on the forecheck. Get the puck deep, bang bodies, chip the puck and wear the opposition down. What happened is goals. Lots of them. They’ve done away with this because of injuries, but that’s no reason to stop completely. They have more than enough people capable of speed and causing turnovers. Stop being so stationary and focusing on the same players who get drawn double and triple coverage.
I know that this team is hurting and are missing key guys – but the bottom line is there are players who need to step up, take the body to make a play and skate. Skate like there’s no tomorrow – because at the end of the day, with ten games remaining, your clock is ticking.
Hit. Take hits. Use your speed. Quick, crisp passes. Get the puck deep and make the opposition pay.
I’ve still got hope, but I expect more out of this bunch. Show me the heart on the ice to back up what you say in print.
Don’t let us down. Not now and not in April.
So we’re just just past the quarter pole of the season and we’ve seen such inconsistency that it’s maddening. Oh to be a fly on the wall of the locker room.
We’ve seen this team come out flying and score goals in the first minute of play and dominate for a full 60, but we’ve also seen the same team come out and look lost and allow goals in the first :27 seconds or less of periods. I’ve seen blame placed upon everything from the owner, to the coach, preparedness, the captain, lack of talent, lack of defense, size – everything.
What are the answers?
That’s a great question. One that I find myself asking as I watch these games from the comfort of my living room with a scowl on my face and sore throat from yelling at the TV.
Up front we have Tavares, Moulson and Boyes. While this line has put up points and John has entered beast mode at times, he cannot do it alone. I watch this guy bust his hump game in and game out and teams pay lots of attention to him. Why? Because the talent around him while good, can’t keep pressure off of him most nights. Sure, they can compete with that first line, but he needs someone who can open up space and be as big of a threat as him so he can penetrate the defense without too much trouble and not have four guys hanging all over him.
At the same time, because he draws that many players to him those around him need to get into better position. Something that doesn’t always happen. Moulson gets to the net, creates traffic and is handy with his stick depositing shots – but only when they get through. Boyes shows flashes of being a smart playmaker, but he gets pushed off the puck and causes turnovers at times. I’d really hoped for more out of him and I’m not sure he belongs on JT’s wing.
As we move down the depth chart – we have Grabner who’s speed and defensive play cause fits but he often can’t finish. Nielsen with his defensive play, while he’s a smart player he doesn’t seem to have much as far as offense this season. Bailey has looked better this year, but we haven’t seen enough of him. Ullstrom and Cizikas have been a pleasant surprise. I’d like to see Ullstrom up on JT’s wing for a game or two actually.
Okposo. I’ve never been as disappointed in a player as I have been with Kyle. He seems lazier this year, perhaps because he opted to not play during the lockout and it’s a matter of conditioning? Two games in a row he’s taken penalties that have killed momentum and have been in the offensive zone. You just cannot do that. He’s haphazardly back checked and tried too hard to make pretty plays with the puck. He needs to use his head and slow his game down a touch. He’s been all over the place in the lineup, and last night he looked OK until he decided to be a bonehead.
Aucoin and McDonald – two serviceable guys who deserve spot duty in the NHL, but would be better served down with Bridgeport. Aucoin I’d actually go and say he’s good enough to stick, but I think it’s because of our depth issue.
Reasoner – well, we know what we have there and why the team is shopping him. He actually played ok last night in Ottawa, but as much as this team needs a veteran, he doesn’t fit and hasn’t fit since was signed. Experiment over.
If he’s waived or traded, it’s time for Niederreiter to be called up.
This has been a tough year – as noted by our waiver wire addiction.
Hickey has looked good, I like not noticing a player much until he makes that solid play and he hasn’t looked out of place. Finley, well – we could do better but he serves a purpose when he’s around. Carkner has added toughness and been an ok defenseman and I’m actually a little upset he’s been injured. They need his fire.
Visnovsky has been as advertised. I just wish he was a few years younger because he adds an element that this team needs – a secondary power play QB. He seems to like the team, thankfully – and plays every night. Not to say he hasn’t made mistakes though.
Our Captain, Streit – he’s struggled but has given glimpses of the player he was in his first season on the team. I’ve not changed my mind in that he was a bad choice for captain. He would never do as Giroux did for the Flyers and call out his teammates. He should’ve after the 7-0 shutout though. I would have. Sometimes you need to get pissed as a leader and veteran. Just look at what assistant coach Doug Weight did with his “paint peeling” speech last week. We need THAT fire and excitement.
Strait is hurt and that’s a shame. He’s been solid and deserves that contract. A fractured ankle will likely see him gone the rest of the season. I suppose we’ll see the man-o-glass Martinek replace him this week at some point.
MacDonald – oh what happened to you? You’ve gone from a steady workhorse to someone who’s positional play has gotten away from what it was. You’re playing too many minutes friend.
Hamonic – thank goodness for you. You’re the best we have on the rear guard corps, but like your partner you are playing too many minutes. This just screams lack of depth and poor coaching.
It’s clear to me that Capuano trusts who he trusts and is hesitant to change much up. Sounds exactly the way Scott Gordon was and we know how that ended.
Nabokov has been outstanding for a player creeping up there in age. He’s been overplayed though and hung out to dry more often than not with his defense.
DiPietro – I’ll get lambasted for saying this, but he’s been ok. Not great, not good – but just ok. Sure last night he flubbed that glove save and it put the game out of reach, but when you don’t allow your goalie to see the puck you can’t expect him to automatically make a save, I don’t care who it is in net.
I’ve been writing about this team since 2006, been a fan my entire life and have seen a lot of crazy things go on with the organization.
What I cannot wrap my mind around is the lack of effort by Charles Wang to put a genuine NHL product on the ice. Garth Snow is always forced to assemble a majority of his team with tape and bubble gum and that’s no way to form a contender, let alone a professional hockey team. His hands are tied for the most part – I don’t agree with the thoughts that he’s a bad GM and I’m curious to see how good he can be if he was ACTUALLY free to do what he wants.
Sure there are a ton of issues going on behind the scenes with the pending move to Brooklyn, but enough is enough.
The Islanders are wrecking these years with John Tavares. Plain and simple.
While the farm is stocked with a ton of good prospects – we seem to be stuck in this repetitive cycle of poor management. It’s painful to watch as a fan, I’m sure it’s no better as a player.
We should be going hard as we move towards Brooklyn. The fans in on Long Island deserve to make the old barn rock at least one more time.
I’m tired of feeling as if we’re constantly lied to as a fan base – and I know a lot of other fans out there feel the same way.
I look forward to better days and we’ve been teased with what it’ll be like once we get there.
Tell me you’re feelings or ideas in the comment section. I’m open for debate.
Now that the Islanders season is over, I get to talk about some of the things I don’t often get to do during the season – equipment reviews!
If you go back several weeks, I posted a preview of what I knew of MLX skates as I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my custom tailored pair.
During my initial talks with MLX, they directed me to a section of their website that shows you how to measure up your feet – in order to get the perfect size skate. Keep in mind, you’re still able to pick whatever you like, such as a little extra toe room, or toes right to the toe box. Regardless of what you choose for yourself, fit with these skates is phenomenal. I’ll touch on that more later on.
A quick background on MLX as a company:
MLX is a company partially backed by none other than Mario Lemieux, and headed by Founder/CEO Dave Cruikshank – the former Chicago Blackhawks skating coach AND former US Speed Skating Olympian. Cruikshank wanted to incorporate some of best attributes of high end speed skates and move them into the technology for hockey skates. Cruikshank says this best himself; “The goal was to determine how to make a hockey skate that would deliver the performance features necessary for the game of hockey at the highest levels, but also deliver the speed attributes from speed skating.” MLX does this by using lightweight carbon fiber and other materials, that can be heated at home in your oven and MOLDED to your feet. It’s pretty cool stuff and works well.
After some confusion and shipping delays, my skates arrived 2-3 weeks after I had provided them with my sizing. The company had great communication with me through the process and apparently, my skates were SO custom that they had to be special made to my specifications. Talk about service.
The skates came shipped with some paperwork explaining the prep work needed, a Torx T-20 driver for the screws on the skate, some extra hardware, stickers, two sets of “shims” and even a skate key.
I’ve been skating and playing hockey for a long time, granted – it’s not at a level of any of the pro’s but I know when I have stumbled upon something that works. You can imagine I’ve been through quite a few different skates over the years, Easton, Bauer, CCM, Graf, and most recently – a custom set of Graf skates I had made through Joe Ferraro. I know I am getting ahead of myself here in this review – but the MLX skates are the most comfortable, fastest skate I have ever laced up.
For the second time in two straight games, Islanders forward Blake Comeau finds himself on the outside looking in – or more appropriately, on the topside looking down.
As always, there has been wild speculation as to head coach Jack Capuano’s decision to shelve Comeau in favor of heavyweight Trevor Gillies. In Gillies’ appearance last weekend against the Rangers – he played under three minutes after all – so this leads to further
On one hand, the mere possibility of Gillies playing or pummeling someone is as good of a deterrent as any. Policing if you will. On the other, it gives Capuano an option, at least a second option with Matt Martin in the lineup. It’s no secret that in the games without Gillies around, players have taken liberties with several Islanders. Perhaps Capuano is experimenting with added toughness in the lineup – before things get out of hand for his club.
But many question, and rightfully so – scratching a player who averages 12-18 minutes a game in favor of someone who averages TWO.
Let’s work it out:
In three games this season – Comeau has played 39:25, has two penalty minutes and, ONE shot on goal.
In the games I’ve seen Comeau skate this season – I haven’t been very impressed. He’s been slow to the puck, made questionable decisions on both sides and hasn’t generated much. Comeau started off last season slow as well – perhaps it just takes him a while for him to find his groove.
I’ve seen some talk on Twitter asking why Comeau over Bailey, so to be fair here are Bailey’s stats for the four games he’s played:
Josh Bailey has 3 shots and 2 PIM in 56:29 played. While it’s not too much better, perhaps Capuano sees more on Bailey’s game at this point.
I’ve also heard Capuano repeatedly refer to “passengers on the bus”, both after a loss and a win so far – so to me he’s unhappy with effort out of some of his players.
At the end of the day, this is just part of the game – it doesn’t mean a player is about to be traded or there is a huge conspiracy behind anything that’s happening. It’s a coach holding his players accountable for their play – and that’s what good coaches do.
In other words, move along folks – nothing to see here.
They often say that a picture is worth a thousand words – well videos convey feelings and emotions in ways words often come up short.
Flash back to the 2002 Playoffs – Islanders vs Toronto
Shawn Bates is screaming down the left boards and gets taken down in front of CuJo. The Islanders are awarded their third playoff penalty shot in team history….well you know how it ends.
Many people are using attendance as a reason to Vote NO on Monday. History has shown that there are a ton of Islanders fans waiting, wishing and most importantly – WANTING for another shot at the playoffs. The Coliseum can be a loud and intimidating place, many teams have said so and continue to say the same.
Take a listen for yourself, 16,000 Islanders fans – all rooting for Long Island’s only professional sports franchise. If you vote no on Monday, the only thing you’ll here is silence – so go ahead and listen to the amazing sound and excitement the Coliseum is set to hear in the near future:
If you build it, they will come. Jobs will be saved, you’ll help the local economy and most importantly – keep Long Island, specifically Nassau County, a destination for people to come and enjoy for generations.
Without the Islanders and the Coliseum there’s not much more than some white noise and the occasional strip mall – if you can find a store that’s still open anyway.
Do Long Island and Nassau County a favor – Vote YES on Monday August, 1st. Help the Islanders create more history, and complete their Drive for Five!
It’s not everyday that a serviceable 6’1″ 218 LB 31-year old defenseman is waived by his team, it’s even rarer of an occasion where your struggling and injured team can benefit by picking him up and NOT MOVE A PLAYER IN RETURN.
Such is the case that Islanders GM Garth Snow will find himself in should he opt to claim Nick Boynton off of waivers before 12 o’clock tomorrow afternoon.
Why should Snow put in a claim?
Let’s see, the team has now lost five straight and is still on the playoff bubble stalled at 54 points. The Islanders defensive corps is battered and bruised, having to resort to calling up two stop gaps in Dustin Kohn and Andrew MacDonald (MacDonald is playing over 21 minutes a game and has been impressive, but I digress). Jack Hillen was felled to a broken jaw thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s slapshot last week and will be out 6-8 weeks. Veteran tough guy d-man Brendan Witt has a leg injury and will be out for another 2-3 weeks at best. Lastly on the injury front, Radek Martinek (aka Glass Man) was lost to a knee injury earlier this season and will be out indefinitely.
Looking further into the depth of the Islanders d-corps depth chart:
Bruno Gervais, is just not cutting it and seems to finding himself in the red in the plus/minus column more often than not. His recent pairing with Mark Streit has allowed him better play, thankfully.
Freddy Meyer (FMIV) bounces in and out of the lineup and has been decent, but he is not a top four d-man.
You’re current top four – Andy Sutton, Mark Streit, Bruno Gervais and Andrew MacDonald. The Islanders need defensive help and they need it now.
Boynton is set to make $700,000 for the rest of this season and is a pending UFA, so it’s not really a high risk move by any means. Should Boynton clear waivers, he will be sent down to the Ducks AHL affiliate and if summoned back to the NHL will be exposed to re-entry waivers and only costing a team $350,000 at that point.
To me, shaking up your team and giving them depth by adding a waiver wire claim seems like a good move. Pundits can claim that Boynton has played for three teams in two seasons, he has had his struggles in Anaheim and doesn’t fit the Islanders system. However, the failed experiment this weekend in Philly with Trevor Gillies should point out the need for toughness in the lineup – which Boynton can bring. Looking over his fight card this season (3 fights in his limited playing time) he has fought some tough opponents.
I say give him a shot Garth, but that’s just my opinion – if he doesn’t work out, no harm no foul and you have given up NOTHING.
What do you all think? Discuss in the comments section.