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On this day where most get an extra hour of sleep the New York Islanders wake up at NHL five-hundred in a tie for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after beating one of the best even strength teams in the league and driving one of the hottest goaltenders to the bench.
Someone even knew to throw the traditional sombrero for a New York Islander hat-trick.
The Islanders Saturday did what they failed to do last season already and that's fight all the way back to five hundred. A year ago they got within a period against Pittsburgh but gave up a big lead and a few games later the freefall was on.
It is impressive how they rallied for three wins this week and how they have been competitive in virtually every game all season with a very tough schedule. They were outplayed for big stretches against Washington and Buffalo but got some goaltending and a few friendly goalposts or it easily could have been different.
Having written that Scott Gordon's lineup decisions still raise serious doubts and make me wonder how much better they should be already because this years success was not tied to John Tavares or Matt Moulson's production.
The players that should be tied to Scott Gordon's success for the most part have failed in terms of production at a point they must produce.
* I watched Jeff Tambellini in preseason/opening night and wondered where this team would be if they could get him a scoring right wing with speed/skill and just left him in the lineup? I'm only surprised Doug Weight got him the puck at even strength in last night's game. Out of Tambellini's three goals I was more impressed with the shot he took just before he scored his second goal because he got to the perfect spot on the ice.
Outside of Tavares, Tambellini he has the best hands on the roster and arguably the best shot, he has talented young centers around him, he needs a right wing with speed and offensive skill to get him the puck on the move. I see the same work from him I saw several times last season when he fought to get to the high quality spots but he has to get the puck to be effective.
*I look at this roster and wonder why is Jon Sim after his strong AHL finish last year playing right wing so Nate Thompson can dress in Sim's natural left wing spot where he does his scoring? Sim came here off back to back seventeen goal seasons and was outstanding at the end of last year even producing before his demotion.
A fourth line of Sim-Park-Jackman/Weight would produce enough goals to make their minutes even more valuable and when putting up numbers would produce like a second line. You need an offensive game dress Weight, a physical game dress Jackman. Park and Sim in those spots will produce enough to merit dressing them every game.
I would guess Sim's spot on the right side ends with Hunter's return.
* For about a year now I keep asking the same questions about Nate Thompson because he does nothing at either end of the ice that stands out, he's not the next Aaron Asham in the fighting department and he will never score like Sim or Park when they get hot for a few games. This is not developing a Bailey, Tavares where you take their production as it comes.
* I'm very happy Doug Weight is getting powerplay points and even a few at five on five. He made a great pass to Tambellini for his second goal and his late game breakaway speed was impressive. Having written this he is not the answer on right wing or at even strength on the top three lines. What stood out the most for me Saturday about Weight was the Islanders only powerplay where he took a harmless shot from an impossible angle with no screen in front of the goaltender.
* Blake Comeau sits or skates on an off wing and the coach questions his ability to play to the whistle in the paper? Every time Comeau is switched to the right wing he struggles, he was brought into the NHL as a left wing and he needs to play that side. It did not work when Ted Nolan did this and it does not work now.
I'm aware Comeau played right wing as a prospect, if Matt Moulson or another left winger's production/play make him the odd-man out that's ok but Comeau has not been put in the best position to improve, again it has to be asked who has the better long term potential between Sim, Thompson or Comeau?
* I see the same Sean Bergenheim when he first came up before the lockout, he generates his chances and works hard but for him to be stuck on zero goals with few points is unacceptable. I cannot blame the coach for the player not finishing but I can question the coaches choices who have played right wing with him.
* I completely agree with Scott Gordon in terms of Rob Schremp being a center or not playing, but this only makes me question even more how he has moved other players from wing to wing.
Bottom line fair or not Scott Gordon's 2009-10 ability in terms of production and developing players should be mostly based on Bergenheim, Comeau, Nielsen and Tambellini. So far the coaches choices seems to have held back that production for three of them with Nielsen injured. Of course Scott Gordon has a few square pegs for round holes and not enough natural right wings with top three scoring ability, he also has too many left wingers but unlike last year he has depth and competition for spots.
For Tavares, Bailey and even Kyle Okposo it's still far too early to expect production but the coach wisely is putting them and leaving them in their natural positions. That is all he should be doing besides teaching them two-way hockey and keep the pressure off of them.
I have no doubt Scott Gordon is also doing all he can to keep the pressure off of Bergenheim, Comeau, Tambellini and Nielsen as well. He outright said Bergenheim should not worry about his numbers a year ago and as soon as that came out he started scoring. This is what a good coach does and where Gordon has succeeded but the numbers so far have not been what they need to be.
As for the 2009-10 New York Islanders I'm not sure what happens from here with a ton of games ahead, some of these players are not durable enough to last eighty two games. The lineup changes will continue but the players are here to stay competitive in games and this has been a schedule mostly of excellent teams from last year or hot teams from this year.
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