4/22/10

Forwards Review Pt I: 09-10 NY Islanders Season

New York Islander Fan Central | 4/22/2010 12:33:00 AM
Today NYIFC continues it's New York Islanders 2009-10 season review with Pt I on the forwards.

Overall:
As with the defenders for a team with so many goals allowed/shots against which includes a lot of poor special teams play ranked at the bottom of the league, some high individual grades had to be given out based strictly on production.

I cannot grade an individual on a lack of size, speed or skill or the construction of the roster around an individual player's performance.

Forwards:
John Tavares:
John Tavares came out of juniors, scored twenty four goals with no established first or second line veteran offensive talents on a team that had no twenty goal scorers a year ago so how can anyone complain, despite not being selected as a Calder finalist?

His transition/defensive game needs to gain NHL experience and a few times he got caught watching plays, but his hands were as advertised along with his ability in front of the opposing goal. He finished his season ok, started great and struggled badly in the middle. No doubt he took far too many big hits and looked to be playing hurt at times, but this is all part of his development.
Grade B+

Kyle Okposo:
Was thrilled with Okposo's start to the season where he had some huge goals and looked dominating, but his game faded for long stretches also that seemed to go beyond numbers which may have been about flu but only Okposo knows this. His impact on games far too many nights was that of a negative player at five on five, it seemed he tried to do too many one on one moves and his physical game for his size needs to be developed. I'm not a fan of him being a left wing point on powerplays for a team with no first line right wing, but that is where Scott Gordon has used him while Doug Weight was out. There were also stretches where he looked fantastic and carried the club.

Like Tavares on a team with no established veterans talents who can score, it's an acceptable nineteen goals at this stage of his development, but his night to night game was lacking for stretches that went far too long.
Grade C-

Matt Moulson:
Matt Moulson scored thirty goals coming out of the AHL, was only a minus one on a team near the bottom of most NHL team stats again with no first or second established veteran talents. He got into high traffic spots, deflected pucks like Mark Parrish a decade ago and was a huge impact player for a club that should have made playoffs alone based on his unexpected contribution. He showed excellent instincts in all three zones and knew where to be on the ice to make up for speed or an great shot.


Moving Forward:

Hopefully a contract for this restricted free agent that keeps him past next year and more of the same. As the younger players progress/scoring veterans are added he should do ever more to help the club win games that go beyond numbers.
Grade A+


Josh Bailey:

Bailey finished + 5 in seventy three games, that's is a very impressive number for a player his age where coaches want players to learn the defensive game first.

I was not a big fan of trading down to draft Josh Bailey so he could play a year at center, struggle badly at times, only to start year two as a center and then be moved away from the position you drafted him to play. Scott Gordon did it and for the most part his plus/minus improved until down the stretch when he was switched back to center with Rob Schremp's injury, during that time his plus minus did struggle again in some games.

For his age and at this stage of development, +5 on a team at the bottom of most league stats is great number. The sixteen goals and thirty five points come second but the skills are obviously there and he adjusted well to the speed of this level in his second full season.

With Tavares, Nielsen healthy down the middle and if Rob Schremp has a roster spot, what position does Bailey start next season after being a left wing?
Grade A

Rob Schremp:
Overall 09-10 was an uneven season for Rob Schremp after being claimed off waivers from Edmonton. Having written that this was the season he finally broke through to the NHL, a team showed confidence in him and he demonstrated he could play at this level. If you recall he started here on wing, struggled and Scott Gordon told the media he had to play center to play here, which was very out of character for this coach. Frans Nielsen's injury gave him that chance, after he got comfortable as a center, he showed some confidence and made some very nice plays that led to goals.

His best goal was not the highlight goal, but the ones later in the season he crossed the offensive blue line, delayed and found his wingers cutting to middle for great chances that led to goals.

On defense he was a -4, that is an acceptable number given his late season production before his season-ending injury.

Moving Forward:
Rob Schremp is twenty four and a restricted free agent. One problem is the center position here has three players in Tavares, Bailey and Nielsen unless you plan on making Bailey a full time left wing. Another problem is very obvious on a roster painfully lacking in size vs so many other NHL teams. The signs are there he can play a standout offensive game and in a league with shootouts, he is a big asset.

Tough call for Garth Snow and Scott Gordon, I would guess he is resigned because scoring hands/offensive skills on this roster are lacking.

As a winger/early season: Incomplete
As a center C+
Overall C+

Frans Nielsen:
What can I write that was not written in several blog entries on Frans Nielsen this season? He has the defensive game, his offensive game at his age needed to give this team more. No doubt he still had knee issues that kept him out of last seasons World Championships and kept him out of the lineup to start the season, however he played seventy six games. For his size he plays as hard as he possibly can in the physical department. His offensive game come shootout time is money for a club that did not win often in regulation.


Moving Forward:

Nielsen has two years left on his contract. Scott Gordon loves his overall game and it's easy to see why because he is a smart player with excellent defensive ability and plenty of potential upside who gives all he has every night.

Grade C+

Blake Comeau:
Comeau is listed as 6/1 207lbs on the club's website, he said he lost weight and got faster and it helped him recently.

What I do know is what I wrote several times, on February 10th he had six goals, eight assist and was a healthy scratch so Trevor Gillies could play three minutes in Philadelphia. He started making some good plays that led to goals along with some terrible goals he was credited with off shots that had to be stopped. I have written how he was brought up as a left wing, switched to right wing at times under Nolan and Gordon, he got chances at both wings this season but it was obvious that plan has been to make his a right wing.

I was more impressed with reads he made or passes he made with Tavares late in the season as a right wing that led to quality goals he was given assists on.

Moving Forward:
Comeau is signed for next season and his defensive game improved at even strength from a year ago, Comeau finished this season next to John Tavares before his injury and despite his 2004 draft age is still a very young twenty four who finally played one full season here. Having written this the clock no doubt here is running, more was expected overall and when Scott Gordon needed a win in Philadelphia, Comeau was the odd-man out.

Comeau has displayed an ability to hit and a nasty edge at times, but again on a small roster he is not a standout physical player, he has to produce next season to keep his spot.

Grade C-

Sean Bergenheim:
After eighteen goals a year ago where it looked like he was finally on the same page with Scott Gordon after struggling, this year they did not look on the same page at all with a lot of games scratched or him moved to a fourth line. Scott Gordon put him on the top two lines and gave him an acceptable chance on several occasions.

Too many past blog entries where I'm repeating same things you can read back on.

Moving Forward:
Bergenheim enters this summer as a RFA, with an injury that ended his season which looked terrible. I don't see him leaving North America or not being qualified and after his past experiences which cost him a full year, I see a trade as possible here because he will have value on the market with his work ethic and potential.

Overall same player I saw when he was wearing orange playing for Steve Stirling long ago and that's not enough. He gives all he has, takes bad offensive zone penalties, has an edge to his game this fan loves to watch and when on his game creates chances that are excellent, however his offensive struggles and uneven play can no longer be placed on the coach.

Grade D

Jeff Tambellini:
Go to earlier blog entries for more. As strange as Scott Gordon's comments on Yann Danis a year ago after one or two starts, his usage of Tambellini is on the same level.

The silence from Scott Gordon on Jeff Tambellini were beyond deafening. All I know is he was retained while Gordon favorite, Nate Thompson was lost to waivers. There was no two-week conditioning stint for Tambellini this year nor should there have been.

No idea what Scott Gordon did not see from him after a strong start where he was scoring the kinds of goals this roster lacks, showing great hands that made him stand out over other players because he was getting to high scoring areas. I did not see a terrible defensive game or a player not working in the corners who did not push back.

Just seemed the odd-man out, to be fair he had some infrequent chances with Tavares.

Moving Forward:
If Scott Gordon is not going to play him as a pending RFA with a lot of left wings signed or in the system waiting for a chance, why even qualify him unless you want some kind of return? In the past you could see reasons to put him on the bench, but not this year and not because he scored seven goals, he did fight through checks to make plays.

My impression is he will get another chance with an NHL team with some size, who will put him with some bigger veteran wings who can skate and his hands/shot are going to beat a lot of NHL goaltenders. He will win enough shootouts to give him value to someone.

How many players on this team scored the two powerplay goals, he scored against Montreal this season or even capable of displaying such hands? The team was at the bottom of the NHL in powerplays, why was he not given a regular chance with that shot. I still have visions of Richard Park fumbling the puck during an early-season five on three powerplay against Boston, in a contest the Bruins came back down three goals because Scott Gordon's powerplay could not put the game away in the first period.

Grade: When he played on a regular basis B
Otherwise: Incomplete

Part II Friday.

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