12/7/11

A Few Good Signs For New York, But No Hiding The Problems

New York Islander Fan Central | 12/07/2011 11:34:00 PM


Updated 1pm:
Grabner will play vs Chicago.

LIBN.com: Reports NYS awarded Nassau/LI 101M, of which apparently none will go toward a new Coliseum unless this is a separate deal.

Some will recall the Association for a Better Long Island led by Kevin Law/Stuart Rabinowicz did not even include the Coliseum it it's request for state funding.

Fear not, Hofstra's Stuart Rabinowicz, will be getting part of two million dollars for his business interest.

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This 5-1 win against Tampa (not the October game) was the best collective sixty minutes this team played all season.

Why? This offense did not beat a struggling goaltender, they beat one (Garon) with the kind of chances the goaltender could not stop who was playing very well.

It's becoming a good habit.

We have seen the Islander offense dominate Winnipeg and lose 3-0, control the play in a 1-0 loss to the Devils, but whether it be Ondrej Pavelec or Johan Hedberg, in those games they did not generate the kind of chances the goalie had no chance to stop or was forced to move in net.

In short, the opposing goaltenders logo got a workout.

There is winning by beating Tomas Vokoun leaking rebounds or bad goals in a win vs what's been happening lately. There is some speed/offense and quality chances coming off transition from defense to offense.

That's what your collective offense has to show the ability to do, we saw that with the work to setup Martin, the passing for Jurcina's goal, the play for Tavares goal, and the excellent vision of Josh Bailey setting up Ullstrom, to go with Matt Moulson dominating.

Tim Wallace was very good.

Reality:
There is no doubt the New York Islanders have finally gotten a little transition going in their game from defense to offense that began as far back as the Flyers game. It's fair to write Tavares is due for a few more goals to go with some of those outstanding passes, now that he has one.

Losing Michael Grabner is huge, that kind of injury could cut into his speed for a long time, and takes away an element teams cannot deal with.

Bottom line to sustain the kind of winning that will be necessary for the club to enter serious playoff contention, a defense with only two even strength goals all season that features Mike Mottau, Dylan Reese, Steve Staios and Milan Jurcina will have to give whoever the starting goaltender is a chance to win games this club scores less than three goals and produce.

The turnovers against Chicago and Dallas were horrible on defense.

There is no hiding this defense or it's flaws, even if Streit and Hamonic log twenty five minutes a game.

That means Al Montoya, if he continues his solid play, has to be great and steal more than a few games. He's proven capable to date.

Reality is if Marty Reasoner is not the answer with his double digit minus totals and lack of speed, it's time for a change. Same with Brian Rolston, who's getting his salary even if he's released.

Rolston worked to setup Bailey in New Jersey, he drove to the net against Buffalo, he cannot get surrounded by two Tampa forwards on a pp because he's not moving as I noticed Tuesday.

It means David Ullstrom cannot pace Jesse Joensuu's past production, he has to take the spot Blake Comeau's departure gave him, and be a visible player every game as Matt Martin is with his own strengths and abilities. It means Kyle Okposo and so many others have to carry this club to at least three goals a game or make the kind of plays that allow less than three goals to produce wins.

Reality is six points behind two teams for the eighth seed that likely has to play at least fourteen games over five hundred starting Thursday to qualify for the 2011-12 playoffs with few regulation losses.

I do not believe this is realistic because of the current defense, however I'm hoping they can prove me wrong.

The good news? It's realistic to continue a conversation about the 2011-12 New York Islanders and playoff contention for the moment.
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Notables:
The Islanders announced a preseason game in Canada next fall.

Niederreiter has a concussion, the player who did it will miss only three games, Pock missed five.
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NYIFC Notables:
A section linking to WJC has been created.

More images of the Dynasty Era/Incredible moments have been added to sidebars that our readers should absolutely love.

I could not find an image of Bob Bourne holding the Stanley Cup, just an image of one of his Stanley Cup rings up for auction long ago. Not the first former player or Islander in that regard, but it's disappointing.


12/5/11

Dramatic Changes For New York

New York Islander Fan Central | 12/05/2011 10:26:00 PM


NHL.com: Reported NHL Board of Governors (owners) approved changes that dramatically alter the conferences and playoff format beginning next season.

NHL.com: Has Commissioner, Gary Bettman's, video press conference.

The new alignment enables the NHL to create a balanced schedule in which all teams will play each other at least twice every season, once at home and once on the road.

The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the remaining two clubs playing for the Stanley Cup.

NYIFC Comments:
Bottom line, instead of competing with fourteen teams for eight playoff spots, the New York Islanders will compete with six teams over four playoff spots.

The NHL has been reduced to four divisions or expanded to four conferences, depending on your viewpoint.

The top four clubs in each conference qualify for the playoffs, that means the New York Islanders could have the second best record in the other Eastern Conference, but if it's not top four in their own conference, no playoffs.

It also means for the entire six month regular season, there is no reason to be concerned with games in terms of playoffs unless it's one of the other six teams in their own conference which is a huge downside.

Carolina and Washington are joining (or rejoining) the New York Islanders conference or division for the 2012-13 season.

It seems like the current Western Conference clubs got robbed blind, sure they will see every team, but a few teams that wanted to be in the East will not be changing primary rivals or conferences, plus for now they have to beat out an additional team in their conference.

Unless Tampa and Florida are playing one another, the closest conference road game is in Buffalo.

The two Western centric conferences have sixteen teams (eight per conference) competing for what will be four playoff spots, while with the Eastern centric clubs, have seven clubs competing over four playoff spots.

Eight teams/four spots x2 conferences vs seven teams/four spots x2 conferences.

Of course, if Phoenix does move East one conference could go from seven to eight.

The idea of a divisional or now smaller conference playoff has never been personally appealing, now these new conference playoffs mean you have to emerge from your conference playoffs (two rounds) before advancing.

My guess is a lot of owners are unhappy with this format, but all will get Crosby and Ovechkin in their building once a year in a revenue driven business.

Remember not long ago the spin was it was more important for natural rivalries and eight divisional games were more important than meaningless games with the West?

Now it seems unless it involves your own seven team division, for the entire regular season until the semi-finals, it means absolutely nothing.

The NHL seemed awful popular with New York vs Los Angeles, Boston, Buffalo and Philadelphia in 1980 come playoff time.
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Comments on Moulson/injuries and recent wins/callups are on twitter, the player who concussed Niederreiter can only get same five games Tomas Pock received for his head shot, who will meet with NHL Tuesday. His own coach said he left his feet to hit Niederreiter's head.

Why is Andrew MacDonald skating and traveling with the team if out 2-4 weeks? No timetable (media could not even get that right claiming out indefinitely) does not sound good for Rick DiPietro, however once the club disclosed a specific injury (groin strain), it has to be accurate per league rules.

In short, it's not a knee injury.

Nice to see management promoting players who are statistically meriting callups, however they need Calvin deHaan (or another defender) for Mike Mottau as soon as Tuesday unless this defense can block 28 shots/allow 30+ and score five/four goals per game.

Sure, Eric Nystrom beat callup Dylan Reese clean for his goal, Reese for his part has one of what is now two even strength (5/5) goals scored by this defense all season.

The teams speed/transition has improved from defense to offense, but they are giving up chances in exchange.

Three games under five hundred means this club must play fifteen games over starting Tuesday to have a realistic chance at the 8th seed. Three wins/four games changed nothing with the current 8th seed/eight points ahead of the Islanders.


11/30/11

What's Next For New York? More Games/Tough Choices

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/30/2011 01:31:00 PM


Not much to write about two token road wins against the Devils or Sabres, over eighty two games even the worst teams win a few games.

There are some good signs with Grabner, Tavares, Okposo getting chances, Rolston setting up a goal, and scoring another with hard work. Bailey's passing is a lot of fun to watch, and that was a nice shot for his goal.

I have never seen a player in this league generate as many breakaways as Michael Grabner game by game.

David Ullstrom's been a nice story, he had his first NHL point in Buffalo, but he's not going to replace Comeau's twenty goal production and neither is Matt Martin this year. I found it interesting the Calgary spin machine, completely ignored his giveaway that led to a goal in Calgary's one goal loss in his first game.

Comeau for his part was first class and did not put anything on Capuano.

Obviously, Al Montoya's play is at a more consistent level than DiPietro, and deserves to start for the time being. I suspect DiPietro is not going to be effective playing occasionally, but he has not earned the opportunity to play over Montoya, and forced Capuano to start Anders Nilsson.

That was his chance.

Still, the team defense is not nearly good enough, even with MacDonald looking better, Hamonic playing well. Mike Mottau almost has to be hidden as we saw against the Devils after their second goal. If Steve Staios is on the ice five on three, obviously Jack Capuano does not see what I see, or has no other alternative vs Jurcina (who had six shots on goal vs Buffalo) but has plenty of his own lapses.

Of course Parise should have been called for goalie interference, and the distinct kicking motion was there, but it was a break. The fact he was alone in front, after Nielsen won the faceoff perfectly says it all about the problems with this team in critical moments of games, whether it be scoring or defending.

No gang, icing means no line change allowed, don't blame Capuano for who was on the ice.

What I notice most about this teams powerplay is how many times the word surrounded is used while the Isles supposedly have the extra man, a goal/redirection by Moulson off a point shot by Steit is fine for one pp goal, but overall this power play has struggled and not generating the chances they should be.

How many entire games have the Isles been surrounded at five on five?
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What's Next?
They play a few more road games and need to find ways to win ugly as they did in Buffalo and New Jersey. Tavares is getting close, he get's one it could lead to a bunch.

Could be time for a call up on defense.
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Playoff Reality?
This club is four games under five hundred, to realistically qualify you need to be at least 10-12 games over the break even mark.

It's not realistic.

But it goes much deeper than this.

Have the New York Islanders played a compete sixty minute game yet, where the Isles talent was simply better than the other team where the opposition played well? I would have to write no, which was far different than the second half of last season.

Are things going to get any better this limited on defense, or with the slower defenders/forwards? The injuries are starting to surface more and one key injury could really sink the club for good.
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Notables:
Not much to write on Charles Wang's comments which cannot be trusted strictly from Dolan's beatwriter without supporting video/audio. Wang speaks more than any other local owner, not getting killed in games should not be acceptable to him after all the resources and time he puts into this team. Being philosophical about the journey is all well and good, but he's paid for a winning team in 2011-12.

New York hockey is small market because it's baseball's town, he is correct there.

He was honest enough (as usual) to admit he cannot spend like the corporate teams, but most should know that already or are not being realistic.

Charles Wang has Nassau County, every other owner got taxpayer money or exemptions for their new or renovated buildings and still the Devils are on the verge of bankruptcy in a taxpayer funded arena where the Devils receive the revenue. Wang got the privilege of losing over 20m trying to do the Lighthouse with Scott Rechler, while Ed Mangano, Kate Murray and now Hofstra President, Stuart Rabinowicz, looking out for what suits their best interest after a decade of spending with poor fan support.

Fans should direct their frustration there, not at an owner who locked up his core talent for the next five years last summer. (despite backloading)


11/26/11

Should Garth Snow Be Fired? Absolutely Not

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/26/2011 05:20:00 PM


Sorry folks, NHL General Managers by and large are sacred cows, unlike coaches.

Once they are in the job it takes a ton of horrible years/decisions to send them packing. George McPhee, Sather, Bryan Murray, Don Waddell, Bob Clarke, Darcy Regier, so many others.

David Poile in Nashville is considered one of the best in the business, the Predators have done little come playoff time. Boston had to send a draft pick to Ottawa for it's general manager after a league dispute.

It took forever to get Craig Patrick out of Pittsburgh, he did not have stable ownership but his first year out of the lockout pushed the wrong buttons with the high priced veterans, and Ray Shero came in from Nashville.

Many get promoted to the role of President, even some unqualified disasters like John Davidson, or Kevin Lowe, have the media in their corner, win or lose.

Brian Burke moves around a lot, one or two other gm's do also and Burke traded what turned out to be two top picks for Phil Kessel.

Paul Holmgren does what Ed Snider says, whether it be trade players signed after one year to decade plus contracts or front-load for the next one in July.

People like Cliff Fletcher in Toronto even get to play interim gm after Milbury robbed him blind for Jonsson and Brewer or Luongo depending on who you consider the Leafs pick was used for.

Burke does not front-load, so no top players pick Richard Peddie's team, same as Montreal, who can only take Scott Gomez, once the max part of his contract is already paid.

One or two general managers real claim to the job is being former player agents as we saw with Mike Barnett in Phoenix for a while.

As hockey fans we may be frustrated over Garth Snow not being able to front-load contract offers in summer, but most teams cannot front-load either and not able to make those kind of signings.

Overall you have to access the job the general manager does year by year. I cannot blame Garth Snow for the injuries in the previous years, he's made some excellent signings or decisions (Streit, Roloson, Moulson, Grabner and even Schremp for a time) to help the club in free agency, a few decisions were mistakes in resigning Brendan Witt early along with one extra year of Doug Weight/Sim. (even with a two-way contract)

Snow has not publicly stuck out his neck to protect his former coaches, he would not be the first to fail there.

No one wanted to see Trent Hunter leave when his contract was up, Snow handled it perfect and re-signed Hunter at an excellent rate, regardless of the decision not working out in the long run.

Snow has also done a great job locking up his prime players, combined with his extensions to MacDonald/Nielsen.

Brett Hull was a horrible co/gm in Dallas, anyone can throw around money, we have seen general managers over their head in the job from day one.

I do not see that with Garth Snow. Bergenheim got every chance here, as did Tambellini, even if they were Milbury's picks or traded players. Even Jeremy Colliton was qualified, as Jesse Joensuu was.

Absolutely Blake Comeau was played out of position, that goes on the gm.

Bottom line, last summer Snow made some good gambles in Rolston based on his second half production a year ago vs Hunter, same on Reasoner's thirteen vs Konopka's two goals.

It did not work.

Were those gambles any worse on paper as opposed to the ones made by Florida's new gm, Dale Tallon, who grossly overpaid for marginal free agents well passed their prime in most cases, after his drastic mistakes in Chicago, despite winning a Stanley Cup?

Bergenheim got a four year contract after Tampa moved on, he has two more points than Blake Comeau.

Snow was boxed in with returning Eaton, Mottau off injury vs finding a way to move on from them or outright cut them. It was a mistake considering what the defense did without them in the second half, plus resigning Jurcina early.

Obviously doubling down with Steve Staios, giving him the spot with Streit was terrible, as was bringing in a limited fourth line veteran in Pandolfo, who at this time is playing center for the first time in his career.

In the draft Snow/staff's goaltending decisions are not looking good with Koskinen in Europe, the decision on Hamonic outstanding. Still, the draft picks have to step in and supplement his plan here, it's still very early on that front, especially for Josh Bailey.

Matt Martin looks like a player.

James Wisniewski for a third vs resigning Sutton was an excellent gamble, even if it did fail, Sutton got injured his first game in Anaheim, was converted to forward, now he's in Edmonton.

Even if 2011-12 means another head coach losses his job, and the New York Islanders finish at the bottom of the standings this time with no excuses about injuries) Garth Snow should continue as this club's general manager.

Given the injures the previous years, the excellent decisions on many moves, his contract negotiations, it's not even close to the point of considering a change at general manager, sure he needed to make a move (even if from his AHL team) but has not and it does raise fair questions about his performance.

I see no chance Garth Snow goes with another Mike Milbury plan. Based on the things that worked in the second half of last year, this blog agrees completely the pieces are in place.

No folks, teams are not dumping anything but struggling players at this time, it would be nice to see Snow call up Bridgeport and get deHaan, Wishart in here, move on from Rolston, Pandolfo, Mottau and Reasoner so Niederreiter can finally play and give Ullstrom/Rahkshani a serious run of games.

As I wrote a while back a lot of these problems are going to solve themselves after the season.


11/24/11

Blake Comeau On Waivers Is Management's Failure

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/24/2011 02:44:00 PM


Blake Comeau was one of the players last year, who believed in the direction of this franchise moving forward.

He is a team player, who changed his position whenever asked.

It cost him.

Simply put management's job is to place players in the position they are best able to succeed. Blake Comeau was moved around, he struggled badly in the early parts of his last two seasons before 2011-12.

Before that he lost his job to Nate Thompson.

Now Comeau is on waivers.

In 2009-10, he finished with twenty goals/thirty five points. On Feb 10th 2010, he had six goals and fourteen points, as he was finally kept on left wing.

In 2010-11 he finished with twenty four goals/forty six points. On Jan 5th 2011, he had eight goals, three in the first two games, with seventeen points, again his position was changed early in the season whether it be to play right wing with Tavares or on another line.

The point being he's been moved off the position he has had the bulk of his NHL success when put on left wing and kept there.

Granted Blake Comeau as a prospect was a right wing when drafted, the Isles advertised him as a player who could any of the three forward positions. He was rarely used at center.

Again this year, management tried to make him a right wing to accommodate Brian Rolston.

All this constant changing of positions has contributed to many struggling prime players on this roster to go with the issue of it's defense. Comeau struggled far less than Kyle Okposo since last January.

What's next is Matt Martin (who's time has come to be more than a fourth line player) has been moved off the left wing spot he has played since day one to right wing for David Ullstrom. If that continues it is a mistake, one that apparently caught up with Blake Comeau, a mistake also when Michael Grabner was moved to right wing.

The failure of Blake Comeau this season being placed on waivers goes directly on New York Islander management for not putting him in the situation where he's had the most success.


11/23/11

Bottom Line The Defense Becomes Faster Or Nothing Will Work

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/23/2011 07:28:00 AM


I'm not happy Mark Eaton is injured, however I will admit him not being in the lineup is more of a solution to the overall biggest problem this team has.

Speed/transition on defense.

From this blog's perspective that's been the biggest problem with this team from day one.

Mike Mottau turning over the puck going in for Eaton will only make things worse, he's too slow/mistake prone to help anything. Jurcina is at best mediocre for the limited times he is healthy.

Garth Snow and Jack Capuano were here last season, they saw what did not work last season earlier on defense vs what did later on. It practically did not matter who dressed on defense until the very end of the season when they were using players on amateur tryout contracts.

A mobile defense gets to the puck in the defensive end first, it is able to skate the puck out which creates room for the forwards to enter the offensive zone, it gives the forwards room and mobility in the offensive zone and wears down the other team, when the defense can win pucks on the boards.

What we have seen in essence a game of catch, the slower Isles defenders under pressure throw the puck to center ice to the other team, the other other team skates the puck back in and wears down the defense. The forwards are in the middle of this game of catch and always chasing/outnumbered.

The New York Islanders do not need six superstars on the backline.

Streit, MacDonald and Hamonic are all a part of the solution long-term, but two of the other three have to be able to skate/win pucks/start rushes.

In this blogs estimation nothing changes until Wishart, deHaan/injured, Reese or another defender who can skate enters this mix, replacing Mottau, Staios and Jurcina.
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Calling up Michael Haley for no scoring, a few body checks and an occasional fight by appointment in a fourth line role solves absolutely nothing in the big picture, even if he goes in for Jay Pandolfo which should be the only player he can be recalled for unless Niederreiter is going back to juniors.

Is the plan to change another forwards position, keep Comeau in the stands or move Matt Martin around until he becomes as ineffective as Bailey, Comeau?

Or is Kyle Okposo or Josh Bailey heading back to the stands?

Bottom line Matt Martin is a left wing, Ullstrom has been used this year in Bridgeport as a left wing and has done very well. Matt Moulson is a left wing.

Grabner and Comeau need to be left wingers.

Comeau again had his position changed from left wing, Grabner also now plays on Tavares line as a right winger, the results have been terrible and not in either players best interest.

As easy as it is to blame Brian Rolston for this, management let him play left wing, and for many years Blake Comeau has allowed management to change his position.
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So the Flyers come in off some losses and desperate to beat a team they have owned for years. Mottau, Staios, Jurcina and an offense with no goals in two games have to defend and get the puck to the Islander forwards?

Marty Reasoner looks as done as Mike York did when he was here, I guess we discovered why the Florida Panthers let him go with his thirteen goals at a time they needed to sign half the league to fill out a roster.

I cannot blame Garth Snow for taking that gamble, he had thirteen goals on a club that had a horrible fourth line plus/minus that lost over thirty games by two goals or less a year ago. Same as I cannot blame Snow for bringing in Rolston with a forty point second half a year ago.

As for Wednesday there is the issue of picking a goaltender, who's going to have to be perfect out of Nilsson, DiPietro and Montoya, who's been practicing for a week like he's close.

Six points (four games in hand) behind fourteenth place Carolina, eight points (one game in hand behind eighth seed Washington.

They cannot fall behind any further, either this team starts winning right now, or it's another fifty five game preseason the rest of the way.

This is why so many blog entries have been done here, it's now or never.


11/22/11

Too Many Words, Passengers/No Identity For New York

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/22/2011 07:27:00 AM


So is Garth Snow giddy or gushing on this day about his team moving forward?

Last year for well over three months, this was a very tough team to play against, the young talent resigned here and bought into what worked as this club won or played well against most/all of the top teams.

This is not taking a step back to move forward, not even close.

Something changed from last season to this. One look at the defense is a good place to start.

Jack Capuano went back to his forward lines from last season as much as possible and the New York Islanders were shutout again. MacDonald and Hamonic were both minus three and had little help.

As I have been writing since the opener, no words fix players over-matched losing too many battles for pucks. It's only going to get worse now because everything has been tried, the frustration is obvious and you can see it in Tavares, Streit and many others faces.

Benching Comeau/Okposo was never going to be any kind of answer.

Bush league for Dan Bylsma to take a timeout up 5-0 late in a game, or run out Crosby again in the final minute. Not that the Islanders can put out a forward or defender to respond with a fight.

This was a Penguins team that just lost to both Florida and Tampa Bay, who recently lost to Carolina, the Isles arguably played better than they did in the shootout point they had vs Pittsburgh earlier.

Pittsburgh did not even play very well Monday night, the game opened 8-1 in shots for the Islanders (besides the Pens crossbar in the opening seconds) then Jay Pandolfo/Marty Reasoner watched Crosby fly past him at center ice on the opening goal with MacDonald getting beaten badly on the finish. Nilsson's reaction to the second goal watching him whiff with his blocker on a high point shot reflects a bad goal.

Of course, that was after Reasoner and Pandolfo got beaten again at the point, or Pandolfo took out Jurcina on the 3-0 goal.

As usual a lot of words from the players, they had a few quality chances and Fluery had to play well for his shutout, but hardly great to win.

Still the game looked like a mismatch beyond mostly individual efforts. Ullstrom played well, but if it moved Matt Martin to right wing that's not in Martin's best interest or the teams and a bad decision. Jurcina/Martin took the body a few times with Hamonic.

Rolston had his usual low percentage shots from bad angles, Grabner had some good chances as did Streit, but as usual this team lost far too many battles all over the ice, especially in the defensive zone as the usual suspects got picked apart.

Anders Nilsson made some good saves, but he still let in two goals he cannot allow.

I found it interesting once Eaton got hurt and they were down to five defenders, the Isles started skating better and drew some powerplays. Not sure if this was the scoreboard, or the game having been decided, or having three defenders who could skate out of five as opposed to six?

Eaton's sprained MCL means Mike Mottau plays which makes the problem even worse.

Bottom line:
Ten points out of eight place, the club has not had a winning effort against a team playing well all season, they have two wins since October 15th and have looked as lost as they did on opening night unless the opposing goaltender struggles.

This club looks more lost than they did last season with one regulation win in eighteen games. The potential is absolutely there to be the second worst New York Islander team ever with fifty point or less potential.

It's not working, it's not going to work, nor is trading Bailey or Okposo revisiting the Milbury plan any answer.

I still see the Colorado Avalanche down 3-0, call timeout and a player screaming at his team like he knew the Islanders were holding on and fragile.

He was right, Colorado has one win since playing the Islanders.

Answers?
If management feels Jack Capuano is contributing to the problem, or that the team is not playing to it's potential, he will likely be fired. I do not believe a coaching change fixes anything.

There are no answers beyond going back to what worked last season as much as possible, getting younger, bigger and faster on defense and at forward. Teams are not offering talent playing well so forget the trade market.

That means you send/keep Pandolfo, Rolston, Reasoner, Staios, Mottau, Jurcina, on the sidelines as much as possible and start replacing them. If you are going to lose, go down with the best possible lineup to develop moving forward.

If Wishart, Reese, Donovan/Ness or even Anton Klementyev have to come up here to make this defense faster to start a rush so be it, even if they get beaten they can skate.


11/20/11

For New York It's Not About One Game But An Entire Season

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/20/2011 06:43:00 AM


In the context of one game, losing 6-0 or worse happens to a lot of teams in this league. The scoreboard around the NHL Saturday night reflects this.

However this is not about one game.

This is about an entire season starting with opening night, where the New York Islanders have been outnumbered and over-matched virtually every single game, unless the opposition has a poor performance.

Outnumbered, outplayed, out-skated. Too slow, small, old and not physical enough.

This blog has been writing about it since opening night.

Jack Capuano kept talking about the second half of last season in his press conference last night, what he did not seem to understand is his defense is much older and slower, plus the forwards added threw off the chemistry of what worked so well last season in the second half.

The NHL head coach is not experienced in NHL veteran players past their prime, with this kind of mileage struggling. The AHL you can always find someone else younger and hungry with some skill on a PTO.

As for Saturday night, Boston's defense took the puck quickly and their transition in all three zones made the Isles look like an AHL team. Staios got caught pinching on the opening goal, Eaton, Jurcina were disasters waiting to happen all night with mistakes. Streit was a minus five, and far too often Reasoner and so many others were slow to read or react. Hamonic and MacDonald got picked apart.

I cannot blame Streit on the first goal, he took his man to the corner, dove with his stick out and gave the Bruin forward little but a bad angle centering pass, Niederreiter was unsure where to go, Reasoner was to slow to get back and cover two players, 1-0 on a slam dunk goal DiPietro had no chance on.

Offense? Are you kidding?

It was almost sad seeing Frans Nielsen (or other Islander forwards) trying to get past three or four defenders on a rush, the new rules likely saved him from injury.

It was the same thing we saw against Washington when Nielsen actually scored, and what we see most games.

Outside of some descent work from Martin, Bailey and Pandolfo, this team showed absolutely nothing. Boston simply exploited the Isles better, but not much different than Florida on opening night, and most other teams this season.

The Islanders best offensive moments were short-handed.

What would you have me write about Rick DiPietro? They lost 6-0, his turnover cost them one goal, he had little help on the others as did Anders Nilsson.

Boston is a very good team, they just got past Columbus 2-1, but this is not about any opposition or how they played.

It's about the New York Islanders and largely a defense (with some forwards) that are simply too old, small, slow and over-matched.

Jack Capuano is correct, the rest is all words.

The Tributes to Ed Westfall were moved down the page, the ceremony was outstanding as was Jiggs McDonald, and their second period play by play.


11/18/11

New York Notables: It's Rick DiPietro's Time

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/18/2011 11:44:00 PM


This is why six goaltenders needed to be signed.

Did you really believe Evgeny Nabokov and Al Montoya were completely durable goaltenders? Both were hurt at the World Championships, Nabokov managed to be so out of shape he needed close to a month last year to get ready when Detroit signed him?

Dwayne Roloson (granted much older in hockey years with his own injury history) was the exception, not the rule.

Evgeny Nabokov's groin injury will keep him out for at least a month, Al Montoya apparently was injured in Colorado and is day to day.

Mikko Koskinen is in the FNL on assignment, no idea if the Isles are going to ask he return to North America.

Just like that, the New York Islander goaltending is down to Rick DiPietro, who has to play five games in the next seven days all against winning teams with the Isles season basically on the line. They cannot afford to lose any more ground in the standings, and five hundred means nothing.

Kevin Poulin goes from part time goaltender, coming off another knee surgery, to full time starter as in three games in three days in Bridgeport.

First up, the Boston Bruins on a seven game winning streak, then a trip back to Pittsburgh where Matt Cooke and the Pens (perhaps with a Crosby return) will be fired up.

Rick DiPietro to the best of my knowledge last season rarely played back to back games and did not prove durable. Obviously there is no hiding from the fact he must not only stay healthy, but stop the puck, and give this team a chance to win games with a suspect (to be kind) defense.

There is no hiding from Mike Mottau's turnovers, Milan Jurcina's lapses, Steve Staios getting caught, or turning over the puck, with penalties or the lack of speed on the backline and some of these forwards.

Fair to write the deck is stacked against DiPietro, who's passing may be the biggest benefit to this teams slow defense, but mistakes could hurt them just as easily.

Either way, it's Rick DiPietro's time.
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Happy the club got any win possible against Montreal, loved Bailey's pass to Pandolfo, Niederreiter's effort to clear a puck, and some of the good chances they generated that Peter Budaj did make some great saves on when he was not letting in soft goals.

Still, even with the injuries on the Montreal backline, even playing the night before, you could see the speed from their defenders as they took the puck and skated it out of their end of the ice. Mistakes and all, Montreal basically took over play in the third period as a five player unit.

That's what's been missing for this offense, defenders who can take the puck and skate with it. This is why I see the club outnumbered in all three zones.
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No one's going to convince me a penalty kill that is around 20th, needs Jay Pandolfo so badly that Kyle Okposo should sit for a third game.

Or that Mike Mottau should not be placed on waivers for Wishart, Reese or another defender.
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Congratulations to Ed Westfall, lot's of great memories/stories of him not only from the Islanders but his time in Boston, where he won the Stanley Cup. Hopefully Saturday's ceremony also includes a tribute to Jiggs McDonald, who apparently is also getting a plaque.


11/14/11

See No Chance Current NYI Roster Can Turn Season Around

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/14/2011 10:32:00 PM


No doubt the players will continue to talk a good game, most of them seem to be giving all they have.

Having written this, when a team plays fourteen games, and it's painfully obvious they are too old, small, slow, not physical enough in virtually every game, it's obvious that things are only going to get worse, as the schedule and frustration mount.

Colorado, Vancouver were not even playing well.

What's The Problem Exactly?
As written in every blog entry, the veterans brought in or returning defenders simply have too much mileage on them. Impossible for the Isles younger/faster forwards (with MacDonald/Hamonic) to play the game outnumbered in all three zones.

Most of the Isles five on five offensive chances are generated off turnovers, or point shots, exact opposite of the formula that worked in the second half a year ago with a more mobile defense, that had some physical players.

Kyle Okposo only had five goals in second half of last season, few noticed because Grabner was on his line scoring with Nielsen, who has three even strength goals, but is creating little so Nielsen is more noticeable without shorthanded goals/penalty shots.

The Brian Rolston trade to bring in the Devils forty points/forty games in second half forward of last season has failed because he needs to play left wing. So far, that decision has hurt Comeau, Bailey and now forced Grabner to change his position, being that it's obvious Comeau cannot play right wing.

The Isles Pk with Reasoner and Pandolfo have not been exploited yet to a large degree, but it's the exact opposite of last year's team when Bailey, Grabner and Nielsen attacked other teams and put them on the defensive.

Blame Game?
Jack Capuano: See no fault or blame with the head coach. His comments early in season suggested he knew this was not enough, and his team most nights has worked hard. No line changes with slower forwards or a very slow defense are going to work.

Capuano looks like he is over matched and knows it going into games, his changes have not helped Comeau, Okposo, or Bailey and likely will take it's toll on Grabner, and it looks like frustration bordering on desperation calling out his players again.

Garth Snow: The blame goes entirely on the general manager. For the same reasons he moved on from Trent Hunter and others, he needed to recognize the returning defenders, plus Staios made for a very slow, old, turnover prone mix that failed in November/Early Dec of 2010. What did he really expect from Jay Pandolfo, or Steve Staios?

As I wrote previously, he doubled-down on a weakness already there with his backline and went back to what failed in Nov/Early Dec of 2010.

It's failed again.

Jack Hillen, Bruno Gervais, Radek Martinek, Ty Wishart, Dylan Reese may have had flaws/injuries to their games, but skating was not one of them. Folks now see how valuable Martinek was when he was moving well with the puck.

Marty Reasoner looks like a player who Florida moved on from at the right time, or his camp injury plus a struggling club has take it's toll, his thirteen goals should have made him a huge improvement over Zenon Konopka's fights by appointment, but it has not. Haley's ability to fight (not score) is more valuable than Jay Pandolfo's contribution.

With Calvin deHaan likely out with a shoulder injury, the gm seems reluctant to call up Ty Wishart, who was successful in twenty games here last season.

Garth Snow boxed himself in good with the roster he constructed or let return from November 2010. Other teams see it and know they can force play most games.

Charles Wang: No blame at all. Like most teams he cannot offer front-loaded contracts to players. He was spending well over forty million before the league had a salary floor, after Snow traded Wisniewski/Roloson's 4.5 million last December with no roster return, the club was still over the cap.

The UFA defender market was not a good one, the Isles made a trade and Christian Ehrhoff signed for huge front-loaded money, same as Wisniewski.

With all the teams in new buildings bleeding red ink, getting taxpayer funds or exemptions, there is no blame that can be given to Charles Wang.

But why would anyone want to notice these things?


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