Reflection and Restoration

My friends, @PucksandPixels (Purveyors of this fine shirt: http://skreened.com/pucksandpixels/ampersand-islanders-captains?direction=asc&field=order&query=&start=0&count=20) have a contest going abut one’s favorite hockey memory in 250 characters or less. I invite you all to follow them, peruse their catalog, and submit your own entries. Then vote for mine, which I’ve included here, as follows:

At the end of the regular season, long time Isles Kenny Jonsson and Claude Lapointe teared up.  The Crowd chanted ‘Play-offs!’ Thus, the New York Islanders set the stage for a vicious first round series against the Maple Leafs. It was the Isles first foray into the playoffs in roughly 2 Olympiads.  The Coliseum crowd was raucous, the vibe between the teams vitriolic. It was 2002. Yashin went board to board through the neutral zone to number 17, Shawn Bates. Bates was a career journeyman enjoying his finest hour on the Lucky 7’s line with Mark Parrish and Mike Peca. A busted change as the Isles came out out of their own zone led to Bates hitting the ice before his linemates and having an angle on Bryan McCabe.  McCabe laid out to swipe the puck, a move he’d executed repeatedly as an Islander, and failed. Referee Brad Watson’s arm shot up then pointed towards center. Bates collected himself, taunted the irritable Curtis Joseph, and calmly skated over to his bench to wipe down his visor, getting some sage advice from Captain Peca and Backup Goalie Garth Snow on Joseph’s tendencies as native L.I.er Billy Joel’s ‘Pressure’ spoke to the moment.  He strode in, the clock frozen at 2:31, pulling further towards the far boards with each deke. Off the third deke, he snapped a high wrist-shot glove side just inside the post and under the bar. The crowd erupted and Bates was mobbed by his teammates. “Play-offs”, indeed.

I’ve been blessed in that I’ve gotten to see a great many wonderful moments from my teams, as such I’ll seldom lament the myriad of new and innovative ways they fail me. A Tavares Hat trick. Dave Justice homering and the Braves winning the series. Marino’s fake spike. From 1-15 to 11-5. A plethora of good memories. I can’t honestly complain. It looks like the saga of the Islanders is heading towards a resolution, and Brooklyn is seemingly emerging as front runner.

That’s just fine by me, as noted here earlier.

The team (Mark Streit specifically) just notched out 10,000 goal. Here’s a video retrospective (including that Bates goal I remember so fondly) put together by the team: http://t.co/ASMBOIZa

One other tidbit, before I get into the reason I’m writing.

That Potvin’s Cup shirt is BOSS. Buy it here:

http://crosstownny.bigcartel.com/product/potvin-s-cup

I by the way, need a collaborator for a ‘chirping’ line of t-shirts. I have photoshop SKILLZ but no other artistic talent, and would like to make a dozen or so designs running down various franchises. Shoot me a link to your work if interested.

Anyhow, onto the jist of today’s piece.

With the SHOCKING DEPARTURE of Tim “I have less points then Rick DiPietro this season” Wallace, The Isles limp in to a rivalry meeting with the Enemy tomorrow. This will be a tall test. That’s fine. I’ve already kind of moved on to next year with the re-signing of The Frans and the courting of Nabokov on a two year pact.

This is what we should look like from the net out next year:

-Netminders-

1. Nabokov

2. Poulin

-Blueline-

1. Hamonic /MacDonald

2. Streit / Acquisition

3. Hamrlik / Child (Ness or Donovan, or CDH if ready)

3a. Reese (Good 7th D).

-Up Front-

Herein lies the rub.

Tavares will anchor the first line. That much is certain. Ditto for the 30 goal Accomplice, Matt Moulson riding shotgun. I believe The Islanders still intend to re-sign PA Parenteau. However, that is also looking increasingly less certain.

So, let’s discuss what should happen. Firstly, the 4th line should have Cizikas added with Reasoner carried as the depth forward. Haley should be opposite Martin on this line. Cizikas and Martin are both defensively reliable and capable of PKing. Reasoner is an accomplished enough vet to move aside as his deal is cap friendly enough where we won’t notice him in the pressbox.We’ll do this in reverse order.

4a. Reasoner

4. Martin / Cizikas / Haley

3. Grabner / Nielsen / Niederreiter

IF PA is re-signed

2. Strome /Bailey-Acquisition/Okposo-Acquisition

1. Moulson / Tavares / Parenteau

If PA is NOT re-signed:

2. Strome / Bailey / Acquisition

1. Moulson / Tavares /Okposo

Basically, The New York Islanders business model dictates most of these decisions. ELC Cap hit on Strome and Cizikas bumps the number to offset some of the cap departures of Rolston, Staios, Jurcina, Eaton, and Witt’s buyout.  Hamrlik’s 3.5 million dollar bandaid gets you closer. Parenteau’s extension or the subsequent replacement in the top 6 get you to the floor. The rub here is that I believe if Parenteau is locked up, either Bailey or Okposo will be dealt to facilitate that Defensive addition I speculated about along with Hamrlik.

Roman Hamrlik can be had for a song, is dependable, knows the Island, and will help develop our kids. He is not a top line acquisition. That will only be acquired by giving UP something or making a ridiculous Brian Campbell like contract offer to someone.

The lynchpin here is locking up Nabokov. That stability gives you a lot more wiggle room.

We aren’t desperate. Our farm system is finally showing the fruits of the rebuilds labor. It’s time to harvest some of that.

The Happiest of Happy days: Isles 1, Flyers 0 F/SO + MUCH MORE

The day started with Prop 8 getting struck down in Cali.

SUCCKKKKK IT Rick Santorum.

I was driving home from class ramping it up for a visit to the den of evil, Philadelphia.

That’s when my twitter feed blew up. 4  years. 11 Million. Frans Nielsen, a career Islander WILL REMAIN. OUTFUCKINGSTANDING.

Geeked about it.  He’s my fave current Isle.

The Isles broke the Flyers streak of utter dominance last time out. This time, I oddly felt good. Even without the Mighty Hammer (Who shall be back from a broken nose in 2 weeks).

First Period:

Flyers lead the shot battle 10-7. Everything else dead even. Hits, Faceoffs, chances, all that.

The latter 40 saw Reese appear to badly injure his knee. 5 D left. One was Aaron Ness, making his NHL Debut for the injured Hamonic.

The Philadelphia Flyers averaged almost a shot a minute from then on out, by Evgeni Nabokov tapped the goalline with his stick and said NONE SHALL PASS.

45s through the end of O/T.

Shootout time. Frans first.

THE FRESHLY MINTED 11 MILLION DOLLAR DANISH BACKHAND OF JUDGEMENT… SCOREEESSS.

Danny Briere…. TOE SAVE NABBY KOV.

91, THE BEST IN THE WORLD… HOLLA. 2-0 Isles in the skills contest.

Wayne Simmonds MUST score or Its over…

ITS OVER. ISLES WIN.

ISLES REACH .500

HO-HUM. ANOTHER WIN IN PHILLY.

NYI now sit 4. games out with 3 games in hand. Just sayin’.

Isles lock up another core piece at a hometown discount. Shocker.

Garth Snow says “We Take Care Of Our Own.”

One of the best Isles nights in a long time.

Team surging. Shrugging off injury after injury. Fighting, clawing toward the impossible dream.

Finally get back to .500, which like it or not is a measure of respectability in this league.

Locked up one of our home grown beloved guys on the cheap.

Beat a hated rival in their barn…

 

 

Believe….

Why Neil Greenberg is wrong, but not that fancy word Howie Rose called him.

So, last week, the blogosphere was aflame by Neil Greenberg’s list of the top 25 players under the age of 25. Then people dismissed it, then Howie Rose brought the simmering fire to a roaring inferno by lambasting Neil on the air for having the audacity not to include John Tavares on his list.

I’m not going to knock the guys on the list. I like the majority of them. But there’s 5 or 6 of them you could get a GM to trade you for Tavares.

I’m also not going to be looking up that word Howie called Neil. Sounded too science-y. I’m sorry, I’m a history guy. It was funny, haha, great Howie.

I “appreciate your passion, but tone it down” (as some asshole who tried to get me to shut up at the game said, fuck you too guy). But in reality Howard Rose, the only people who still give a shit about this team are the ones who read about in on a daily basis on messageboards, people who get their fix from junkies on blogs, not too unlike this one. We are among the most digital fanbases in the NHL. Look at my home away from home, Islandermania. Half the STH base is on there chirping Wang right now (By the way, Charles, you suck). So no, don’t bite the hand that feeds.You called out (though not by name, oddly enough) Neil Greenberg of ESPN, the WaPost and formerly of RussianMachineNeverBreaks, the parent site of Puckbuddys, which is the parent site of this blog. That makes me like Neil’s BlogBro-In-Law. 6 degrees of internet memes.

Anyway, I spoke a bit with Neil about his column after I turned Isles country lose on him by linking his piece to a few of my influential media friends who fed it to their followers and it became a pitchfork and torch wielding mob. I take all the credit for this. It was awesome to see that people still get pissed when this franchise is disrespected. I thought we lost all our passion to apathy. Glad to see that is not the case. Sorry you ate that shit sandwich, Neil. I apologize for calling the dogs of war. You are a nice guy who gave his opinion, you just happened to make a party foul against possibly the most pissed off fanbase in the NHL.

Why are we so pissed off? The constant disrespect. From every other fanbase, the officials… the league. We have a storied past. I don’t wanna hear shit from NuNHL fans whose teams have either never one a cup or took the fucking cold war off. Shoosh. This fanbase has taken 20 years of fecal matter in our faces and every year on opening night we come back bright eyed, bushy tailed and hopeful just to be crapped on again.  And then we come back again. Why? Because we really are pretty goddamn resilient. All we need is hope. And Tavares is that hope. He is the embodiment of that hope.

That’s why you got that anger, Neil.

That out of the way, let’s talk about why you are wrong!

Initially, I said Neil went after JT because it would be a controversial statement and there was noone left in Isles country to answer Neil’s call to arms. I dared him to pen the same piece about Ovechkin, basically implying he wouldn’t shit where he eats. He then provided me links of every anti-ovi piece he had penned. Oh, did I feel like a dick.

ANYWAY… Neil said to me in essence “Come at me bro” but don’t bring “Saw Him Good!” as analysis. Have something deeper.

Neil, you have my respect for your metrics, though they are in my opinion,  over analysis. I’m not Billy Beane. I’m a loudmouth blogger, so let’s tell ya what I got and we’ll compare notes.

The crux of Neil’s criticism of JT91 is that Tavares benefits from his linemates, JT’s lack of ‘clutchness’ and that JT is placed in advantageous offensive situations, thus not needing to go 200 feet to create, but rather being in position to capitalize on a chance from the moment he hits the ice.

Let’s take these things in reverse order.

Why is JT91 put in offensive situations? Why? Because a line better suited for defensive situations will take own zone draws, headed by our Selke candidate, Frans Nielsen. It’s not a knock on JT, it’s an asset we have on call, a legitimate shutdown defensive centerman. John’s talents are better utilized in neutral zone draws or Ozone faceoffs. Tavares wins nearly 55% of his draws. He also now has the half wall attack dog, Kyle Okposo at his disposal for the ones he doesn’t win. That’s forecheck city, you don’t burn their minutes in your own zone. It’s not good resource management.You let Frans the Great Dane handle the bulk of the DZone heavy lifting. It’s just proper allocation of skill sets.

This is not to say JT91 is a DZone liability. Each year, incrementally, he has raised his strength on the puck, his battle level in the corners, and the most eveident, after working out with the same power skating wizard who aided Bobby Nystrom, Laura Stamm, he has made his skating explosive, making himself into a complete player, capable in all 3 zones. Hes’ 7th in the league in takeaways at last check. Neil told me that’s an unreliable homer stat (similar to FLAWLESS PRINCE MATT MARTIN’S LEAGUE LEAD IN HITS) which may be true, but my counterpoint is when you are that high up, you are doing SOMETHING right, even if the numbers are slightly askew.

Oh, the clutch thing. Oh boy. “John Tavares isn’t big in big spots” may have been paraphrasing, but that’s pretty close. Ok! The numbers call BS on that.

  • 18 of his 20 goals have been scored when the team is tied, up or down 1.
  • 9 have been in the 3rd period or OT.
  • 5 have been Game Winners, ergo he is 6th in the league in GWG.

Big time spots. Big time goals, dial 91.

The last point actually made me chuckle. Tavares “benefits from his linemates strengths”. HA! PA Parenteau is going to buy a house this offseason and owe it to John Tavares. He is the straw that stirs the drink. Let’s look at his 3 most frequent linemates to this point in his career and their production with and without him.

Matt Moulson: Tavares’ finisher, Wingman, and BFF.

Moulson was ferrying back and forth between the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and hanging in the Kings Pressbox. Before arriving on LI, he had 6 career goals in 29 career NHL games. And looking back at his numbers through the NCAA and the AHL, he was never a 30 goal scorer. Since he arrived and was pit on JT’s wing, he has eclipsed 30 goals both seasons and looks to hit 40 this year. But yeah, the guy was waiting to explode on the Kings depth chart before being reunited with childhood friend John Tavares. Certainly, all draft picks go through what 4 organizations before stardom, right? Odd, that.

P.A. Parenteau: “Screw it, big win. Do It Shirtless!”

Ah, PAP. Much maligned by some Isles fans because of his pedigree (Ranger castoff), a minor league journeyman kicking around the AHL for years (Drafted in 2001!) he shockingly enjoyed a career year on Tavares’ wing. He had a whopping 3 goals in 27 career NHL games before finding 2 tickets to Tavaradise. Last year, riding shotgun with JT, he potted 53 points. He started guns blazing this year, but once he was taken off the line, he has cooled. Odd, that.

Kyle Okposo: Back from the brink.

It’s been a long hard road for Kyle. Injuries and poor developmental supervision nearly snuffed out his potential. He was struggling recovering from a very bad shoulder injury during last season to start this campaign, and many in Isles country had began to call him the dreaded ‘B’ word, which no young player ever wants to hear. Then he was put on Tavares’ wing and magically became a PPG player. His career high before this season was 18g. He’s at 11 already. Odd, that.

John Tavares is the guy that got all of these players going. It’s not the other way around. The man is a top ten player in the NHL right now, let alone a top 25 player under 25.

As for the ‘saw him good’ portion of the analysis Neil feared was coming… he’s right. I saw him do good. He’s pretty fucking awesome.

State of The Island

An organizational assessment of the New York Islanders

From top to bottom, I’m going to take a look at the NYI and we shall see who were deserves to play out this year and be back, who has value and should be dealt, and who needs to go to the glue factory.

On Ice (NHL Level):

One line and some assorted parts…

John Tavares: Simply put, the most important player to any franchise in the NHL at this moment. He is the reason this fanbase has any hope currently and the reason people think the NYI exists in 4 years time. Untouchable.

Okposo, Grabner, Moulson: This trio isn’t going anywhere. These are all upper echelon players who bring different things and all 3 have multiple years left on cap friendly deals. Okposo is the prototypical power forward who has found his consistent net drive and snarl to become a rock in that dressing room for years to come. Moulson is Tavares’ rad bromance (Yes, that was a Gaga joke) and a legitimate 30 goal finisher. He’s Mark Parrish in terms of net presence, but unlike Parrish, he can skate… and SHOOT!  Gremlin is a legit PK maven and streaky guy whose speed alone makes him a perennial 25 goal guy.

Nielsen, Parenteau: Two legit top 9 players both pending UFA. I. Love. Frans. He is so wonderful. He is the hero of the songs my heart sings. I’ll never forget  soft spoken Radek Martinek’s words. “I love him so much. He is wonderful. If anyone hurt him (I’d kill them).” Oh gosh, I’m over come with emotion. I miss you Radek, my sneaky-sneaky friend.  I digress. Frans is a selke future winner (He finished 6th last year in voting with the NYPHWA boycotting, he could have won if they voted). You don’t GIVE that away. If you truly believe Cizikas will fill his role, fine. Fine. But Casey needs to earn that. Frans must be back. I believe PA must as well. Our prospect cupboard is overflowing. We do not need picks. If both return, We maybe need to add 1 legitimate top 9 player up front. 2 if you lose one. That’s all. If you lose both? Our forwards corps become a wreck akin to the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Nino Niederreiter – “El Nino, Spanish for the Nino!” is coming on like a train lately. He’s a rock of our prospect pool. Get him on the third line, now.

Matt Martin – Hold me, one of the flawless two princes. The NHL’s leading hitter, a fearless bulldog who will fight anyone, and a strong puck possession forward. I crush on him.

Brian Rolston, Marty Reasoner, Tim Wallace,  Jay Pandolfo – You all have accomplished a lot at the NHL level (other than Wallace, who has done exactly… yeah). Congrats on your careers. Please collect your paychecks and gear at the front desk.

On to the thin blue line…

Travis Hamonic and Andrew McDonald – THE OTHER OF THE TWO PRINCES!!!! I love Hamonic. His amazingness cannot be put into words. Youth, snarl, hitting, shot blocking and an ability to jump in on the rush? He might actually be perfect! But my adopted son lost a tooth. Fix that, Shakey. Glue something in there. AMac is the perfect counter to Hammer. Positionally sound, smart instincts, largely stay at home. And if anyone touches him, Hamonic destroys them because of bromantic obligations.

Mark Streit – The Captain. He needs to stay as a veteran glue. That’s all there is to it. I’d love to say our D corps is solid enough to trade him, but that’s a blatanly laughable statement. Hahaha. See? Laugh.

Steve Staios, Milan Jurcina – this is a case of snarl if too old to get into position to properly use it, and a case of size but an unwillingness to be physical. We already have Jurcina’s clone in the “I’m a big man that hits less than Tom Poti” in Wishart. Staios’ clone, Brendan Witt, already retired. Just saying… goodbye.

Dylan Reese – Wow. I shit on this kid last year. He has grown up mightily. He can stay as depth.

Mark Eaton – Holy dog dick is he steady. He’s just injured, often. He is Martinek Version II. I like his play, but his frailty and age make me yearn for a younger more durable replacement.

The defenders of the crease:

Rick Dipietro – I love you. Unabashedly. You are what made me an Islanders fan.  You need to retire for your health, your team and your fans. Right Now. I still love you. But as Coldplay said, if you love someone, you can let them go.

Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabakov – One of these men, I have no preference as I love our quirky Chicagoan and Enigmatic Russian equally, will return and serve as starter with Kevin Poul in in his stead next year. The End. I’d give a slight edge to Montoya in the two isles preferred qualifications: Young and Cheap.

On the Ice – Prospects (Quick assessment of the team’s key cogs in development)

Kevin Poulin, Ryan Strome, Calvin DeHaan , Casey Cizikas – I’m rue to move any of these kids as they all seem legit, and will see significant time on LI next year.  The only concerns here are CDH and Poulin’s injuries.

Scott Mayfield, Andrej Pedan – Raw, large, nasty Dmen. Stay forever.

Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov – two intriguing high ceiling forwards prospects. Would not deal without a fellatio worthy trade.

Aaron Ness, Matt Donnovan – Both are playing very well at the Bridge and look like they could be NHL contributors some day soon, but could be dealt for help NOW.

Kirill Petrov – HA.

Rhett Rakashani, David Ullstrom – Both look like serviceable NHL parts but are by no means untouchable.

Mike Haley – Why are you not on Long Island punching people in the face?

Off the Ice, Organization:

Charles Wang – I hate you. You petty, vindictive, stubborn asshat of a man. Please go into the afterlife, posthaste sell the team to someone who wants to win on Long Island.

Garth Snow – He is currently a puppet. But he is a ruthless, shrewd puppet. I’d like to see him under a real owner, or given a chance to go out and get a real coach with a spine. Last time he had 1 in Nolan, we looked solid.

Jack Capuano – You poor Flinstone looking man guy. I like you. I do. But you are not a smart hockey coach.  At All. And you show no emotion. I’m genuinely sorry Jack, but you must go.

Scott Allen, Doug Weight- Its amazing such an incompetent HC has two very competent Assistants. If you don’t believe me, look at our PK and PP ranks. FIYAHPOWAH + WATER BOTTLE SQUIRT = HAPPY VINNY

Howie Rose – At least 6 times a season, when Howie is rousted from his malaise, he DESTROYS someone who has ripped Isles Country. And it’s wonderful.

Butch Goring – HA. Pat Flatley is taking your job.

Billy Jaffe – BABY COME BACK.

Where does this leave us?

Next year, on the ice, we should look like this:

Okposo-Tavares-Moulson

Grabner-Nielsen-Parenteau

!El Nino!-Strome-Quality VETERAN UFA (NOT A RETREAD, WANG YOU CHEAP FUCK).

Martin-Warm Body with PK skills (Like say KONOPKA?)-Hopefully HALEY?

Hamonic-McDonald

TWO LEGITIMATE UFA DEFENSEMEN, NOT RETREADS WANG YOU CHEAP FUCK.

Striet-Prospect (CDH, Ness or Donny)

Montoya/Nabby-kov

Poulin

That’s all for now. See you next time, or I will see you another time!

NP – Two Princes by the Spin Doctors