Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Berard to Tryout

There are reports out of Canada that Bryan Berard has accepted an invitation to Islanders camp to win a job through an open tryout. With a handful of notable names around the league still unsigned, I would expect to hear about more cases of this happening with other teams. But for this team and this particular player, I really don't understand the motivation.

The only logic that makes any sense is that his veteran presence will provide good motivation for the young guys (Gervais and Campoli) to step up during camp. It always helps to have someone ready to earn your spot to provide that extra little spark. Beyond that, the benefits are unclear.

Taking for granted that Witt, Sutton, Bergeron and Martinek have already earned spots (and that Nolan will not keep more than 6 D-men on the team) we now have 4 guys - Gervais, Campoli, Meyer, and Berard - competing for two spots. I've mentioned in previous posts that I don't see Meyer being more than a depth defenseman waiting in the wings in Bridgeport. Given Martinek's penchant for injury and Witt/Sutton's aggressive natures, depth is something this team needs and likely will rely on at some point during the year. So that leaves three players for two spots, and I'm assuming Berard wouldn't accept a contract if he was going to be in the minors.

So that leaves the question - who's the best duo for the team? And if Berard makes the team, will the development of the player sent down be hindered in the minors? To me the answer is simple - we've seen enough from Gervais and Campoli to justify their continued development at the NHL level. Campoli had a rock-solid rookie year, and I believe that a contributing factor to his slow start last year was a lack of confidence. Remember, going into the year he was a lock for a starting job. Then he got hurt, and when he was ready to rejoin the team they kept him in the minors for quite some time, until a spot opened for him. Gervais is a guy that I think improved little-by-little over the course of last season, and was one of our better defenseman during our brief playoff run. Both guys are young and have a lot of upside. Despite my highest hopes for the team this year, we're not favorites for the Cup right now. Let's continue to let these guys develop and see if they can become fixtures on our blue line for many years to come.

The alternative to is to give a spot to a guy that has one bad eye and two back surgeries on his resume. Over the least three seasons, he's only been healthy enough to play in 113 games. And over that period he offers a plus/minus of -57. For a stat like that, I would have preferred to pay for Souray and gotten all of his offensive upside. This team already has too many "spare parts" in their roster of forwards, no need to muddy things with one more on the defensive end.

Friday, August 17, 2007

In With the New

Mid-August is not usually a hot time for hockey news, but we've had a few items to satisfy our appetites over the last couple of weeks.

First came the signing of big 6'6" defender Andy Sutton to a 3 year deal, seemingly ending Snow's quest for blue-line help for the upcoming season. While a 3-year, $9M deal seems a bit steep to me (although who came at a bargain during this wild off-season?) he fills a need for a big, strong defensive-minded defenseman. I view him as a significant upgrade to what Hill brought to the team last year. He is +19 over his last two seasons with Atlanta, and adds a little offensive punch with over 20 points in 3 of his last 4 seasons. With someone of his size, speed is always a concern. But it may help to know that he was a forward most of his life, until he made the switch to D during college.

Next, Snow addressed the need for additional help at center by signing Josef Vasicek to a 1-year deal. Not a big name signing, but given what was available I think it was a smart move. He's been to the Cup Finals twice in his short career, including one win. You can't underestimate the value in the locker room of having players with good playoff experience. He's got good size and has shown real offensive potential. Here's hoping that Nolan is able to get the most of him and get him back to the 40+ point level.

My primary concern with the roster at this point is that we have a number of guys signed to short-term deals. This is great in that it gives us flexibility to be major players in future FA markets, but it begs an important question. If we achieve the kind of success we are all hoping for, what are the odds we'll be able to keep this team together beyond this year? Comrie, Vasicek, Bergenheim, Hunter, Satan...none of these guys are locked beyond this season. It's an interesting position to be in, and time will tell what our roster will look like next season and beyond.

This brings us to the last news item, the new jerseys debuting this season. Accepting that a change was mandatory, I like the jerseys, particularly the home blue style. I'm glad they kept it relatively traditional. I would have been fine keeping the jerseys the same, but they didn't do much for fans to hate. After the fisherman debacle, that is saying a lot. For fans looking to buy a new jersey, the only question is - whose name and number can you get and feel comfortable it won't be outdated in the next season or two? Aside from DP, that's a tough one to answer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Asham to NJ

There are reports today indicating that Aaron Asham has signed with the Devils. At this point, terms of the deal haven't been disclosed. Certainly, the fact that he's no longer an Islander isn't a big surprise. It's become clear over the past month that he wasn't in Snow's plans, especially after Chris Simon was re-signed. But in today's NHL, where the Isles roster seems to go through major turnover every year, it's worth noting that Asham has been a mainstay on the team for 4 good seasons.

To me, he's always been a guy that is this close to having a breakout year. He has one of the better slapshots I've seen, he's arguably the best middle-weight fighter in the league, and he plays with a good edge to his game. But it never quite all came together well enough for him to post a 20-goal season, or physically dominate night in and night out. All that said, I'm not too happy to see that he'll be staying in the division, where we'll have to face him 8 times next year. With our luck, now that he's moved on he'll finally put it all together and have the break-out season we all were hoping for while he was on the Island.