Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stakeholders Meeting

I'm a little late posting my thoughts and reactions to last night's event at the Coliseum. Rather than rehash everything already reported by Newsday's Greg Logan in his article and blog, I'll just add my two cents on a few items.

First, a request for the Lighthouse developers. If we're lucky enough to ever see this project happen, can you do something about the acoustics in the Coliseum? I was sitting about 15 feet from Garth and Ted as they spoke, and literally could hardly understand what they were saying. It's as if the arena was built to funnel all sound out to Hempstead Turnpike. But enough griping.

After the dog and pony portion of the evening was done, Charles Wang addressed the Lighthouse Project and updated us on the latest status. Nothing new, but a nice update for those that aren't turned on by Town of Hempstead bureaucracy. He still hopes to break ground by July 2009, which to me seems unrealistic. The highlight of his presentation came when he introduced Garth, and acknowledged that most people thought he lost his mind to appoint our back-up goalie to the GM position. He made a "Garth slept at a Holiday Inn Express the night before" joke, which I'll admit was at least a little bit funny (would have been more funny if I was 100% sure he was actually kidding).

I thought Garth's presentation was pretty run-of-the-mill, and his three-point plan for success - draft wisely, develop prospects, sprinkle in UFAs - wasn't exactly a revelation (although, in fairness, what else could he have said?). He understandably didn't give any inkling to his thoughts on the upcoming draft. During the Q&A portion, Garth seemed inclined to say as little as possible. The only "news" in a sense is that he seems very keen on bringing in a true "enforcer" before next season.

Ted was more verbose than Garth, and I thought the portion of the evening devoted to him was more useful. It's very clear that he is very high on both Bergenheim and Comeau, as he should be. Hopefully Bergenheim will be signed soon, an issue which Snow was asked about but danced around quite well. In fact, over the course of the evening there were several instances where the "kids" were discussed. Both Nolan and Snow spoke about Bergy, Comeau, and Okposo. Not one mention of Tambellini until a question was asked specifically about him. To me, that said a lot. The one topic that annoys me a bit...the powerplay woes. Nolan indicated he studied a lot of tape and concluded it was too stationary. I could have told him that in November! Why didn't he address and CHANGE this before it was too late? No good answer to that, unfortunately.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Open House

This Wednesday evening the Islanders are hosting an "Open House and Chalk Talk", the highlight of which (for me, at least) will be a presentation / Q&A on the direction of the team. I'm hoping there will be some real substance to the event, as promised by Chris Botta, but wouldn't be shocked if it's more of a dog-and-pony show to try to lure some new season ticket holders.

Regardless, I have to say this is one of the great benefits of being a hockey fan and, specifically, an Islanders fan. You just don't get this kind of access in other sports. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but could you imagine the Yankees sending Cashman and Girardi out to interact with the fans like this, especially after an unsuccessful season?

There are a few questions I'm hoping are addressed/discussed during this session:

For Garth
- Do you think your ability to attract free agents would be different if the Lighthouse project was approved before the FA period begins?
- Is your approach with the draft to go for the best player available, or to draft based on needs?

For Ted
- Do you think you were proactive enough in addressing the struggling powerplay this past season? What adjustments do you think you made over the course of the year?
- Do you think your effectiveness as a coach would be different on a "veteran" team vs. a "young" team? Do you think you need to adapt your style based on the experience of your players?

It'll also be interesting to see the interaction between Garth and Ted, in their first "public" interaction since the rumors of a strain in their relationship. Body language may say more than their words in this case.

Hope to see a lot of you on Wednesday night.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We Were In It, But We Didn't Win It

In what turned out to be a pretty anticlimactic lottery ceremony, the Islanders retained their fifth spot in the 2008 Entry Draft. So say goodbye to those dreams of Steven Stamkos. Luckily, this is a pretty deep draft class. And it may or may not help that 4 of the top 7 rated prospects are defensemen. Not having done my homework yet on the needs of the teams that pick second through fourth -LA, Atlanta, and St. Louis - I can only hope that these teams are looking for some help on the blue line. If so, we can hopefully land the best forward whose name isn't Stamkos.

For those that watched the ceremony, how much were you hoping to see St. Louis' logo come out of the #1 envelope, ensuring Stamkos would help build a new powerhouse in the Western Conference rather than in our own backyard? A team with Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Stamkos won't be bad for long.

If anyone is curious about the picks we have in this year's draft, check out this site. You can see the picks we have in each round for this year's draft as well as the 2009 draft, including information on how we acquired each pick.

The 2008 Entry Draft begins on Friday, June 20.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Do The Right Thing

I want to encourage everyone reading this to click HERE to read Chris Botta's blog entry from Sunday, April 6. Here's the story in a nutshell...

Despite being tied for first place in the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge, the Rangers are apparently being awarded the full $50k charitable donation while the Islanders are getting nothing. As Chris notes, if you were to look at the two logical tie-breakers (wins within the Challenge & head-to-head wins), the Islanders would win both. Evidently, the decision was made to award the full donation to the Rangers based on their superior regular season record (an element not taken into account at all in the Metro Ice Challenge standings).

I'm used to the Islanders being treated as second class citizens, but this is ridiculous. Sure, the money is going to charity either way, but in the interest of fairness this just stinks.

I hope that by the time many of you read this, a fair resolution will have been reached and Chris will have the opportunity to report the happy news. If not, please feel free to share any ideas to voice our displeasure in the Comments section below.

Update - looks like the issue has been resolved. Better late than never, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You Have to Be In It to Win It

The Islanders finish off their season this Friday at the World's Most Infamous Arena, and it's very tempting to look for a nice, quiet hockey-free space to settle into starting on Saturday morning. Other than hoping for an early playoff exit from our blue-shirted friends in Manhattan, there's little joy in watching hockey's "second season" ramp up without the Islanders. It usually takes at least one round before I can get past the sting of another unsuccessful season.

But this year's a bit different from the last several. Mark your calendars for this coming Monday, April 7. Both Versus and the NHL Network will be televising the 2008 Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery at 8PM EST. This holds the potential to be a historic day for the franchise. Specifically, we likely have a 8.1% chance of this being a great day for the Islanders.

Here's how it all works. Each of the 14 non-playoff team is entered into the lottery. Your odds of winning the lottery are weighted, based on your point total from the regular season. So the team with the lowest point total (30th place team) has a 25% chance of winning the lottery, the 29th place team has a 18.8% chance...etc. It all goes down to the 17th place team with a 0.5% chance of winning. You can see all of the odds here. The team that wins the lottery will move up 4 spots in the draft.

So what does this mean for the Islanders? At this point, it's very likely that the Islanders will finish in either 26th or 27th place in the league, based on regular season points. For the moment let's assume 26th, since that is where they stand today. In this spot, the Islanders hold the aforementioned 8.1% chance of winning the lottery. If that happens, they would move up from the 5th overall pick to the 1st overall pick. Hello, Steven Stamkos! If they fail to win the lottery, they would either draft fifth or sixth, depending on which team wins it.

So how excited should we allow ourselves to get? Well, the last time a team jumped from the #5 pick to the top spot happened all the way back in 2007 when the Blackhawks literally hit the lottery and snagged Patrick Kane. So why not two years in a row? Oh, and the time before that where a team jumped from fifth to first? 2000, when the little ol' NY Islanders drafted Rick DiPietro.

Unlike in the NFL, where top picks frequently fail at the professional level, holding the #1 pick in the NHL is as close to a sure thing as you can get. In the last 11 years, here are a sampling of the top picks - Crosby, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Thornton, Nash, DiPietro, Kane, Lecavalier. So on Monday night, I'll climb out of my hockey-free cocoon in the hopes that the hockey gods are smiling on Long Island.