Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Since when did the Islanders defense corps become akin to the drummer from Spinal Tap? Short of a gardening accident, choking on vomit or an on-ice explosion of some sort, the Isles blue-liners have been prone to injury after injury. Extending on the theory that you can never have enough d-men, the Isles waiver claim to Thomas Pock yesterday clearly sends the message that either Campoli or Sutton, perhaps both, will be out for an extended period of time. According to Logan, at least the season opener.

Here we go again...

Anybody holding their breath on the over/under to when Martinek goes down this year?

It's times like this I wish the Isles had taken a nice good long look at returning Schneider to LI.

There's still no official word on the injuries to either Campoli or Sutton, nor their severity, and short of sending a team of commandos into Snow's office, we may never find out until they are back in the line up.

Add all of this to the fact that we haven't seen DP in a game situation yet and that eternal optimism of September slowly churns into the "please pass the Pepto" moments of October.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sim, Scoring and Size

The puck has officially dropped.

The Islanders first exhibition game is in the books with the Islanders coming out on top in overtime on a goal by Trevor Smith 2-1.

It's only the first pre-season game, but in my opinion, it already underscores three key factors to the upcoming season. First, Jon Sim is back and wreaking havoc on opponents. I think losing him for the season so early last year really cost the Islanders much more than anybody really appreciates. I'm not saying he'll score 30 or have 60 points, but his physical style of play and presence in front of the net should pay big dividends for the team. For a team that seemed to be allergic to the top of the crease last year, his return is more than welcomed. He was rewarded with his first goal last night on the power play.

The other issue is that we outshot the Bruins 38-19. Great, right? Statistically we dominated but here we go again. Scoring. Where is it? I know, I know, it's pre-season with a patchwork lineup but this is exactly the type of problem that needs to be corrected. High volume of shots, few goals. It's early, and coach Gordon and the team have another 2 weeks to work on this. Let's hope they learn to find the back of the net.

Last, we've heard it before and seen it written about. Our lack of an enforcer and overall team size. According to Logan, the Isles puck control dominated the first two periods. Then the Buins got physical and really slowed the Isles down. Will this be another achilles heel for us this year? If teams learn that pounding our guys hard really slows our attack down... and if we have no one to pound back... well, we'll see.

In any case, great to see the team back in action. Let's go Rays.. er, I mean Isles!!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ray(s) of Hope

I don't want to be accused of being one of those bloggers who uses his Internet real estate to merely complain and dampen the mood of his readers. That said, and understanding that my last entry had a bit of a depressing tilt to it, I want to balance things out. This posting is all about providing hope! For those who will appreciate the reference, consider me the Andy Dufresne to your "Red" Redding. I'm all about providing a glimmer of light in the otherwise dark tunnel of Islanders fandom.

In order to restore that "Barton Fink Feeling" in all of you (I'm in a movie-referencing mood today), we're going to look at our brothers-in-arms in Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays. You'll see that there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between the Islanders and the Rays, and that their historic 2008 season should inspire us all to dream big for the 2008-2009 season.

Over the past 10 years...
-The Rays finished in last place in the AL East nine times. In the one instance they escaped the cellar they were still 21 games under .500. They have gone through 4 managers. They play in a bad ballpark and have trouble generating attendance. They were universally considered the least successful franchise in baseball.
- The Islanders finished 4th or 5th in the division seven times, and have not won a playoff series. They have gone through 9 head coaches. They play in an old arena and have trouble generating attendance. They have been largely considered one of the most poorly run franchises in hockey.

Within their division...
- The Rays compete with high-powered, large market teams in the Yankees and Red Sox. These markets have more money to spend and have a much easier time attracting free agents. These teams are built to be successful year-in and year-out, and it was considered virtually impossible for a smaller market team to compete against them.
- The Islanders compete with high-powered, successful teams in the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils. These markets have historically spent more money and have a much easier time attracting free agents. The Islanders are generally an afterthought within the division.

From 2007 to 2008...
- The Rays only added two significant pieces to their roster. One, a young stud (Evan Longoria) predicted by scouts to be very successful at the professional level. The other, an aging closer (Troy Percival) that most felt was well past his prime.
- The Islanders added only a couple significant pieces to their roster. One, a young stud (Kyle Okposo, set to play his first full season) predicted by scouts to be very successful at the professional level. The other, an aging center (Doug Weight) that most feel is past his prime.

In 2008...
- The Rays completed one of the most improbable runs from worst-to-first, and currently lead their division and own the second-best record in the AL.
- The Islanders...to be continued.

The Isles have some pieces in place to enable us to believe. We have a blue-chip goalie who, when healthy, is one of the best in the league. We have an above-average defensive unit that can certainly stand toe-to-toe with most in the NHL. We have a number of young prospects that can hopefully prove their mettle this year. The bottom line is, it will take an awful lot of things to fall just right for the Islanders to have a Rays-type year, but stranger things have happened.

September is the time to dream big. It'll be October soon enough, and that's when reality - good or bad - sets in. Let's go Islanders.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Season on the Brink

Standing in my backyard this morning, waiting for my pug to finish her morning constitutional, there was a noticeable chill in the air for the first time since the early Spring. It was a tangible reminder of the changing of seasons...not of summer to fall, but of "offseason" to "hockey season". Regardless of universally low expectations for this year's Islanders, I'm still excited for that first puck to drop. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment and love the game even when my hometown team struggles.

The big news in 360 land this summer was the birth of my first child, a boy, in July. It's a cliche, but having a child really does make you look at life with new eyes. All my life I'd always hoped to have a son to share my love of hockey with. I imagined bringing him to games, buying him a snack at each intermission just like my dad did for me. I'd tell him stories of the "old days" watching Bossy, Trottier, Lafontaine, Turgeon, and DiPietro...wait, DP will still be on the team as my boy is a teenager, nevermind.

Now that all these dreams are close to becoming reality, I'm unfortunately forced to temper them at the risk that they never come to be. I'm referring to the tenuous future of hockey on Long Island. While there have been no definitive statements from Charles Wang confirming matters, it's become the consensus view that hockey will leave Long Island if the Lighthouse project is not approved. I follow the developments of the project just as many of you undoubtedly do, but I can't cut through all the red-tape to figure out - in plain English - where things really stand. Oh, you just presented the project to Lynbrook residents! What does that mean to me? I want to know exactly what the real hurdles are, when decisions are being made, and how these impact the future of my team.

As I think about my son, I have no choice but to envision two possible hockey-related futures...one where hockey and the Islanders are an important part of his childhood, and one where, realistically, he'll have no interest in the sport or worse yet find himself drawn to the Evil Empire at MSG. If the worst happens and the team does leave, I wonder what my reaction would be? Frankly, I've thought it over and I truly believe I would abandon the game completely. I just don't see how I could continue to enjoy hockey under those circumstances. For all the time and energy I've devoted to the team over the years, it seems almost unfathomable to say that, but I think I'd quit cold-turkey and become one of the Sportscenter crowd who couldn't even tell you who won the Cup last year. Being in this position really generates empathy for the dedicated fans in Winnipeg, Quebec, Hartford and all the other cities that have lost franchises over the years. In each of those places, I'm sure there were thousands of fans as passionate for their team as I am for mine.

We may all be looking at this season with modest expectations. But to me, this year is arguably the most crucial in the history of the franchise. It just so happens that the important events will be happening off the ice. For all of our sakes, I hope I have the opportunity to buy my son overpriced popcorn and soda for the foreseeable future, as we cheer and curse OUR hockey team.

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On an administrative note, I'd like to welcome my brother, Brian Carey, as a regular contributor to Islanders 360. He's written several posts over the last year, and he'll be doing a lot more going forward as co-owner of the blog. This will allow for more (and more diverse) posts this season. Of course, as the founder of this blog I reserve the right to fire him at a moment's notice. Consider him the Ted Nolan to my Garth Snow. Hope you all enjoy the blog this year.