Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Tis Better to Give

Back on Nov 1, the Islanders gift-wrapped a win for the Canadiens, a nice early Christmas present. They put a pretty bow on it and placed it under the tree with a note reading "Do not open until 3rd period". For most of last night's rematch in Montreal, it appeared as if our hosts were going to be ungracious and not return the gesture.

Thankfully, there is at least one man in Montreal with good manners. There'll be an extra slice of yule log on the table this year for Ryan O'Byrne, who with just under 5 minutes to play scored an own goal on a delayed Isles penalty. You can watch the glorious replay here!

Now, I do feel bad for the kid. Those 2 seconds of watching the puck slide towards the net must have felt like an eternity. And no doubt the fans in Montreal will be tough on him. But I'll make no apologies for the win. It's nice to finally be on the receiving end of some good karma.

Lost in the mix of the craziness from the game are a few great stories. The continued resurgence of Doug Weight, Josh Bailey playing like he belongs, Mark Streit proving he's more than just a PP quarterback, and the makings of a goaltending controversy. But we'll save those for another day.

Tomorrow the Isles look to overspeed their way to the .500 mark. Less than 2 weeks ago, that seemed unfathomable. It's a testament to the quality of hockey we've been witnessing of late. I'll be the first to admit, I became disgruntled too early in the season. Now, I'm starting to believe.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Shame on You Colin Campbell

Thanks to Arthur Staple, who gets Mr. Campbell to speak up here.

Quoting from the article,

"It was a tough one and we beat ourselves up about it all night," Campbell told Newsday on Monday morning. "We had 8-to-10 guys look at it, and after the hearing [Saturday morning], we took a couple extra hours to talk about it." It just wasn't a flagrant elbow to the head, the way the Pock one was."

This is the biggest load of BS I've heard in a while.

Watch the hit here.

Mottau literally has to jump into the air to lay the head shot onto Nielsen. I'm sorry, but his explanation is weak and a slap in the face to hockey fans everywhere. Reverse the jersey colors on this hit and tell me what you think happens?

Shame on you Colin Campbell. NHL discipline has become a joke. At a time when head shots have become front page news, this decision, or lack thereof, is pitiful.

One can only hope the Isles dish out their own justice the next time the teams meet.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


Only briefly, because it's eloquated better elsewhere, but Mike Mottau of the Devils gets only two games for the hit on Frans Nielsen last night.

I know we Isles fans can sometimes find conspiracy where there's none, but explain to me how Thomas Pock is sitting five games? Because Pock received a major penalty?? You tell me that Mottau's hit only deserved a 2 minute minor? Please...

The NHL appears to have no rhyme or reason to their discipline policy. If they want fans to stop crying conspiracy then they need to start enforcing suspensions with some consistency.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Riding the Wave

Intangibles are very important in sports. Those qualities that you can't quite quantify or define. None is more important than momentum. A close second is confidence. No doubt, the Islanders left the Coliseum on Monday night with an abundance of both. Unfortunately, they were walking right into the biggest momentum killer of all - time off. While it's not as extreme as the 8-day break between games they'll experience from Jan 21 to Jan 29, 4 days off is a long stretch in the NHL. Relate it to your own jobs - when you come back to work on Monday after your 4-day Thanksgiving break (assuming you're lucky enough to have Friday off), won't it take you a little time to get back into "work mode"?

There are a few factors working to their advantage. Their game on Friday will mark the return of Brendan Witt, which will help both on the ice and in the locker room. It will also be the first time since roughly 2004 when we've had a fully healthy D corps. Plus, there won't be a fatigue factor from the short hop to Newark. And facing a Brodeur-less Devils is akin to the Jets facing a Brady-less Patriots. If you can't beat 'em now, then when?

As after any break, the first period will be key. How will the rested-yet-rusty Isles keep up with a Devils team playing its second game in two nights? I'll go out on a limb and predict that whoever leads after one wins the game.

It'll be nice to pick up a win at the Rock and regain some of that confidence and momentum as we head up to Buffalo. Personally, I'm hoping for a little payback for the 7-1 beatdown I witnessed back on Columbus Day. As far as individual game performances go, that was the low-point of our season. What better way to make a statement that this team is for real than to make amends for that performance?

Shake off the cobwebs, boys, it's time to get back to work.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Corner Turned?

Ask any Islander fan which is the one team that has given this organization fits over the past decade, and it wouldn't take long to figure it out. The Ottawa Senators have owned the Isles, posting a 35-12-11-1 record entering this season.

I have never agreed with taking an all-time series record to make a prediction of future results. Each season is different for every team, with new faces in the rotation and old faces gone. There's no denying though the confidence, or lack thereof, one organization can have playing another when the history is so lopsided. Such has been this series. New players, new coaches, same results.

Thus entering the back to back series with a record of 4-9-2, one had to believe that a bad situation was about to get worse. Granted, the Sens had been going through their own struggles this season and weren't the powerhouse they used to be... but again, look at the history. This was the two games to turn the Sens season around and send the Isles further into the cellar.

Right? Well, the Isles put together two back to back 60 minute efforts, something we haven't seen all year, and improved to 6-9-2. Suddenly this throw away season has some new life. Players and coaches are focusing on a return to .500 play. There appears to be a new sense of focus and energy.

That being said, is it possible that with their back to back wins, that the monkey is off the back of the Islanders? That somehow the failure of an organization over another that had crept into the psyche of the team is no more? Can the Isles use the two wins to turn the corner on a disappointing start to the season?

Something certainly feels different anyway.

The Canucks come to town tonight with their impressive start and reckon to be a force for the Isles to deal with. Can the Isles continue the momentum towards .500 with another win?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

15 Years Later, It Still Hurts

I have to give credit where credit is due. The Rangers are one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. At the moment, I'd probably give a slight edge to Montreal. It's still early, and a lot can (and hopefully will) still change. But over the past few seasons, regardless of their record or place in the standings, I never considered them to be a true threat to even advance to the Cup Finals. Too many missing pieces. This year, things appear to be wide open.

For whatever reason I woke up this morning pondering what things would be like if, gasp, the Rangers win the Cup this year. And yes, I am knocking on wood as I write all of this.

It took me back to the summer of 1994. I was returning home after my freshman year of college. Through May and early June, I was dealing with some major damage to my knee which kept me distracted from most things - including, mercifully, the Rangers march towards the Eastern Conference Championship. I was certainly aware of it, it just wasn't as big a priority as it normally would have been. In early June I had knee surgery which essentially had me on modified bed rest for most of the summer. Which meant a lot of time planted in front of the TV. Just in time to watch 54 years of futility come to a gut wrenching end.

June 14, 1994 - a day that will live in infamy. Literally the second the clock hit triple-zeroes, I turned off the TV. I couldn't watch. I was depressed enough being laid up for the whole summer, I needed this like a proverbial hole-in-the-head. Try as I did, it was impossible to avoid coverage of the win. It took all I had not to jump out the window every time I saw the cackling Messiah Messier hoisting the Cup.

As guilty as I feel saying this...thank goodness for OJ. Three days after the Evil Empire proved you can buy the Stanley Cup, a former NFL star led the LAPD on a low-speed chase down I-405. From that moment, all you could find on TV was coverage of all things Simpson. No more media time for the NHL's new darlings. Like any victim in denial, I was able to pretend like it all never happened.

Should the unthinkable happen again this season, I actually think I'd be able to handle it a bit better. Maybe it's the natural maturity that comes with age, but realistically I haven't matured much over the years. I think what it boils down to is, as much as I despise the Rangers, I don't have a lot of hate for the current players on the roster. Sure, I hate Queen Henrik, but I respect his skills. And of course I loathe Colton Orr, but isn't that what he's there for? Beyond those clowns, the Rangers have put together a pretty good team. Sure, a lot of it was bought, but in this new salary cap era their moves are far less detestable than they were in the early 2000s. I think they've put themselves in a tough position for the future with some inflated contracts, but as far as the team today, it's pretty solid. If I'm being honest, I wouldn't mind having some of those pieces on our roster.

But still, it would hurt. A lot.

Between now and June, I'll continue to stick pins in my Drury voodoo doll. But should worse come to worst, I'll just move back to my state from 1994 - denial. I'll draw the curtains, plug my ears, and wait for October to come around and wipe the slate clean.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is it Just Me?

MC, continuing to look for distractions from the Horrorshow on Ice

Monday, November 10, 2008

I360 Exclusive - Islanders Petition League for Rules Change

We at Islanders 360 have received a copy of an official petition submitted by Charles Wang to the NHL's corporate headquarters in NYC. The one-page memo seeks the implementation of proposed rules changes "immediately and unilaterally". Our confidential source confirmed that this is an unprecedented move by a team's owner, yet those in power at the NHL are highly intrigued by his suggestions. The following italicized text contains the full contents of Wang's submission.

To Commissioner Bettman:

On behalf of the New York Islanders organization and General Manager Garth Snow, let me first commend you on the fantastic job you have done over the past 15 years as commissioner of the NHL. Our franchise is grateful for the dedication you've shown to the sport and, importantly, it's success on Long Island.

The purpose of this correspondence is to formally request the implementation of some changes to the official rulebook. We are requesting that these measures be enacted immediately and unilaterally.

In short, we propose that the league discontinue the archaic practice of recording wins and losses. Do you realize that the NHL maintained "standings" throughout the Bush Administration? Look it up, it's true. Aren't we all ready for change? I believe the country has answered that question with a resounding YES!

Consider the savings to the league. You no doubt employ a veritable army of accountants to maintain these win-loss ledgers. And how much more manpower have you required since the advent of the "Overtime Loss"? Imagine being able to cut all those bean counters from the payroll! There's also the benefit of increased employee satisfaction. Have you ever seen a player after a loss? He's bummed out. Now, what if you could promise every player he'd never experience the pain from a loss ever again! Imagine the satisfaction!! Besides, what ever happened to playing for the love of the game?

An obvious question is raised - how will we determine who earns the Stanley Cup? We have a solution for that important issue. Ever hear of a little show called American Idol? The American people love to vote on meaningless contests. They eat it up. After each game, you will open a toll-free line (reminding the people these are 888 numbers, not 800 numbers) and allow the country to vote for the team that demonstrated the most grit and character. At the end of the season, the team with the most votes hoists the Cup. No longer will teams that employ skill players be unfairly rewarded.

Should you deem this proposal too controversial, we have an alternative recommendation. End all games after 40 minutes. Earlier finishes will make the game more attractive to the youth of America whose bed-time prevents them from enjoying a full three periods. Growing the young fan-base will ensure the health of the sport for generations to come. It's called good sense.

If that doesn't sell you, here's plan C. The game ends once one team scores 3 goals. Because, um, 3's a magic number.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to the implementation of these suggestions post haste.


The Wanger

We at I360 applaud these visionary ideas. The ball's in your court, Commissioner. Do the right thing.

MC, clearly frustrated (and joking, in case it's not blatantly obvious)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Southern Fried

Fom now on, I'm only going to be comfortable if the Islanders enter the third period either tied or losing, because playing with the lead is something this team cannot seem to handle, losing 4-3 to the Thrashers after holding a 3-1 lead early in the 3rd. Two quick early 3rd period goals by Atlanta put a damper on what was turning out to be a nice effort by the Isles.

Quoting from Logan's article, if Gordon thinks "it's more of a failure to do our system than anything else", one has to ask the question, is this just a team struggling with a new system, evidence of a failure of the coaching staff, or the players just taking leads for granted?

As I mentioned in a previous post, this team has mastered the art of the 40 minute game. If they show speed, puck movement and a scoring touch during 2 periods, then they clearly understand the system. What is it that causes this basic breakdown for the remaining 20 minutes? Does Gordon need to take a page out of the Ted Nolan motivational guide? I guess this is why there is a sports psychology profession.

As a fan, you're left shaking your head because one minute you think the team is ready to make the turn, to take the next step and throw together a few wins in a row. Then comes that cold hard slap.

So the Pens come to town tomorrow night. Let's hope the Isles figure this out. I know the playoffs area long shot, but giving up these critical points early in the year make the playoffs an even longer shot.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Deja Vu... Almost

Answer honestly. When the Isles started the third period tonight up 3 goals, you thought right back to Saturday night. But wait, this is Columbus. We couldn't possibly squander this lead, right?

You could almost feel that the slighest bit of adversity would throw the Isles into a free fall. Such is the fragile psyche of this group right now. The Jackets first goal seem to instantly deflate the Isles confidence and you could hear the groans of even the most grisled fan.

Against the Canadiens, a clearly superior and more experienced team, you could make an excuse. However, the Jackets are a team the Isles should be capable of beating, which makes their 3rd period performance all the more frustrating. You have to think the Isles are fighting the mental game right now. They've mastered the 40 minute game but can't quite put together a full 60 minute effort. Yes, some of this is attributed to the skill level and experience of this group, but again, I suspect the most of the Isles issues reside above the shoulder pads.

Now, who knew that it would take 2 goals by Chris Campoli in overtime to seal the win?

One can only hope the OT redemption gives the Isles a boost in confidence going into the game tomorrow against the Rangers. I get the feeling that this team is capable of getting on a roll if they believe in themselves. A win against our rivals would go a long way.

Other Notes: Since when did "Chili" become 3 goals? Hopefully I'm only slightly dating myself by saying that I remember when 6 goals was "Chili". I understand reduced expectations but come on! 4 goals at least, please.

When the Isles announced a new (old) third jersey, I though, oh boy, here we go again. I must admit that I really like the new jersey. Am I ready for it to be our #1 jersey... hmm, maybe not quite yet but it's a classic look.

Speaking of jerseys.. when will the white return as the home standard?

Final thought... is Tambellini the new Hilbert?