Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 NHL Free Agency: New York Islanders

The Draft is history, and the Islanders did what they should have done.

John Tavares' name was spoken by Garth Snow sending the 11,000 plus fans in attendance at the draft party into a frenzy.

We as fans knew it was the right move.

The Islander brass, for once agreed.

The 2009 draft also saw the Islanders trade up twice to draft Oshawa Generals defenseman Calvin de Haan at number 12. Snow passed on more highly touted defenseman John Moore, who fell to 21 (CLB) and Dmitry Kulikov who was plucked at 14 by the Panthers.

The one that may have gotten away however is 6'3" power forward Zack Kassian, who was selected 14th to Buffalo.

I was surprised as you can be with the Islanders when Snow selected De Haan, who projects as a 2-4 year project before he gets to the NHL.

Then I was more surprised when his next 2 picks were goaltenders. Mikko Koskinen of Finland projects as a possible franchise goaltender, but again he is a project, and why draft a goaltender or two when you have one under contract for the next 12 years?

Turning to the NHL Free Agency period and looking ahead to this season, there is a real opportunity for the Islanders to improve themselves dramatically this off season if they are so inclined.

Should I go into the myriad of reasons the Islanders should try and sign Jay Bouwmeester if he is available tonight? Calgary would be foolish to let him get the free agency, but stranger things have happened. He is 25 years old and just coming into his own. He could be an elite NHL defenseman for the next 10 seasons, which is exactly the contract length I would offer up.

One pipe dream scenario would have the Islanders try and sign Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They are still young at 28, and have really come into their own the last 3 seasons. They are asking Henrik Zetterberg type money and years, which is patently insane, but maybe 8 years at 42 million apiece gets it done.

Will the Islanders even consider any of the above?

Absolutely not, even though they should with Bouwmeester. Lets have a look at some free agents that may be of interest.

Donald Brashear - He is 37 years old now, but can still go and commands respect. You sign him to a one year deal and tell him - "If anyone touches John Tavares, you know what to do."

Mitch Fritz - We need toughness. He cant skate but he sure as hell can fight.

Trevor Gillies - Just because hes the son of the Islander legend should be enough.

Micheal Komisarek - His troubles last year aside the local guy us a good defensive defenseman, and still young at 27.

Andrew Raycroft - The Islanders need a backup goaltender that can handle starting minutes for when... oops, If DiPietro gets injured again. Raycroft has had success in the NHL and is still relatively young at 29.

Todd Bertuzzi - He has a few things the Islanders need. Size, scoring touch and an attitude.

Chris Niel - He has everything the Islanders need other than goal scoring ability. He will defend teammates and can skate. Think of Richard Park with a tough edge. The fans adore him in Ottawa so I can't see him leaving there but Snow should be calling his agent.

It remains to be seen if the Islanders will play at all in the free agent market. I think they should push heavy for Bouwmeester but the Flames will likely re-sign him and if they do not, he will be courted by at least a dozen teams ready to win now. The Islanders are still a couple if years away, but if Bouwmeester has any foresight he could be a cornerstone of something special on the Island. 10 years and 68 million wouldn't hurt the Islanders case though.

Let me know your thoughts on who the Islanders should or will target in the free agent market.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The 2009 NHL Draft:Voice of the Islander Fans

The 2009 NHL Draft is tonight. At 7:10PM Eastern standard time Garth Snow will finally walk to the podium and thank the City of Montreal for its hospitality. He will acknowledge the Islander fans "at our draft party" who will be 20 thousand strong at Nassau Coliseum. Snow will then thank Gary Bettman and say what an honor it is to have the first overall selection in the draft and thank all of the top prospects.

The next words out of his mouth had better be -

"The New York Islanders are proud to select with the first overall selection.. From the London Knights of the OHL, John Tavares."

Or Else.

Unless you are an Islander fan you simply do not understand.

Way back on draft lottery day, every Islander fan expected some other team's logo to come out of the envelope that contained the owner of the first pick.

As fans, we all let out a collective YEAHH!! As the shock and happiness came over us like a late 3rd period tying goal.

We all thought in our heads were getting the next great player! A can't miss superstar sniper than the Canadian press and all hockey publications have been clamoring over since he was FOURTEEN.

Then reality came over us like a wave enveloping The Wizard on "Deadliest Catch."

What if they screw this up?

Non Islander fans reading this may wonder what it is that I am talking about. Non Islander fans have not been through what we have. As bad as it has ever been for the team you pull for, It is never as bad as being an Islander fan for the past 15 years.

Non Islander fans make the grave mistake that there are no Islander fans, the base isn't there because no one comes to the games.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Islanders are expecting over 20,000 fans to come to the draft party at the coliseum ON A FRIDAY NIGHT!

Any time there has been a playoff series in the last 15 years, the Nassau Coliseum has rocked like the old days even if the odds were hopeless against heavily favored top seeds like Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Ottawa.

Anyone who witnessed the last sliver of success the Islanders had in the playoffs, the 2003 7 game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The place was electric - jammed full of Islander fans some think do not exist willing the team to victory in game number 6.

Now back to the "Or Else" I wrote above.

The Canadian media has more than done its part. They have managed to convince some people that John Tavares isn't all they said he was for the last 5 years.

They have even gone so far as to compare Tavares to Alexander Daigle.

Canada is sick of its superstars playing on what is conceived to be "their teams." Canada has seen most of its favorite sons of the last 30 years playing for Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Long Island, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and anywhere else but Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.

Edmonton is the exception, but they had to break up their dynasty for financial reasons or they may have just ended their run of winning The Stanley Cup.

The Islander fans who have been watching Tavares' career the last little while know the truth. This kid is the real deal. While his stock is not that of Sydney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Ecgeni Malkin, would the stock of Vinny Lecavialer be that bad? How about the next Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsuik?

As good as a prospect as Victor Hedman is, as he has been compared to Zdeno Chara in the media in reality he probably has more in common with Kenny Jonsson than Zdeno Chara.

Matt Duchene is a great prospect. The media has compared him to Bryan Trottier and get this.. Steve Yzerman.

All of the negative media that has headed John Tavares' way over the last 12 months is simply laughable and most can see right through it.

We want a guy we can go buy his jersey and not get laughed at.

We want a guy that people will pay to see play hockey.

We want a guy that every arena he plays in, people will watch him and be interested in him.

We want a guy that people will line up for his autograph, no matter where he is.

We want a guy that when you pull his hockey card out of a pack, you don't throw it in the common box.

The scout ranking, NHL GM's, TSN, The Hockey News, Don Cherry and just about everyone agrees that John Tavares should go number one.

If Garth Snow doesn't agree, the Coliseum may burn.

I have heard more fans tell me in comments, conversations, e mail, message boards, responses on this blog and others that if the Islanders do not select Tavares then they are finished with the Islanders.

This is not the "oh if they lose to the Rangers I am done" this is the real deal. I have heard them say they wont watch hockey again, throw their jerseys in the trash and wash their hands of this team once and for all.

This time I believe some of them.

Garth Snow can send 20 thousand of his fans home deliriously happy by simpky doing what he should, or he can burn them again trying to reinvent the wheel once more.

Time will tell and at 7:10 PM tonight, The 2009 Islanders Draft Party will either be just that.. a party or a nightmare.


Monday, June 22, 2009

The 2009 NHL Draft - Predictions.

I have had many fans ask me what the Islanders are going to do, thinking that us blog boxers may have an iota more inside information than the general public.

If we do have more information that the general public, it is just that - an iota.

That iota tells me that the Islanders will walk to the podium on Friday night and do the only thing they should and draft John Tavares with the first overall pick.

We have gone through all the reasons why it should be JT so lets direct our focus elsewhere.

The Islanders have another pick in the first round and its a bit better than where it should be because of the meltdown of the San Jose Sharks in the first round of this years playoffs.

Pick No 26 in the first round will in all likely hood be traded up with one of the Islanders 2 second round picks to try and gain a better position to draft a defenseman that Snow and Company has their eye on.

It would be an absolute dream scenario if Snow managed to net himself Chicago Steel Defenseman John Moore. His stock has rocketed him into the top 10 in some mock drafts, so that seems unlikely unless Snow wants to part with something more enticing to anyone drafting in the 10-15 position.

We can count out Winsor Defenseman Ryan Ellis, as he is not getting past the Edmonton Oilers.

One possibility may be Drummondville defenseman Dmitri Kulikov. He may be a bit of a project but he has already spent one year getting used to the North American game. He may again rise to far for the Islanders to reach.

Past the top 5-7 players, the draft rankings are all over the place so where players like this get drafted is anyones guess.

If I were asked who I would like to see the Islanders come away with on draft day?

I think its obvious that myself and probably 95% of Islanders fans want John Tavares to be pulling the Orange and Blue over his head this Friday.

16,000 tickets have been claimed for the draft party this year. 16,000. Even if half of the people who have tickets show up, thats 8,000 fans there. A large percentage of those people will leave Nassau Coliseum Friday Night swearing off this team if Snow doesn't pick Tavares.

On to the less obvious choices, I would love to see the Islanders come away with one of 5 players with their "other" first round pick. They are - John Moore, Dmitri Kulikov, Zack Kassian, Simon Despres or Carter Ashton.

Its going to be a fun night, but if Tavares is an Islander, it will be a VERY fun night.