Thursday, March 31, 2011

New York Islanders: State of the Franchise

The Islanders are winding down another NHL season without the playoffs.

Now that we got that fact out of the way lets talk about what is important moving forward.

For the first time in an awfully long time the core of the Islanders on ice product is stable, young and talented.

With the signing of Al Montoya the Islanders team for the 2011-12 season is pretty much set. All would be unrestricted free agents with the exception of Radek Martinek and Zenon Konopka have been resigned to the team.

That does not mean that pending restricted free agents Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey won't pose a problem to resign but all indications point to all players with the exception of Martinek back on the Island next season.

Ty Wishart and Jack Hillen are also restricted free agents but they should not pose a problem to resign.

Doug Weight will also probably not be back as he is leaning towards retirement after suffering through another injury riddled season.

The Islanders rewarded, and rightfully so Al Montoya with his first 1 way contract of his career ensuring he will be on the Island at least through the 2012 season.

The main concern to the Islanders next season will be health. Leading the NHL in man games lost to injury again this season with a mind boggling 550+ will add feul to that concern.

What can the team do to stay healthy?

Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can consciously do to stop from getting hurt. It is simply part of the game. Players will get hurt. That is an undeniable fact but the goal should be to lose as little man games as possible.

The string of injuries that the team endured this season most assuredly torpedoed this entire season and no matter how much the team has improved injuries can always kill your chances of a successful season.

That being said there is something brewing on Long Island that has a chance to be truly special.

Garth Snow should be commended for his amazing acquisitions of Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and Al Montoya. What did Snow see in these guys that no one else did?

Whatever the answer may be no one is making fun of Garth Snow's management skills any more.

If the Islanders can take that next step, and the stars seem to be aligning for the team making a major splash in 2011-2012 then Snow should be given just as much credit for it that he received negative press for his hiring by Charles Wang in the first place.

Everyone made fun of the move. News reporters, TSN, ESPN, print media, The Hockey News, you name it no one gave Snow a chance and laughed at it.

No one is laughing any more. The Islanders are coming back and Snow is a major reason why.

Another large piece of open business is the coaching position. Snow has stated that he will not discuss it until the season is over.

Has Jack Capuano earned the full time coaching gig?

All signed would point to yes. If the team is going to commit to him they will need to get him signed right away to show the players that the guy that seemingly helped turn the season from an outright disaster to a return to respectability will be rewarded for his work, just like Montoya, Parenteau and Jurcina were.

Get Cappy and under contract. He has proven his worth and deserves to have the interim tag dropped.

One final note - Get Zenon Konopka a contract. He is the kind of guy that instills confidence and has given the Islanders the kind of attitude they have needed for so long.

Zenon has become the voice of the Islander players and instills pride in wearing the Islander jersey in the younger players around him.

Please post your thoughts below

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Finally.. The Islanders Have Come Back to the NHL

Browsing the Islanders stat sheet this season will not induce any dumbfounded looks of disbelief on how a season can go by and no player on the entire team has reached a certain seemingly easy to reach milestone.

The past 3 seasons the Islanders player stats were if not embarrassing, they were shameful.

Scanning back over the stat sheets from the past 3 years and you will see 3 players in the last 3 years with 50 points or more, and none with over 54.

The players? Mark Streit (56 in 2008-09), John Tavares (54 in 2009-10) and Kyle Okposo (52 in 2009-10)

In 2008-09 the Islanders, granted injury plagued as always had no forward with 40 points with only defenseman Mark Streit at 56 points leading the team.

Say what you want about making excuses for that, but it was embarrassing.

What about goal totals?

In those last 3 seasons we are speaking about, the Islanders only had 4 players top the 20 goal mark. Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin back in 2007-08, Matt Moulson and John Tavares last season.

In 2008-09 the Islanders had to set some kind of record for offensive futility, with no forward with 40 points and no player with 20 goals.

The last time the Islanders had a stat sheet that was not embarrassing to look at was in 2006-07 when they had six players with 20+ goals two with 30+ (Ryan Smyth) and one with 40 (Jason Blake.)

Also, Alexei Yashin scored 18 in 58 games.

After that season Ryan Smyth left the Islanders and took less money to sign with the Avalanche because he thought they had a better chance to win (that did not work out to well for him) and Jason Blake demanded a 5 year contract which he managed to get from the Maple Leafs.

The Islanders tried to re-tool that off season but it just didn't work and a new direction was needed to build a winner from within, not necessarily by choice but by necessity.

The Islanders 3 year period of horrid offensive numbers appear to be over.

Four 20 goal scorers, with PA Parenteau two away from 20. The Islanders have managed to put a team on the ice that is capable of beating anyone in the NHL and look good doing it.

6 players with 40+ points and John Tavares at 60.

Sure they had that awful win less streak that torpedoed any real chance of the playoffs.

That being said the Islanders have come back to the NHL despite over 500+ man games lost to injury the future is bright.

Garth Snow deserves so much credit for what he has put together.

Matt Moulson has netted back to back 30 goal seasons.

Michael Grabner has become an offensive force with his lightning speed and his 30 goals and has a real shot at the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

PA Parenteau has always had skills but if you would have told me he would put up the season he has, 18 goals and 30 assists so far I would have laughed at you.

John Tavares evolution continues as his offensive skills continue to show through as he improves every game. JT has a shot at his first 30 goal season with 26 goals so far.

Frans Nielsen has turned into a 2 way center that compliments the offensive first line of Tavares-Moulson-Parenteau playing with Micheal Grabner and Kyle Okposo.

This is the first time the Islanders have had two consistent lines playing together full time in at least 3 years.

No more shuffling lines to find what works because the chemistry is there.

Next season the Islanders top six and top two lines will return in tact for a full season of playing together.

In addition a healthy Mark Streit will be back to quarterback the power play.

Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic have become defense partners that play against the top players of the opposition and are playing extremely well as a unit.

Chemistry. This team has it. Finally.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New York Islanders Resurgence Continues to Shape for the Future

Despite what Islander fans would call a speed bump in the 6-3 loss to the Rangers on March 15, the optimism surrounding the team is reaching a point where the fans are beginning to take notice.

The Islanders have been offering, as they absolutely should excellent ticket deals and 20 dollar games for fans to come and see the young Islanders play, knowing for once that people will walk away with a positive picture of what the team is doing.

Call it luck or whatever you want but Garth Snow and his staff deserve all the credit in the world for what is taking shape.

Snow pulled Matt Moulson out of obscurity and he has become a goal scorer netting two straight 30 goal seasons.

Michael Grabner was less of a stretch because he was a high draft pick and a good prospect but he has become the kind of player in such a short time that people eventually will pay to see.

Every time he is on the ice, he seems to do something incredible.

Franz Nielsen has turned into a two way center that by all rights should be contending for the Selke Trophy if not this season then in the near future.

Kyle Okposo is doing exactly what he should, using the rest of this season to get comfortable with his shoulder and with his line mates in what has become a very cohesive unit with Neilsen and Grabner.

Then there is PA Parenteau. A career minor leaguer albeit with skill has meshed very well with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. 17 goals, 30 assists and a nice 1 year contract extension are in his pocket.

Speaking of Tavares, he has become the offensive leader this team needs to build around and his development is moving along very nicely. He is almost scoring points at a point a game and has 26 goals and 34 assists. He is demonstrating that nose for the net that you cannot teach.

The Islanders young defense also looks promising. Travis Hamonic has made incredible strides this season as has Andre MacDonald who are playing against the NHL's best lines and making excellent statements about themselves moving forward.

Ty Wishart has played well and needs polish to his game but he has not embarrassed himself in his time in the NHL.

Zenon Konopka is not an offensive force. He is a force in other ways. Excellent on face offs, a good defensive forward, a good fighter and an excellent presence in the locker room. Snow needs to lock him up to a contract.

The only player you can say that has taken a step back this year is Josh Bailey even though he has shown flashes of brilliance he needs to get more consistent.

In goal the position looked like a black hole at time this season because of injuries.

Moving forward it looks as if the Islanders will be solid in net as 20 year old Kevin Poulin asserted himself very well.

Al Montoya played brilliantly since his acquisition and has played well enough to earn a spot on the team next season and will split time with Rick DiPietro, who is going to have to show this year that he is over his injury issues.

All in all, it should be an exciting end to the season as Garth Snow's vision has begun to show results on the ice.

6 months from now when camp opens for the Islanders it will be an exciting time to be an Islander fan for the first time in a long time the Islanders will have some real expectations to live up to.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bad Guys - Listing the top 10 Most Hated Players in the NHL