Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eastern Conference Preseason Preview Plus

Eastern Conference Preseason Preview +

As our New York Islanders enter the 10-11 season, there’s no doubt they are currently one of those teams in the NHL that the media of the hockey world simply continues to have little interest in. Surely the presence of a one Mr. Tavares puts us in a certain spotlight that we haven’t had in recent memory, but what will happen if he doesn't start off this season something like Steven Stamkos did for the Tampa Bay Lightning last year? Expecting him to do so may be little more than wishful thinking on our behalves, even though the possibility is still there. Speaking of expectations, our team is promptly experiencing preseason placement in the lower 10th of the overall standings with nary a publication expecting more than a spot amongst the league’s worst eight teams.

Now, publications are at least giving this franchise credit for taking a conservative and promising path to better competitiveness. In addition, whereas the team made more humble splashes in the course of this summer and may have failed to improve certain on-ice weaknesses (scoring winger/center???), there is no doubt that the acquisitions of Eaton, Wisniewski, Jurcina and Mottau as well as the return of Martinek has this blueline looking deeper than it has in quite some time. A faceoff guy and some fists in Konopka added to real pugilists in Gillies (should be here) and Yablonski (only in very, very, very special cases) gives us a legitimate toughness faction, especially considering Martin should spend some time on the Island this season too. There's reason to hope for Islander fans, but the loss of Okposo and Streit for a good 15-60 games (respectively) gives every pundit the right to see this team as a bottom-feeder this year.


Other teams in the conference are entering (and have in some cases already entered) the season with their fair share of question marks as well. All have done things to improve in some areas, but every team seems to have a glaring weakness or two. With this in mind, here’s a short look at where I BOLDLY predict the teams in the Eastern Conference, and NHL overall, to finish this season!

1) Washington – Last Spring's failure should only make them stronger! Ovechkin has so much to prove after not coming through at the Olympics, in the POs and even in getting a bittersweet silver at the WC. Lots of skill, considerable depth and again, many youngins with much to prove. Still the best overall team in the East.
Topscorer: Alex Ovechkin with 51-55-106
Keep an eye on: Nicklas Backstrom, definitely the league’s most underrated, if not best, playmaker.
Best newcomer: Me thinks John Carlson will make an impact at some point this season.

2) Pittsburgh – Crosby, Malkin, Fluery, Staal… well, at some point when Staal returns. Four key figures few teams can match. The defense is still solid, if not better and Fleury will want to rebound. Crosby does it all and the team really only needs a few wingers to step it up in roles next to Crosby and Malkin or both, at the same time. Hasn't really been done in 3 seasons though. Like him or not, there's hardly a sole out there who can match Crosby as an overall player.
Topscorer: Sidney Crosby with 48-58-106
Keep an eye on: Alex Goligoski, who will surely be given a good period of time to step into Gonchar's (offensive) footsteps.
Best newcomer: If healthy, Paul Martin WILL have his best statistical season to date.

3) Buffalo – This pick is done for two reasons only: Miller and a lack of overall challenge within the division. I actually see several other Conference contenders being ahead of them in the win-loss column. This team lost some good players and again, is asking some kids - a few not too big - to make an impact here. Luckily, Miller is one of maybe 5 goalies who can win you a bundle of 2-1 contests. Expect it. Also expect Tyler Myers to experience a drop of sorts this season and again, if Connolly get concussed, they could be outside the PO picture.
Topscorer: Derek Roy with 23-42-65
Keep an eye on: Tyler Ennis, who is being looked to as the next internal scorer to follow in the career footsteps of Roy, Vanek and Pominville. He may just be that good!
Best newcomer: Jordan Leopold has joined a blueline desperate for a lefty-shooting QB presence. It's now time for him to get back to 35+ point land.

4) New Jersey – I refuse to doubt the Devils, because they prove me wrong every doggone year. But there's excitement now with Kovy and Volchenkov. In addition, Parise is the real deal. No matter who they lose in the next few days, the team will find a way to be amongst the conferences top three overall teams. Lou is just somehow down with geetin' that done. There may be some initial struggles with a new coach, but at the end of the day, there are just too many cogs to be anything but a top 5 in this conference.
Topscorer: Ilya Kovalchuk with 42-47-89
Keep an eye on: Travis Zajac, a fine young player who isn't by any means your classic No. 1 center, but is primed for big points between Kovy and Parise.
Best newcomer: Anton Volchenkov, who brings the toughness and shotblocking that will answer Brodeurs prayers.

5) Philadelphia – SC appearance followed up by a line-up with no proven goaltender and without Chris Pronger. Gagne is gone as well, although Zherdev should replace his offense. I don't care what the set-backs are, I believe in Lavy and he's got enough tools here to have this team not only get to the offseason, but be everyone's worst nightmare once there..
Topscorer: Mike Richards with 27-48-75
Keep an eye on: Ville Leino, because you can't just be THAT awesome and dominant a playoff player and then disappear, right?
Best newcomer: Much to our chagrin, expect Nikolai Zherdev to put up 60 points and add a clever offensive dimension to this club.

6) Tampa Bay – Although they let me down the past two seasons (from a projection standpoint), I think Yzerman is on to something. In addition, the offensive ability available here along with the growth a few Dmen made last season have me thinking that this team will be in the POs this season. In addition, between Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Malone, and Gagne, I just don't see more than maybe 5 clubs in the league scoring more goals than the Lightning. Can the goaltending keep them in it?
Topscorer: Martin St. Louis with 35-67-102
Keep an eye on: Steven Stamkos, whose eyes will be fixed on his 2nd 50 goal season and maybe a push towards 60.
Top newcomer: Believe it or not, Sean Bergenheim, who I suspect will find his niche on a team that could really use his aggressiveness and hustle.

7) Carolina – The team that was pretty doggone hot to finish off last season is the team we'll see this year. They'll once again be a little engine that could and this group of boys will leave some more highly touted clubs in their dust. Staal and Ward remain studs. The workers and depth players can get the job done.
Topscorer: Eric Staal with 36-37-73
Keep an eye on: Brandon Sutter, who may end up being one of the teams top 5 scorers and emerge as an underrated No. 2 center.
Best newcomer: Jamie McBain, who should put his name in the ROTY award hat.

8) NY Islanders – I know, I know, just not the chic pick. How could they even make it if everyone were healthy, much less now without Streit and Okposo? The Isles will earn this spot based on a commitment to their system, continuity and even more solid goaltending. They’ll still not be the prettiest team to watch, but the level of competitiveness and the improvements the kids make will be visible, will have them fighting long and hard for spot 8, and will show the NHL that this team is finally ready to bear the fruits of its work. They'll hover around .500 until Okposo and then Streit give them that shot in the arm to knock off the other spot 8-11 competitors in the conference, even if it'll pretty darn close.
Topscorer: John Tavares with 33-38-71
Keep an eye on: James Wisniewski, who is heading right into the situation of expectations and responsibility he claims he's always dreamt of.
Best newcomer: Michael Grabner, another kid who just wants to score goals and is now on a team that needs just that.

9) Boston – My crystal ball tells me that they'll play some good hockey, but that the lack of Savard as well as one or two other key injuries will see them just outside the playoff picture late in the season. I know, tough to imagine, but this team still has much to prove. Still like a lot of the younger guys and this team could easily switch places with Carolina, should things go well.
Topscorer: Tyler Seguin with 20-53-73
Keep an eye on: Dennis Seidenberg, who looks primed to take on a boatload of responsibility this season.
Best newcomer: Nathan Horton, who'll return to 30 goal land with a new lease on life.

10) Atlanta – Is getting there, although losing Kovalchuk is and must be seen as a step backwards. There will be no one man replacement, but this team needs to be, well, more of a team. Now they're damned to be just that and honestly, they seem deeper than they have in years. Goaltending questions linger and Byfuglien on the blueline may not be the best decision. They’ll make things interesting, but we'll have to see if the goals-by-committee can get done in hot Georgia.
Topscorer: Bryan Little with 32-29-61
Keep an eye on: Zach Bogosian, who is immensely talented, a thoroughbred Dman and now has even more PP responsibility with Kubina in TB.
Best newcomer: Dustin Byfuglien, who is one of many, but who just seems to be a monster in both size and PO importance.

11) Ottawa – Until proven otherwise, the goaltending and blueline will ultimately be this team's death knell on too many nights. In addition, the Senators must pray that quickly processed knees on Kovalev and Michalek don't suffer any set-backs, which ultimately happen more often than not. If you've got Campoli eatin' up considerable minutes, then playoffs shouldn't be seen as a serious goal. Alfredsson and Spezza can control a lot, but there are just too many teams in this conference with a tick more 'umph'.
Topscorer: Jason Spezza with 38-46-84
Keep an eye on: Peter Regin, one of the leagues best kept secrets and a kid poised to enter 50+ point land.
Best newcomer: Sergei Gonchar, who'll be asked to log lots of PP minutes in a QB function and thus, should remain a 45+ point Dman.

12) Montreal – Last season was something special. That playoff run was just lights out. Problem is, the guy who did the most was sent packing in an admittedly calculated decision. But at what Price? No pun intended, of course, but this Habs team enters this season with a boatload of questions and requiring, once again, a lot of small men to play big roles. There's talent, but the buck will stop with Price's ability to win, because he is gonna see shots and at the moment, it's not looking like this kid can bloom in this city. Welp, another 81 games to go to find the answers.
Topscorer: Mike Camalleri with 34-33-67
Keep an eye on: Carey Price, because not a goalie in the league will have THIS many critics to satisfy, including the ones he sits next to in the locker room.
Best newcomer: Jeff Halpern, who's certainly not a 'sexy' center, but will be the spine of the lower lines and PK unit.

13) NY Rangers – Lundqvist and Gaborik remain awesome. There's more talent, but the word 'inconsistant' is applicable in describing just about any and everybody on this team, aside from the two megastars mentioned above. They should fight for spot 7-10, but I'm going out on a big limb (OK, not that big) and say that one - if not both - of the King and Gabby are gonna spend considerable time on the IR. Once that happens, kiss the POs goodbye, because what's currently there ain't gonna cut it. And uhhh, what are they doing up the middle?
Topscorer: Alex Frolov with 26-34-60
Keep an eye on: Derek Stepan, who his highly touted and is practically being force-fed responsibiltiy.
Best newcomer: Martin Biron, because the team simply MUST find a way to rest Lundqvist and he's their best answer yet.

14)Toronto – Unbelievable the attention given to whether Kadri makes the roster or not. Heck, that kid ain't Kane, Stamkos or even Tavares. But so goes it in Leafland, where things are microanalyzed after being microanalyzed. Thing is, they're still looking to be more competitive this season than they've been for a while. The goaltending looks solid and the blueline features many NHL-capable Dmen. If Burke turns Kaberle+ into a bonafide top center, then I'll have to change this prediction, but for now, this team just doesn't have the proven, consistant offense to guarantee a playoff spot. Still they should only finish 10 or less points from spot 8 in the conference.
Topscorer: Phil Kessel with 44-25-69
Keep an eye on: Dion Phaneuf, who needs to be this team's best overall player and a 50 point Dman.
Best newcomer: Kris Versteeg, who should inject some jump and excitement into a club that desperately needs his 50 points.

15) Florida - Just not enough there. Goaltending is fairly intact, but the defense is merely average. The attack will likely be the worse in the NHL, even though someone will likely have a career year. Far too much would have to go right for this admittedly rebuilding club to even come close to spot 8 in the conference. At least they had an interesting draft. Still, they'll likely bite a few teams in the behind along the way, so no one should take them too lightly.
Topscorer: Stephen Weiss with 24-32-56
Keep an eye on: Michael Frolik, who’s still not called “baby Jagr” for nothing!
Best newcomer: Dennis Wideman, who'll look to get his career back on track and should be given plenty of opportunity to do so.

1) Vancouver Canucks – Solid and simply needing to produce/perform.
Topscorer: Henrik Sedin with 24-82-106
2) Chicago Blackhawks – Will be ready come playoff time and are still exciting.
Topscorer: Patrick Kane with 33-55-88
3) Detroit Red Wings – Still have all the ingredients.
Topscorer: Pavel Datsyuk with 28-56-84
4) San Jose Sharks – Mature star power and fresh look in goal.
Topscorer: Joe Thornton with 22-63-85
5) LA Kings – Ready to make life tough on the opposition - even in the POs
Topscorer: Anze Kopitar with 36-48-84
6) Calgary Flames – 2nd time around is the charm, right?
Topscorer: Jerome Iginla with 36-42-78
7) Nashville Predators – Good, solid club with a great blueline. STILL needs scoring.
Topscorer: Matthew Lombardi with 26-37-63
8) St. Louis Blues – Stagnated last season; kids ready to pick things up!
Topscorer: David Perron 25-39-64

9) Anaheim Ducks – Team needs to rebound, but defense must respond.
Topscorer: Ryan Getzlaf with 29-53-82
10) Colorado Avalanche – Need too many kids to be real good - again. Doesn't happen.
Topscorer: Paul Stastny with 25-50-75
11) Phoenix Coyotes – Don't see them repeating? Count me in...
Topscorer: Wojtek Wolski with 27-42-69
12) Dallas Stars – A bit of a rebuild in place despite some strong players.
Topscorer: Brad Richards with 21-51-72
13) Edmonton - Lots of fun young guys to watch. Something to enjoy.
Topscorer: Ales Hemsky with 18-48-66
14) Minnesota Wild – Their time in limbo looks to continue.
Topscorer: Martin Havlat with 26-39-65
15) Columbus Blue Jackets – Limboland not only Minnesota's domain.
Topscorer: Rick Nash with 42-36-78

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NYI STAT PREDICTIONS Coming Soon, but...

Here's just a quick look at last years' predictions.

Do enjoy!

NYI: 34-40-8 for 76 points
NYI: 34-37-11 for 79 points

Dwayne Roloson
17-22-4 in 46 games, 2.90 GAA, .912 SV%
23-18-7 in 50 games, 3.00 GAA, .907 SV%

Martin Biron:
12-16-2 in 32 games, 2.74 GAA, .916 SV%
9-14-4 in 29 games, 3.27 GAA, .896 SV%

Rick Dipietro:
5-2-2 in 9 games, 2.38 GAA, .918 SV%
2-5-0 in 8 games, 2.60 GAA, .900 SV%

Mark Streit
12-49-61 in 75 games
11-38-49 in 82 games

Bruno Gervais
6-20-26 in 78 games
3-14-17 in 71 games

Jack Hillen
4-17-21 in 62 games
3-18-21 in 69 games

Ken Sutton
Stats with Islanders:
6-12-18 in 69 games
4-8-12 in 54 games

Freddy Meyer IV
2-15-17 in 72 games
4-11-15 in 64 games

Radek Martinek
4-7-11 in 64 games
2-1-3 in 16 games

Brendan Witt
1-5-6 in 58 games
2-3-5 in 42 games

Andy MacDonald
1-3-4 in 17 games
1-6-7 in 46 games

Each of Kohn, Katic, Flood and even de Haan could see a handful of games throughout the season. Another waiver-wire pick-up along the way shouldn't come as a surprise.
Kohn and Flood did get a handful of games throughout the season. Reese came along in a minor league deal an played 19 games with the big boys

Kyle Okposo
24-28-52 in 75 games
19-33-52 in 80 games

John Tavares
21-26-47 in 79 games
24-30-54 in 82 games

Josh Bailey
14-27-41 in 76 games
16-19-35 in 73 games

Trent Hunter
16-22-38 in 62 games
11-17-28 in 61 games

Jeff Tambellini
13-24-37 in 79 games
7-7-14 in 36 games

Blake Comeau
12-25-37 in 77 games
17-18-35 in 61 games

Doug Weight
8-26-34 in 61 games
1-16-17 in 36 games

Frans Nielsen
11-21-32 in 66 games
12-26-38 in 76 games

Sean Bergenheim
13-11-24 in 62 games
10-13-23 in 63 games

Jon Sim
11-8-19 in 53 games
13-9-22 in 77 games

Richard Park
7-12-19 in 59 games
9-22-31 in 81 games

Matt Moulson
8-6-14 in 47 games
30-18-48 in 82 games

Tim Jackman
3-5-8 in 70 games
4-5-9 in 54 games

Jesse Joensuu LW/RW
2-2-4 in 9 games
1-0-1 in 11 games

Matt Martin
1-1-2 in 18 games
0-2-2 in 5 games

Joel Rechlicz
0-1-1 in 43 games
0-0-0 in 6 games

Robbie Schremp
5-12-17 in 38 games
7-18-25 in 44 games

Islanders Stat Predictions 2010/11

The 2010/11 NHL season is upon us.

Seing as how the 2010/11 season is upon us, it's time to start rolling out the predictions for our Islanders in the upcoming season.

I'll let it be no secret that I'm looking at this season enthusiastically. Year three of Snow's rebuild/youth movement/stalling-to-take-off-the-pressure-for-not-signing-legitimate-additions/whathaveyou is looking cautiously calculated, but most certainly allows for one to believe that the team can take yet another step after an 18 point improvement between the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons.

Let there also be no doubt that the additions of PA Parenteau, Zenon Kenopka, Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina and James Wisniewski can be looked at as little more than marginal improvement over the losses of Park, Jackman, Bergenheim, Witt, Meyer and Sutton vis-à-vis the line-up going into last season. Nonetheless, at least Wisniewski, Kenopka and Eaton offer this team certain qualities that just were not part of the line-up last year. In addition, with the experience gathered by Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu, Dustin Kohn and Dylan Reese last season as well as the NHL experience already possessed by AHL fill-ins Jon Sim and Andy Hilbert, this team is boasting of a depth that it hasn't had in years.

These players do not include the eigth defenseman and thirteen forwards who seem destined for Long Island to begin the season. They also do not take into account the outside role that young players Nino Niederreiter, Rhett Rakhshani, David Ullstrom, Travis Hamonic, and Mark Katic might have in winning over a spot on the team.

With this all in mind, here are my stat predictions for the 2010/11 season!

New York Islanders

41-33-6 for 88 points and spot 8 in the conference standings.

Dwayne Roloson
Synopsis: Was without a doubt one of the Islanders' most important players last season. It seemed as though any and every point we gained in the first half of the season came with him in net, and with him playing a good role in earning those points. Then came the 3-goalie phase and he seemed to immediately suffer from this break in his flow. At this point, the 41 year old is entering the season as the unabridged starter. May we hope he can continue his fairly solid play from last season. A playoff spot is not otherwise possible, right?
If things don't go his way: 16-24-5, 3.25 GAA, .890 SV%
If things go his way: 28-21-3, 2.85 GAA, .910 SV%
What I predict: 26-18-4, 2.98 GAA, .905 SV%

Rick Dipietro
Synopsis: Your guess is as good as mine. Don't see him regaining his pre-injuries all-star form, but one can hope!
If things don't go his way: 3-6-1, 3.50 GAA, .885 SV%
If things go his way: 32-20-5, 2.20 GAA, .930 SV%
What I predict: 14-12-2, 3.05 GAA, .910 SV%

Nathan Lawson
Synopsis: Kind of the guy who's just there. I don't expect much, but with a Dipietro around, he could very well be the back-up for the bulk of the season. His AHL numbers to date would indicate that he may of earned a shot. Hard to think he'd be anything more than a stop-gap, especially if both Dipietro and Roloson suffer injures.
If things don't go his way: 0-4-0, 3.85 GAA, .860 SV%
If things go his way: 10-7-5, 3.10 GAA, .915 SV%
What I predict: 1-3-0, 3.30 GAA, .897 SV%

Mikko Koskinen and Kevin Poulin:
One is likely to get a start at some point, unless Dipietro and Roloson are simply dominating.

1) Mark Streit
Synopsis: So how long is Mr. All Everything going to be out? What kind of an effect will his operated shoulder have on his shot? When he does come back, how long will it take for him to get up and running. Despite a somewhat off year last season, there's no doubt that much was asked of Streit and he played with a number of partners who he ultimately had to carry to a certain degree. That shouldn't be the case if and once he comes back
If things don't go his way: 1-5-6
If things go his way: 8-28-36
What I predict: 7-19-26

2) James Wisniewski
If things don't go his way: His role was to come in and help out Streit. Now he kind of needs to uhhhh replace him. Too much to ask of course, but Wisniewski seems like a guy who has a lot to prove. He'll never get a better. May his slapshot prove the Hammer of Thor we've not seen from a righty shot in quite some time.
If things don't go his way: 5-13-18
If things go his way: 15-25-40
What I predict: 8-31-39

3) Mark Eaton
Synopsis: I was never fond of him nor have I ever thought him to be anything special in any of the three zones. He did however play a nice role in Pittsburgh's cup run, but his positive attributes were surely just complimentary to being in a line-up with a number of ubertalented players. I personally don't think he's much better than Meyer IV, but I'll happily sit back and let him prove he is.
If things don't go his way: 0-4-4
If things go his way: 2-15-17
What I predict: 1-6-7

4) Jack Hillen
Synopsis: Made some real strides last year and looked like a decent and no longer overextended transitional Dman. Jack was even starting to look very comfortable before taking Ovechkin's shot to the face. His WC play wasn't bad, but also reflected what he must get better at: decision-making as he approaches and once he's in the opponent's zone. That's got to get better if he wants to make a career of it as a fluid and effective defenseman. His shot is nothing to write home about either. PP time could increase in Streit's absence
If things don't go his way: 1-11-12
If things go his way: 6-32-38
What I predict: 4-23-27

5) Andy MacDonald
Synopsis: Arrived on the scene in an unexpectedly fine fashion. Played very poised and intelligent. His shot isn't half bad and his passing surpasses, ahem, a number of his colleagues on the blueline. I know from a first hand witness that he more than surprised his own teammates with his play. Surprising was also his speed in cleaning up mistakes and getting back into the zone. Not a checker, not a roughian. Can he continue his cerebral play? Don't be surprised to see him eating up a number of those minutes expected to go to Streit.
If things don't go his way: 2-8-10
If things go his way: 6-26-32
What I predict: 6-18-24

6) Radek Martinek
Synopsis: Seems folks will just assume he'll do what he can until an injury comes. Even if a bit inevitable, let's hope he still gets in a good 60 games. Fact is, he's servicable and has a few grand, grand games a season. Decent puckmover; smart Dman. Been around as long as well, just about any Islander, eh? Will give his all as long as the body lets him.
If things don't go his way: 1-2-3
If things go his way: 5-16-21
What I predict: 2-7-9

7) Mike Mottau
Synopsis: Seeing as how this signing came RIGHT on the heels of Streit's injury, let there be no doubt that it was chiefly motivated by it. Like, no duh? The guy was a BC boy and had a very solid 4 year college career, with a monster sophomore season. That was long ago and it didn't look like he'd get past the AHL until Lou's club found use for him. Having been fairly solid in lower capacity, it'll be interesting to see if he can show himself to be better than Gervais and Jurcina, his chief competition at the moment.
If things don't go his way: 0-4-4
If things go his way: 5-15-20
What I predict: 1-8-9

8) Milan Jurcina
Synopsis: We're simply gonna have to see where this guy fits. In his favor is that he worked with Gordon in Providence and obviously the team wouldn't have signed him if Gordon had had any reservations, right? On the other hand he's been labelled a gentle giant who certainly isn't gonna be winning any skating awards. So as one of 8 Dmen, where does he fit in? What role can he assume? Does he block any shots?
If things don't go his way: 0-2-2
If things go his way: 3-12-15
What I predict: 3-4-7

9) Bruno Gervais
Synopsis: Looking like the odd man out going in, but sometimes that's JUST the motivation a guy needs. He looked horrible at times last season, but he does have a few attributes that allow him to stick around, and I'm not including his cooking talents or general all-round good guy reputation when it comes to community service, where he may be the best the Isles have to offer. Until he becomes consequent with his positioning in his own zone as well as getting the puck out of the zone when it should be oh so easy, he's getting closer to a top 6 job in Europe than the NHL.
If things don't go his way: 0-3-3
If things go his way: 4-20-24
What I predict: 0-4-4

Mark Katic
What I predict: 1-3-4
Travis Hamonic
What I predict: 2-1-3
Dustin Kohn
What I predict: 0-0-0
Dylan Reese
What I predict: 0-0-0

John Tavares
Synopsis: Considered to be our franchise player, it seems that many are already of the belief that he'll go much the way of a one Mr. Stamkos. For those who feel that, I ask "Where are the St. Louis, Lecavaliers, Downies and Malones on this team to feed him the puck?" Nonetheless, much indicates that young Tavares is ready to lead this team in the scoring department, uhhh, as he did last season. We should expect it and it should be an improvement upon his very decent 54 rookie points. Stamkosland is a great reach though.
If things don't go his way: 26-24-50
If things go his way: 35-42-77
What I predict: 33-38-71

Blake Comeau
Synopsis: Many will just sit back and wait for it to maybe happen, but I'm gonna predict that Blakey 'gets it' this season. I think he came into his true form to end last season and that he has that two-way, coast-to-coast swagger to go along with decent all-round offensive instincts. It'll pay off starting this season and with JT or RS as his center. Garth will feel justified in not having signed, say, a Frolov instead of just sticking with Comeau.
If things don't go his way: 14-18-32
If things go his way: 35-35-70
What I predict: 32-26-58

Josh Bailey
Synopsis: No doubt, Josh is the most difficult forward in the starting 12 to get a read on from a prediction standpoint. There are skills, but his first two seasons have been marred with inconsistency. His teammates seem to think he's got mucho talent and it looks like he'll begin the year on the LW side, where he arguably enjoyed his best production output to date.
If things don't go his way: 12-16-28
If things go his way: 23-36-59
What I predict: 18-28-46

Kyle Okposo
Synopsis: Surgery and three months on the IR. Big bummer. The team's number one right wing was surely counted on to be one of its top scorers and still needs him to be if there's to be any shot of making the playoffs. Still, as with Streit, he may have more gas in the tank when the games count more with the time off. I expect him to need a lotttt of time to find to his scoring, which often lingered last season.
If things don't go his way: 7-18-25
If things go his way: 21-33-54
What I predict: 18-26-44

Rob Schremp
Synopsis: It took him a while to acclimated and then to earn minutes. He slowly began to strut his stuff and to be honest, he maybe has the best offensive skills on the team, including Tavares. He's tricky, he holds and handles the puck well and once the confidence was there, he spent 10 games being our best offensive player. An injury rained on his coming out party. Now, however, he's coming into this season knowing that the coaches, management and players believe he can play a serious offensive role - and he seems ecstatic. Let's just hope the injuries don't ruin things for him - and us.
If things don't go his way: 5-13-18
If things go his way: 18-42-60
What I predict: 12-32-44

Matt Moulson
Synopsis: He convinced me last season. I enjoyed his overall game, his effort, his sweat and blood. He IS the best man on the team within 10 feet of the goal. He's got that sense of where to be, the so-called nose for the net. It's there. It'll stay. I'm sure the effort will continue, because he does not wanna be an AHLer again within a year's time. Despite this, he'll not be able to take the league by surprise and he'll not necessarily be getting top two line minutes. His importance will remain. His scoring will inadvertantly drop.
If things don't go his way: 14-8-22
If things go his way: 40-28-68
What I predict: 21-15-36

Frans Nielsen
Synopsis: Underrated Dane has gone under the radar for two seasons now. His technical stats (i.e. everything not G-A-TP-PM-+/-) were awesome. He was one of the NHL's top 5 two-way centers. Now he's coming off a decent showing at his native Denmark's best World Championship ever. A summer on LI doing work with LI's staff and the confidence of having established a somewhat permanent job could all go a long way in making him a cog in this team's playoff push. It would be welcome.
If things don't go his way: 7-16-23
If things go his way: 17-33-50
What I predict: 9-21-30

Trent Hunter
Synopsis: The big man is a top teammate and truly appreciated in the locker room and as part of the franchise. He's been here for a lot of down times. He's been in decline. This season may be very telling as to how long he'll be an Islander and what he can do for this franchise. Lord knows we could use his rookie year form, at least in a scoring capacity. Looks like 3rd line RW will remain his calling.
If things don't go his way: 9-12-21
If things go his way: 20-26-46
What I predict: 14-15-29

P.A. Parenteau
Synopsis: It was a bit of a tryout. 8 points in 22 games as a spare-part-getting-older rookie isn't hopeless, but Parenteau is now 27 and has a clause in his contract stating it's the Island or he's off to the highest bidder in Europe. Good for him. There's probably much he could do in Switzerland or Germany, but can he cook the goose in the NHL? With Okposo out, it looks like we'll find out one way or the other. So is he Matt Moulson part deux??? Kip Miller part deux??? Justin Papineau part cent mille? Just hope he can make an impact in a scoring capacity.
If things don't go his way: 1-2-3, then EUROPE
If things go his way: 22-27-49
What I predict: 11-16-27

Doug Weight
Synopsis: Another year is being added on. We don't know how that shoulder of his is going to react. In addition, we don't know what role he's going to assume. For all we know, he could end up being a top 2 center. He's more likely to get wing time on a lower line and health permitting, a fair dosage of PP time. Streit's absence alone may see to that. There's no doubt he's amongst the smartest 10% of players we have. Is the body willing to make use of that?
If things don't go his way: 0-3-3
If things go his way: 12-30-42
What I predict: 4-19-23

Michael Grabner
Synopsis: Don't know what to think of him, but the situation isn't entirely different from Schremp's a year ago and Grabner has even done more in the NHL than Schremp had at this juncture last season. The kid has been a WHL and AHL goalscorer. He's at an age where, like Nielsen and Bergenheim before him, it was time to put up or shut up. Other than Vanek, he IS Austria's NHL hope. Now, last season I thought Moulson would make this team right out of camp and put up 14 points. He did the former and outdid the latter. I've got a sneaky suspicion that Grabner has the goods to help this team, but I'm gonna stay conservative and envision his stay here much like Justin Papineau's back in the day.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 27-14-41
What I predict: 11-7-18

Zenon Konopka
Synopsis: Fists and face-offs. We'll take a big helping of both please! I'm gonna say that like Wisniewski, he appears to be in the ideal situation for him, with a coach who'll wanna see what other tools he has and can offer. I suspect he'll be a pleasant surprise. Look for him to play a role in holding late leads. Don't know if he's an answer on the PK.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 5-10-15, 215 PMs
What I predict: 3-5-8, 190 PMs

Jon Sim
Synopsis: It's not nice to say, but I'm hoping we see as little of Jon as possible. He gets under the opponent's skin, but he's just not the guy fans 'pay to see'. Surely he's well-placed as a 4th line grinder and that line with Kenopka and Gillies can make life tough for opponents, but I'd rather see him in BPort and serving as a mentor while doing some heavy scoring for a team that's gonna have it hard. May Sim be there no later than when Okposo returns.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 11-8-19
What I predict: 2-3-5

Matt Martin
Synopsis: Future fan fave should get a wee bit more than last year's cup of coffee, but to be honest, unless Parenteau and Grabner flat out fail miserably, he might as well be getting 1st/2nd line minutes in BPort. Sim, Gillies, Hilbert, Grabner and Parenteau can duke it out for lower line minutes in the meantime. Of course, if he just proves too ready down on the farm, then by all means, let him come up and begin his career as Wendel Clark's player reincarnation.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 10-14-24, 150 PMs
What I predict: 1-4-5, 60 PMs

Nino Niederreiter
Synopsis: I'll say it simply: he's here for 9 games. I love that he's actually looked pretty doggone good in the preseason. He already appears mature beyond his years. I'm very excited about the role he can play here - next season. For now, he'll stopgap until Grabner is fit, who'll then get a top nine shot (along with Parenteau) until Okposo returns.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 16-20-36
What I predict: 1-2-3 (then 80+ in Portland)

Trevor Gillies
Synopsis: Clubhouse boy is liked by his teammates. He seems to know what he's here for and although he's not in the Parros/Boogard heavyweight class, he can hold his own and duke it out. Can't wait for just that, primarily against the NYR and PHF. Otherwise, barely an ECHLer.
If things don't go his way: 0-0-0
If things go his way: 2-2-4, 250 PMs
What I predict: 1-1-2, 180 PMs

Jesse Joensuu
What I predict: 2-4-6
Rhett Rakhshani
What I predict: 1-3-4
David Ullstrom
What I predict: 0-2-2
Andy Hilbert
What I predict: 0-0-0

Friday, June 25, 2010

Conventional Wisdom - Or Juggling with Dreams?

Everyone's excited - of that there is no doubt!

The blogosphere is booming and chatrooms are going non-stop. It's draft time and it's absolutely amazing the energy and excitement that is generated at this time of year. It represents acquisition, promise, new blood - in essence, hope.

And with pick number five in this year's draft in Los Angeles, Islanderville is very much involved in this high-octane tour. With the past two first rounds not lacking in drama, the most difficult thing going into this draft as a fan is predicting just what the Islanders are going to do. Trade down? Trade up? A bit of both? Or take the most logical pick at five and let the rest fall into place? That would be conventional wisdom, but as we all know, this modus operandi hasn't led to the acquisition of two of the past three first rounders.

For those precious few who may read this before tonight's events, here are some things you can probably safely assume or at least lean towards in gauging what exactly our Islanders with do with the Number 5... and beyond.

Looking at the obvious:
This Islander team has some nice blueliners coming up through the system, but you can never have enough bluechippers and the scouting community currently says that defensemen Gudbranson, Fowler and Gormley are the most logical selections at spots 3-5. You can't lose with one of them. One is really tough, one is really skilled and the latter is your basic jack-of-all-trades, good in every department, outstanding in none (thus far).

Then there are two kids that many fans may see as good options at #5 - if still there. One would be Mr. Winner Jack Campbell. He's a goalie who has QUITE a resume to date. The boy just oozes a winner mentality, and has several gold medals as a result. As the draft approaches, there are more and more scouts mentioning that in 10 year's time, he may be the best player coming out of this draft. That's certainly something to think about.

Then there's Brett Connolly. Coming into the season, he seemed to be in a group consisting of the top 5-7 prospects, third or fourth amongst forwards. Along with Hall and Seguin, he and Kabanov were the kids who had this draft being tabbed as a very strong one. Nonetheless, he's hardly played this year and that lack of play was due to a hip problem that ultimately turned into two hip problems. He returned in time to participate for a prospect-laden Team Canada U18 team that put in a brutal performance in Minsk. Connolly, once believed to be one of the top ten 18 year olds on the planet, scored only one goal in four games, and that was in an 11-3 victory, with the decision having already been made. Although all this usually leads to a huge drop in stock, he's nonetheless still considered by many to be a Top 10 pick, based primarily on the promise shown in a 60 point season as a 16/17 year old in the WHL.

He remains the favorite for a number of Islander fans.

Going behind the scenes:
The Islanders made the easiest 'tough decision' a team can make when they took John Tavares first overal last summer. Still, whether trading down twice to ultimately take Josh Bailey about 4 spots ahead of where he was expected to go or trading up twice to take de Haan about 10 spots before many thought he'd go, the Isles have shown a propensity to pinpoint certain guys they like and move to get them.

As such, it could be considered very safe to read a little bit into the Islanders having hosted a visit from Mikael Granlund, Alex Burmistrov, Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen. Some say it's due diligence, but considering Bailey had only visited the Bruins AND Islanders in his draft year, it should mean little that these four forwards have been ranked somewhere between 6-15 amongst prospects for the bulk of the season.

There are also some defensemen with a good pedigree and great size, namely defensemen Derek Forbort, Dylan McIlrath and Jarred Tinordi. All would seem to be players most teams could make good use of at some point - and every team has Tyler Myers fresh on their minds.

Then one has to account for the 'Character X factor' that the Isles tend to apply to their pick options. If a boy shows the ability to successfully deal with extracurricular problems or adversity, yet can also fit into and successfully execute a team's system, then this kid is probably pretty high on Snow and Jankowski's list. Players like Jaden Schwartz, Austin Watson and Quinton Howden could fit the bill on this front.

But what of Californian Emerson Etem's incredible rise through the ranks in such a short period of time? And what of Jeff Skinner's 50 OHL goals and another 20 in the playoffs, stats that should have every team salivating? In addition, could the Islanders be in line to stump the fear of Russian exodus and snag the immensely talented Vladimir Tarasenko? Kuznetzov or Kitsyn anyone? What of the talented boys dropping for various reasons, namely Kirill Kabanov and John McFarland?

All these guys could be in the equation, but where?

And what happens at five?

Following conventional wisdom:
The Islanders can simply sit back and should feel pretty safe taking whichever of the big three Dmen is available, right?

Who they're most probably not taking at five:
With three goalies they're pretty high on, the team would be hard-pressed to justify the selection of Jack Campbell, especially when there is other talent there that the team could absolutely use. It's of course apples and oranges comparing goalies to skaters though. Snow and Gordon are former goalies, but at this point Jankowski and crew stuck their necks out too far last summer in taking Koskinen and Nilsson successively only to just grab Campbell this year too. There are also some decent goalies later in the draft - where a great majority of NHL goalies come from anyways.

In addition, when you've been ravished by injuries as much as the Islanders have in recent years, can anyone see a rational reason why THIS Islander club would take Brett Connolly, a kid whose hip problems could hamper him at any point in his career and who's one chance to show he's better than others in his age group was anything but successful? There just seems to be too much talent in the top 20 to risk a pick on a kid coming in with such bagage. In addition, can the scouts really claim he's THAT good based on one 60 point junior season with boatloads of ice time for a bad team? I cannot see our very own Jankowski and crew taking that risk.

Based on trends from prior drafts, how spectators could see this thing going down:
Basically, it should be no surprise to see this team trade down within the top 15 to take THEIR favorite. It could be like in 2008, where several trades were made. At the same time, and especially if they take this route, it could also be likely that the package up some of what they get with any combination of the two 2nds and two 3rds they have to get back into the first round. In other words, there are plenty of boys here in round 1 who look to be of interest to the Islanders. Surely Snow and Jankowski would rather have the two of them they are certain about rather than one and then 4 risks in rounds 2-3, right?

Bold prediction for an exciting weekend:
Looking to make a huge splash in this weekend's events, Florida will not only pick 3rd, but will then send the Islanders Stephen Weiss, #15, #33 and #50 for the #5, Bruno Gervais, and Corey Trivino. With Minnesota on the clock and looking for a young NHL winger plus a solid prospect, the Islanders will send them Sean Bergenheim and Minnesota boy Aaron Ness for the #9. For the time being, the Islanders will remain quiet and simply make their first four selections.

The Islanders take the following players:
#9 Mikael Granlund
#15 Dylan McIlrath
#33 Justin Faulk
#35 Kirill Kabanov

Granlund - Having gone 14-32-46 against men in 48 SM Liga games (including playoffs), added another 7 points in an underwhelming WJC (but coming straight off an injury) and dominated the U18 with 14 points in 5 games, the Islanders take the crafty young man who is likely the most intelligent on-ice player available. He's already scored against men and whereas skating & size remain an issue (ahem, both very average), he has excelled at every level and just plain makes his teammates better. The kid has so much that screams of Saku Koivu, who by the way only had 10 points in the SM Liga when he was Granlund's age.

McIlrath - Some Isles fans will surely love this guy for his size and punch (really, he can fight!), and the hulking Dman has been rising up the ranks astronomically, based on a strong 2nd half to his season. Still, where's the connection? Welp, he played with Hamonic the first part of the season, to whom he has publicly given a lot of credit for being his guide and mentor. As such, Islander scouts saw him quite a bit. And like de Haan the year before, who picked up his offensive game after John Tavares had been traded, so too did McIlrath become more of a force with more ice time after - you guessed it - Hamonic was moved. Still raw, he has considerable upside and fills a size void this team doesn't necessarily admit to suffer from.

Faulk - Possesses a well-rounded, strong offensive game and is solid in every zone. Good skater with nice size. Lost in the numbers with Forbort, Tinordi and Merrill usually ahead of him, but the Isles see his upside and his college future and feel he's got the same possibilities as Donovan. They happily snag him at 33.

Kabanov - With a short tenure on Long Island while waiting for the visa necessary to play in the QMJHL, the Islanders have had extra time to see and meet the kid in some capacity. Despite incredible and documented off-ice problems, and a father who'll be a stress-factor one way or the other, the Islanders chance it here with him, having garnered the extra picks in previous moves. They decide to risk it on the terribly skilled winger. As opposed to Petrov a few summers before, he costs a higher pick, but is much more inclined to sticking in North America and would already fight for a spot in the fall camp.

After the 49th pick, two trades are announced:
Trade 1: The Islanders send pick #50, their 2011 5th rounder and Robin Figren to Chicago for Kris Versteeg.

Trade 2: The Islanders send Brendan Witt and pick #160 to Montreal for Roman Hamrlik and pick #147.

The Islanders then proceed to use picks #s 58, 65, 82, 95, 125, 147, 155, and 185.

By Sunday night, the team leaves Los Angeles with the following +/- balance:

NHLers and Prospects:
- Brendan Witt, Sean Bergenheim, Bruno Gervais, Robin Figren, Aaron Ness and Corey Trivino.
+ Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Roman Hamrlik

Draft picks:
- #5, #160, 2011 5th
+ #9, #15, #33, #147
+/- #50

Come out of the draft with:
Granlund, McIlrath, Faulk, Kabanov, 8 more picks.

Sounds wild, eh?

Later round suggestions:
For me personally, there are a number of players in later rounds who I think are very fascinating. I'd love to think the Isles would grab one or two of them.

Grubauer (15th NA), Conz (3rd EUR), Volden (4th EUR)

Dan Biega (46th NA), Madaisky (57th NA), Silas (60th NA), Aronson (88th NA), Gudas (94th NA), Leach (120th NA), Ramage (131st NA), Abeltshauser (164th NA), Luuko (175th NA), Marincin (10th EUR), Granberg (21st EUR), Krejci (51st EUR), Jensen (84th EUR)

Lindberg (7th EUR), Kuehnhackl (8th EUR), Donskoi (14th EUR), Pulkinnen (17th EUR), Larsson (34th EUR), Raask (82nd EUR), Olden (86th EUR), Noebels (100th EUR), Nelson (25th NA), Martindale (27th NA), Telegin (33rd NA), Shipley (43rd NA), Zucker (51st NA), Culek (52nd NA), Shugg (53rd NA), Brickley (58th NA), McKegg (66th NA), Knight (82nd NA), Gaede (104th NA), Ranford (111th NA), Ferland (146th NA), DeBlois (153rd NA), Daugherty (179th NA), Hrivik (194th NA)

Whatever happens, I hope you at least have fun with this blog, and more importantly, with this weekend's draft. Hopefully, it'll be the last draft in quite some time where the Isles enter with a top 15 pick, much less a top 5.

In just a few short hours, they can go a long way in pushing the rebuild - or youth movement - to the next level!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To Trade or Not To Trade?

As an oh-so-exciting Olympics lingers on, Islander GM Garth Snow has much to ponder about with respect to his team's last 20 games.

The biggest question he must answer for himself is: Does this team still have a shot at making the playoffs?

Certainly, every franchise within shooting distance must in some way show its fanbase that the team intends to win and believes it can. Mathematically, the Isles could run off a good 12 wins to finish this beast off and slip into the playoffs, granted certain other teams don't do the same thing at the same time.

Then again, if that happens, what chance would this team really have once in the playoffs? Would it even be a contest if our beloved Islanders were to enter the 7-game dance with a New Jersey, Pittburgh, Philadelphia, or Washington?

Moreover, what are the chances that this team doesn't win another 10 games this season and rolls into the offseason with a bottom third finish and nothing to show for having arguably 3 NHL starting goaltenders and at least one currently very valuable UFA (Andy Sutton) likely wandering off into UFAville?

Seem like a more likely scenario to you?

To me too.

Simply put, Garth Snow can and should be happy that this team spent the first 60 games being a good deal better than last season's edition of the Islanders and was even good in raising a few eyebrows along the way. While Snow's biggest UFA coups the past two summers, Streit and Roloson, have had a good deal to do with this competitiveness (especially Roloson), and Matt Moulson and to a degree Rob Schremp have been solid additions up front, this team has received the bulk of its contributions from U25 players Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Jack Hillen and - despite his 2nd half difficulties - John Tavares. Throw in Andrew MacDonald's surprising, if not downright miraculous, jump from 6th round pick to 25 minute-per-night NHL defenseman, and this team has moved forward primarily on the strength of its own draft picks and signings.

Getting back on track here, it should be clear to most that this year's Islanders are not winning the Stanley Cup. It should be clear to most, that teams with much greater chances at doing so are going to be knocking on Snow's door to inquire about several players. It should be clear to most that Snow is currently analyzing about how he can make this team better for next season - a season in which this club should be viewing playoff spots 7 and 8 as a clear-cut goal.

There may even be several GMs asking Snow about important veterans such as Streit and Hunter, two guys who have excellent deals and several years remaining on their contracts. I don't know how moving Streit could be of benefit to this team - but with GMs like Don Waddell out there, you just never know what type of knock-your-socks-off deals Snow could be offered. While I don't think we'll see Mark Streit be moved, it'd be quite surprising if Snow didn't play the part of the seller as we approach the deadline, just 10 days away.

Players who may not be here by March 5th:

Andy Sutton: We've already seen several 3rd rate veterans be sent packing in deals that have all included 2nd round picks. Enter the aforementioned Andy Sutton. Playing for a new contract, Sutton has had his best season in years. He's been solid in his own end and has created a highlight reel of huge, spectacular hits throughout this season. His confidence is there and he's shown a apt ability in moving the puck forward, sometimes exhibiting some mighty fine hands in the process. Although not used enough, his shot is as hard and deadly as anyone else's. Throw in that size he has and it's easy to see that Sutton is a commodity at peak value for a team still hoping to get more of an impact from its number 4/5/6 defensemen. If Wallin solidifies San Jose, then Sutton can surely more than help out a number of teams including Vancouver, Colorado, Philadelphia, Washington and maybe even a Detroit or Dallas. A return similar to what Carolina got for Matt Cullen should be a minimum in seeing Sutton be moved. And yes, that would help out this Islander franchise.

Dwayne Roloson/Martin Biron: Arguably our team's 09/10 MVP, Roloson has had some amazing showings for the Islanders this year. Several of our wins would arguably not have been possible without Roloson's fabulous performances. He is signed for another year and heading into next season with Roli and Dipietro manning the net would surely give the Isles a formiddable tandem, especially if Dipietro can regain his previous form at some point next season. Marty Biron is an excellent team player and spokesman. His terrible record this year includes a lot of losses where this team scored 2 or less goals for him. However, he has to be seen stamped as one of our on-ice disappointments this season. He's an affordable and solid 1B goalie. Unlike Roloson, he is an upcoming UFA.

Now, it seems we cannot yet count on Dipietro being able to finish off this season, even in a back-up capacity, but if there is any belief that he can, then it'd pure mismanagement to end this season with all three goaltenders on the Island. Now, Biron may not have the greatest of value, but there is likely a team out there that'd gladly send Snow a 4th rounder to pick up Biron for the stretch run and playoffs. Seeing Snow want to keep the Dipietro/Roloson tandem is completely reasonable and understandable.

On the other hand, Dwayne Roloson (who is under contract until the end of the 10/11 season) may be Snow's biggest trading piece. There are a number of expected playoff contenders whose current goaltending situation is anything but stable. In Dwayne, a team knows what it's getting. He's proven on several occasions that he's made of the steel that can carry even mediocre teams on successful playoff runs. Imagine what he could do with Washington's or Philadelphia's offence in front of him? Don't fret, because there are surely a few GMs out there pondering the same thing.

Doug Weight: I hope Doug Weight ends his career with us. I hope he remains with the Islanders and becomes a part of the franchise, whether in a coaching or administrative capacity, or heck, even as a commentator for the team. He's a model citizen and has surely played his role in the development of each of Tavares, Bailey and Nielsen. The demand is surely not that high for this often injured, one goal, 15 point man. His shoulder may not even allow him to finish off the season. Surely Snow would not move him just for the sake of doing so. As far as I know, young Tavares is still living at Weight's house. All this said, it is thoroughly conceivable that Weight himself has told Snow that he'd be more than happy to be sent to a contender for whatever in order to have one last shot at the cup. If this were to be the case, I'd have to think that Snow would surely oblige him.

Richard Park: Having arguably his worst season in some time, Park is the type of guy a number of teams could shore up their 3rd and 4th lines with. His apparent loss of a top gear and lousy +/- to date do not mean that he can't bring it for the stretch run and playoffs.

Jon Sim: Sim has earned every minute he's played this year. He's an extremely limited player, but showed himself to be the type of pest many teams crave come playoff time.

Trent Hunter: A warrior for sure, Trent has had a tough season. Despite a strong spurt coming off his early season injury, he's been very quiet for some time now. He's never been fleet of foot, but that's never been as glaring a weakness as in the past 25 games. In addition, he's not checking at the rate he had been prior to this season. He's got several years left on his contract, he's a big man and he serves his team well. He's grown up an Islander. As an individual piece, his value to this team is far greater than what he'd rake in. However, he may be what is needed to complete a bigger deal involving either Sutton, Weight, Biron or Roloson.

What I see happening:
Roloson and Sutton will be traded.

With a summer full of free agent possibilities on the goalie front, and a Biron who is healthy and himself could easily be resigned, I expect Snow to pit the bidders against each other to get this franchise the best it can for Roloson. He'll be a loss and his being traded tells this fanbase that "We're no longer playing for the playoffs unless what we've got just happens to surprise and be good enough to get us there!" However, some team is gonna give Snow something really nice for Roli the goalie and heck, it's not like Roloson is leading the Isles to a Stanley Cup victory this or next year. He surely is a pole of stability for this team, maybe even moreso in the locker room than we can know, but that may have to be sacrificed for the time being in order to benenfit even more greatly as soon as next fall.

As for Sutton, we have no verification whether or not he'll be seeking greener pastures this summer. It's his one last chance to sign for big money. In addition, as often as he says he likes it here on Long Island, Snow can always pursue him again after the season, as unlikely as his resigning here would be. Unfortunately, money is tied up in players such as Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek, and Snow needs to upgrade the blueline on whole anyways, so getting the max for Sutton now, while at the peak of his value, is the most logical choice to be made when all is said and done. The team would likely have to finish the year with Streit, Gervais, MacDonald, Meyer, Kohn, Witt and Hillen - a blueline lacking in physical fear-factor, no doubt.

If Doug Weight has given a move his OK, he could either be packaged with one of the aforementioned players or sent along in a Bill Guerin type deal. In his current form, he can still assist a team looking for more savvy in the line-up, especially on the PP. Seeing the types of names that have come and gone through the waiver wire, it's hard to believe Park or Sim would even garner late round picks, but then again, we know that for example, a team like San Jose is looking to shore up its very green 3rd and 4th lines with a defensively-minded veteran or two. No reason to think that Lombardi wouldn't be willing to part with a 5th rounder for a Richard Park.

What Snow will earn:
By March 5th, I suspect this team will have added the following
A) 1 highly rated prospect
B) 2 2nd round draft picks
D) 2 5th-7th round draft picks
C) Two mid-20ies bubble players who can fill in for the remainder of this season and audition for a bigger role in future seasons.

I also see us losing our 3rd or the one we have from Phoenix in the trading process.

One way or another, we'll know by March 5th at the latest.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Halfway Mark Review - Preview

Halfway Mark

Heading into this season, even the most diehard of Islander fans were well aware that this team was an unlikely playoff contender, much less a Stanley Cup contender.

Nonetheless, simply the additions of John Tavares and no less than two bonafide NHL goaltenders in Roloson and Biron could attest to this team likely becoming a more difficult team to beat, especially considering the number of U26 players on this team looking to up the ante to their games in a bid to establish themselves as effective and regular NHLers.

Where is the team after 41 games? 13th in the conference. Still, this placement in the standings doesn't tell the whole story. For the most part, the Islanders have been in the bulk of their games played and have successfully dealt with controversy, often coming back in order to gain a point, if not two. Injuries have occured, the gravest being the loss of top 4 Dman Radek Martinek for the season with an ACL tear after just 16 games. In addition, the team has been able to go 5-1-1 after having lost 4 in a row heading into the halfway mark of the season. It's been a rollercoaster ride of sorts, but the team is in the running and is staying within close reach of a playoff spot. What's more is that many teams have had a problem with the Islanders' aggressive style of play, which is taxing, but which causes opponents to cough up the puck more than any would like to.

1) Dwayne Roloson - Needing a few games to get into the swing of things, Roloson has been solid to spectacular on most nights this season. He's been the number one reason for no less than 5 wins this season and slowly but surely progressed into an absolute rock. Attesting to his importance is how much better this team plays as a whole when he's in goal.
2) Matt Moulson - Who'd have thunk it? The best of our supposed AHL signings this summer, Matt Moulson has become the type of underdog hero that this franchise hasn't seen since Jason Blake. He goes where it hurts and constantly does what he can within his limits. Although 26, this is his first real gig in the NHL and he's been a key reason this team is in the playoff race, currently tied in the team lead in goals. Can he keep up the rags to riches story?
3) John Tavares - After the rough introduction Steven Stamkos had last season, many fans felt Tavares' rookie year couldn't be all that much better. In addition, he's had to deal with expectations that few players have ever faced. Despite having recently hit a wall, Tavares is tied with the team lead in goals and has already become this franchise's best offensive weapon within 5 yards of the goal. Despite a myriad of rookie mistakes and the realizations a young player experiences when entering this league, we can see the kid learning and improving. He's simply a young man with incredible instincts that'll are really going to be looking good by the time he's of legal drinking age.
4) Kyle Okposo - Finally getting back to the hoped for goalscoring pace, Okposo's sheer strength, work ethic and saavy have deemed him the unofficial leader of this team. There's good reason that he's leading this team in assists as well. He's got a good eye and he brings the puck to the net as much or more than anyone else on this team. It's sometimes amazing what he's able to do with the puck and how strong he can be along the boards. A star in the making.
5) Ken Sutton - It's been a while since he's been this healthy, but he gives this team a physical presence they haven't had in ages. His hip-checks are a thing of beauty and he's been surprisingly solid with the puck. In addition, this team looked lost when Sutton was out of the line-up. He is an absolute cog on this team at the moment.

1) Inability to clear the zone - This team's repeated and continued inability to get the puck out of their own zone, even in situations where a clear should come with 100% simplicity and surety, has led to a number of goals against and several unnecessary losses, none worse than the 3-2 loss in Minnesota. The problem is simply incredible and should be out of every pro's game no later than when he's a bantam and yet this team regularly fails to clear the puck in situations where there should be nothing standing in the way of doing so. It's downright scary and sickening how inefficient this team is in this department, especially the forwards when they have the puck within 5 feet of the blueline.
2) Inability to hold a lead - Minus number 1is a key reason for minus number 2, but this team has entered a number of third periods with a 2 plus goal lead and have wound up giving up that lead. Youthful or not, the team and indirectly the coaching staff, has had a terrrible time of turning such leads into two points. No team at the pro level can be expected to win or even make the playoffs if this problem isn't nipped in the bud over ASAP. It has a lasting psychological effect on a team and this club has to get to the point where that's a sure thing victory every time.
3) Overwhelmed blueline - Ken Sutton has improved incredibly, and thankfully both Jack Hillen and Andy MacDonald have slowly but surely shown that they can bet positive influences on the blueline, but not a player on this blueline has been above-average. Whether it's an overload of responsibility or not, Mark Streit just hasn't been the same player he was last season. Witt, Gervais and Meyer have spent more time being weak links than positive posts in the first half of this season, and it shows in the standings.
4) Brendon Witt - He's a warrior and he's done a few very good things this season, but his general lack of skill combined with the fact that this game is simply too fast for him nowadays has turned our one time leader into the team's weakest link, at least statistically. The drop in his play the past two seasons has become so grave, that he may be out of an NHL job before next season begins.
5) Martin Biron - He's not necessarily been terrible, but he hasn't shown the ability to just make those few extra saves needed for a win. In his defense, this team has scored at a ridiculously low clip in games he's started, but no matter what the reason is, his record is currently abysmal. He's not making any argument for more ice time nor is he helping Snow find another home for him. His game is missing something and Gordon has been forced to turn to him less and less as the season has progressed.

What Lies in Store:
Having started the second half of the season very successfully, primarily on the strength of Roloson's great play and the offensive strength of Okposo, Hunter, Nielsen and the ever-improving Bailey and Schremp, this team is showing the hockey world that is fully intent on fighting for a playoff spot. We're watching the kids improve step-by-step and they manage to dig out a lot of points that they surely wouldn't have gotten last season.

Providing us fans with eternal hope, it's hard to predict what's gonna happen in the second half. Many keep waiting for this team to finally fall on its face, but it simply will not go away. Anytime a few players start slumping, it almost seems as if others pick up the pace. It's fun, it's exciting, it's downright unexpected - and we should all enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Dipietro is coming back, the team will have a lot of rested players after the Olympics, the Islanders had the most prospects of any team at the recent WJC tournament (including gold-medalist Donovan) and kids like Okposo, Comeau, Schremp, Hillen and Bailey continue to get better. Thus, there's a lot of positive things to look forward to over the second half of the season.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Snow pawns off Park, Biron and Sim at the trade deadline and this team will still be in the playoff race in the last week of the season.

Stat Pace after 41 Games

Name GP W - L - T SO
Dwayne Roloson 52 28-14-10 0
Martin Biron 30 4-22-4 2

Name GP G - A - PT PM
John Tavares 82 32-24-56 20
Kyle Okposo 80 12-42-54 32
Matt Moulson 82 30-22-52 32
Mark Streit 82 8-32-40 60
Trent Hunter 52 14-18-32 12
Frans Nielsen 70 12-20-32 4
Josh Bailey 80 16-10-26 12
Richard Park 82 4-18-22 28
Jeff Tambellini 46 12-10-22 8
Sean Bergenheim 60 8-14-22 28
Blake Comeau 50 8-14-22 44
Jack Hillen 74 2-18-20 56
Andy Sutton 70 6-10-16 76
Jon Sim 78 8-6-14 56
Bruno Gervais 70 0-14-14 30
Rob Schremp 38 2-10-12 16
Nate Thompson 72 2-10-12 70
Doug Weight 22 0-12-12 40
Freddy Meyer 54 0-12-12 40
Brendan Witt 76 4-4-8 90
Tim Jackman 66 4-2-6 140
Jesse Joensuu 14 2-0-2 4
Andy MacDonald 34 2-0-2 16