Monday, September 29, 2008


After a rainy weekend, it's nice to see the sun shine on this little Island of ours. The other thing that's nice to have around these parts again is the New York Islanders. After an impressive 4-2 victory over Florida on Saturday on an equally beautiful island, P.E.I., the boys are back where they belong and began practice this morning at Islander Iceworks in Syosset, NY. Now that they're back, it's time to start speculating who will make the opening night roster.

As Greg Logan reported on his blog and Chris Botta on Islanders Point Blank, the Isles management have trimmed the roster to 31 players. Several players in particular caught my eye as potentials for the opening night roster: Jack Hillen, Brandon Sugden, Josh Bailey and Tim Jackman. Let me share my opinions as to why each should be given a shot at cracking this lineup.

Jack Hillen has been an impressive pickup from his two games at the end of last season against the Rangers and now at his first NHL training camp. His puck moving ability and speed might lend to the new system that Coach Gordon has installed as the basis for the team. He displayed his excellent first pass in his two games with the big club and he could lend a sure hand on the 2nd unit on the power play. With Chris Campoli out for the foreseeable future with whatever it might be (check out Chris Botta, Greg Logan and B.D. Gallof's reactions to the new injury policy on their blogs), it may be the opening that Hillen needs to get in and make it stick.

As for Josh Bailey, this is a dream come true. He's 18, coming off a phenomenal year in junior and competing hard for an opening night NHL spot. Many people have stated that Islanders management will give Josh every opportunity to make this team. Whether or not he can compete at the NHL level for an extended period is of course yet to be seen. But I don't see why the Islanders wouldn't sign him and play him for the first 9 games so he can get a taste of the NHL and possibly push him to play harder back on the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

However, the two players that I think have the best chance of making the team for at least the first bit of the season are Brandon Sugden and Tim Jackman. Anyone who has read anything in the past month about the Islanders knows about Brandon Sugden's saga, so I won't reiterate it (but you can read it here). As an Isles fan, I too cried for an enforcer to protect the kids from the big, bad wolves of the NHL. If Brandon can keep up his play and contribute other than in a pugilistic fashion, he might not only win a spot but the hearts of Isles fans everywhere.

Tim Jackman will also be auditioning for the same role as Sugden. In my opinion, due to the fact that he has shown in the past that when called upon he can skate and show off his nasty side that he might have the edge over Sugden at least for the start of the season. In that sense, Jackman might be the best combination of speed and grit that can be inserted on the 4th line in the new system. As for who is odd man out in this situation, unfortunately I have to bring myself to bash on Andy Hilbert one last time.

Don't get me wrong, Andy is a good hockey player that knows his role. But, there needs to come a time when Garth and Scott have to say that they have too many players on the team who are defined as a penalty kill specialist. Richard Park, Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter, Jon Sim and even Sean Bergenheim can fill the roll and still have offensive upside. I just think that it might be Hilbert's time to either take a back seat or hit the waiver wire. That's just my opinion so don't think too far into it.

At this point, I'm just glad that the beginning of the season is less than two weeks away and we've got the Devils on Wednesday at the Coliseum. I hope that many of you can get out to see the boys in action prior to the drop of the puck on the regular season.

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