Thursday, August 21, 2008



Last night, at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders held their umpteenth Open House of this offseason which included a Q&A with newly commissioned coach, Scott Gordon. Although I must admit that the Q&A session was rather brief and the turnout wasn't that great (Can you really blame people? It was a Wednesday, after work), it was still informative and interesting to get Gordon's take on the state of the franchise and what he's going to do to improve the team this coming season.

The basic conversation after "starting the grill" with Gordon was about the upcoming season and what fans should look out for in the players and the coaching style Gordon would employ. One particular question that struck a chord with me was posed by Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track, pertaining to how Coach Gordon and the maturing AHL players in the organization would adjust to the speed of the NHL. The first thought that occurred to me was the biggest question mark going into this season: Jeff Tambellini. How is it that a perennial performer at the AHL level has not been able to bring his game up to NHL speed?

From my on-ice experience officiating in different junior leagues, understanding how the speed of the game changes as you move up can be a little difficult to the average fan. Mainly, one would think in the literal terms of physical speed and yes, the game does get "faster". But the speed that Liodice was also referring to is "cerebral speed". In essence, the biggest difference between the AHL and making the jump to the NHL is decision making.

A particular interview with Kyle Okposo after his first game would explain the point with a little more emphasis. In the interview, Kyle explained that he wasn't terribly concerned with his ability to keep up with the play, but more with how he would handle the decision making. This is where I think a player like Jeff Tambellini runs into trouble. Many Islander fans and Soundtigers fans know that Tambellini has the tools to make it as a top 6 forward in the NHL. We've all seen his speed and puck handling skills. But what it boils down to is the ability to make smart decisions with and without the puck at NHL speed. If Jeff wants to prove that he belongs, this is the one area in my opinion that he will need to work on.

To address this issue, I think Coach Gordon is on to something he's calling "overspeed". The general idea is getting players to play out of their comfort zone in practice so they perform at a higher level when the game is on the line. Only time will tell if this theory can be applied to an NHL squad. The past results, such as an AHL Coach of the Year season where his team, the P-Bruins went 55-18-3 speaks volumes. I would say that it's certainly possible that he can get this group of vets and youngsters on the Islanders to overachieve based on those statistics.

In the next installment after I get out of training camp for USA Hockey's JODP (Jr. Officiating Development Program), I'll be finalizing my piece on the NHL's Standard of play (which is similar, if not identical to USA Hockey's) and helping to explain what gets called and why. Until next time...

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

And Now for an Encore!


I'll be back in style in time for Training Camp in September with a new piece on the NHL's Standard of Play. Stay Tuned. It's good to be back.