Saturday, January 10, 2009

Catching Up on the First Half

I apologize to those who found a way to my blog and were regular readers. Life unfortunately got in the way of being able to sit down and have the time to pound out a blog for your reading pleasure. Between the Holidays and working hockey games, things have been quite hectic. However, now it's a New Year and some time has come my way.

The first thing that I'd like to cover is our beloved Islanders. These days I'm not even worried if they lose because I'm seeing the younger players on the team gaining experience and molding themselves into true NHL players. Look at the way that Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey, Chris Campoli and even Jeff Tambellini have raised their games to compensate for the lose of veterans like Doug Weight. They are beginning to control the game the way they want and it's showing in very close losses.

Speaking of losses and how they're being dealt with, let's talk a bit about Scott Gordon. As my dear friend 7th Woman remarked, "Has Scotty taken up drinking yet?". Well I'm sure there is probably a nice bottle of scotch in some drawer in his house but I don't think he's touched it...yet. Although the team's losses mount, they haven't ever really seemed down on themselves. They are trying to learn the system, the game and the lifestyle that the NHL demands. Despite their awful record and last place standing in the NHL I just don't see the players, coaching staff or front office being so negative that it affects how the team plays. It's business as usual and that's the way it truly needs to be. As for business as usual let's talk about our good friend Rick DiPietro.

The single most pleasing thing that has come out of this season for me (you WILL be SHOCKED) is the way the team has handled Rick DiPietro. Last season, things would have been quite different when it came to Ricky playing even though he might have been injured (The Ranger back-to-back doesn't count from last year). He's being handled with the kind of kid gloves that the "face of the franchise" should be handled with. If he can't go, don't force him and don't allow what a player wants to cloud the judgement when it comes to selecting a starting goaltender. Scott Gordon, Garth Snow and even Rick himself have managed to find that balance this season.

In the meantime, Joey MacDonald has proven without the shadow of a doubt, that he can handle an NHL workload and all of the fans (including my own) perceptions during the preseason and after the distasteful departure of Dubie have certainly been changed. However, I still feel compelled to quote a young fan by the name of Lawrence Watling that sat in front of the Blog Box back in December who said "Joey Mac has the rebound control of a brick wall". Thanks Larry because you brought up a great point about something the Islanders and Joey, need to work on...clearing the crease and controlling the rebounds.

With Andy Sutton out of the lineup for about the next month, the job of clearing the crease falls on venerable d-man Brendan Witt, Mark Streit and Chris Campoli. The problem with clearing the crease is not that the d-men aren't doing their jobs, it's that Joey Mac is not directing his rebounds to the corners and instead popping them back out into the slot. If you listen to a broadcast of the Isles while they're on the road, you'll hear Howie or more recently Jiggs (please come back full time)remarking about "what a juicy rebound Joey left out there". With a team in flux as it is, a goaltender absolutely cannot give the opposing team opportunities from prime scoring areas to just pop in an easy rebound.

With an astounding 269 man games lost so far this season, the Islanders face an uphill battle to do anything of significance in the second half. I'm sure that by March 4th we will know exactly what Garth has in store for next season and what the plans will be for the future. Many a rumor has been swirling about the services of Doug Weight, who has openly said he would rather not be a rental for a playoff run. Unfortunately, for the betterment of the team he may have to be packaged off to a team like Columbus for either draft picks or prospects. As much as I admire Doug as a person and a player and understand his desire to remain in the place he signed, his value is undeniable as a second line center and it will be difficult for Garth not to trade him.

Also, don't forget about the surging Mike Comrie and venerable Brendan Witt who also might be in new homes by 3:00 PM on March 4th. Comrie has brought up his trade value in recent games with inspired play. Unfortunately for Mike, the better he plays the more tradeable he becomes. Brendan on the other hand, another man I truly admire, seems disinterested and has been invisible this season except for the public calling-out of Scott Gordon's system. His value as a shutdown defenseman will be attractive to many teams on deadline day and I'm pretty sure you won't see him in an Isles uni after then as well.

I'm heading out to the Bridgeport Soundtigers v. Hartford Wolpack tonight. I'll make sure to give you guys a report from the event. I'm going to be a little more diligent in posting so everyone has something to read.

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