Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Ahh, who could forget that little Pat Benatar diddy (I had a moment this morning, I can't explain it)? The fact that it was recorded in 1979 and hit #9 on the Billboard charts in 1980 gives it even more special meaning to Isles' fans. I'm not here to reminisce about the Dynasty era because frankly, that was 30 years ago. Let's look toward the future for a minute and see where things go...starting today.

It is exactly 50 days to the NHL Trade Deadline and talks are starting to heat up amongst the bottom dwellers, bubble teams and playoff pretenders. Vinny is rumored, as usual, to be heading home to Montreal in a blockbuster. The Rangers have seemingly tried every angle from before and after missing out on the Mats Sundin sweepstakes (thank goodness that's over with). And the Islanders, have been rumored in every deal from Gaborik and Kovalchuk, to dealing Weight or Comrie for picks and prospects from Columbus. However this pans out, there are a couple of things I would really love to see from the Islanders from now to the Draft.

First, get off the whole Rick DiPietro train. It's time to seriously evaluate his ability to play this season and shut him down if necessary. This "let's play and see" attitude doesn't seem to be cutting it. The man's health is at risk if he doesn't rest and regain his strength. I understand that from a development point of view, you'd like him to play as much as he can. However, if the "as much" consists of one game every 15 played, then is it really worth it to keep this up? With 4 surgeries in the past 2 seasons I think it's safe to say that Rick will never be 100% percent for the rest of his career. At this point I would feel comfortable allowing Joey Mac, Yann Danis, Nathan Lawson and Peter Mannino to finish out the season for a hockey club that needs it's youngsters to get as much ice time as possible.

Speaking of youngsters, how have Okposo, Comeau, Bailey and even Tambellini looked lately? Their play has picked up considerably now that they have settled into regular spots on this roster. I'm most impressed with KO for his tenacity on the puck and responsibility without it. He's been a mad man for the last 3 weeks and I'm glad to see him finally finding his comfort zone. I was truly impressed with his first goal in Edmonton as he showed his desire and outright willingness to do what is necessary. Another play that really stuck with me from that game came at the end of the 1st period. It really put the youth on display and was certainly something Islanders fans can be hopeful for the future. On the powerplay, in the final minute, Campoli started the play with a long cross-ice pass to Bailey from the Isles' blueline, Bailey gained the zone and hit a streaking Comeau in stride with a beautiful pass through traffic and then Blake proceeded to toast Dwayne Roloson with 3 seconds left. Amazing what a little playing time can do...something that Scott Gordon has promised more of in the second half to the youngin's.

That does not mean that vets will get left behind. Guys like Trent Hunter, Richard Park, Mark Streit and surprisingly Andy Hilbert, are thriving under Coach Gordon and have wholeheartedly accepted the call. Don't count out guys like Bill Guerin and Doug Weight either. As much as I know that neither want to leave (explicitly stated by Weight earlier this month), it might be in the best interest of the franchise as a whole despite the better than average season that both have had to this point. Having the two of them together has been great, but all good things must eventually come to an end. What shouldn't happen in my opinion is a total reduction of ice time for the vets across the board. Doug Weight stated it best when he said, "If I'm earning the ice time, I expect to be out there". I can't disagree with a player that wants to play for the crest on his sweater. That is the mark of a true professional.

Some players however, may have forgotten what it's like to play for the guys in the room and the fans in the stands. The one sore thumb that really sticks out to me is Brendan Witt. As I stated in my Catching Up post, he just seems to be invisible this year and is almost silently begging for a trade. Granted, this is only my opinion and please don't get me wrong I think the world of Brendan. He's a great leader and a real solid shutdown d-man, but the old cliche just keeps coming up: "Maybe it's time for a change scenery". There are a number of playoff-bound teams that would love to add someone like Witt to their second pairing and make a serious run. We'll see what Garth does on that front in the next month and a half.

After the Deadline the season is pretty much over for the Isles and the next big excitement will be the Draft in June. As Chris Botta has so eloquently put it, we Islanders fans are on the Tavheduch Watch (Copyright: NYI Point Blank). Tavares and Hedman are 1a and 1b type draft picks. Duchene makes it in as a close 3rd. However, don't wish too hard for the Islanders to lose and land themselves at the bottom. My initial feeling on the draft lottery, considering the Islanders remain where they are, is that this might be one of those years that the worst team DOES NOT get the first pick. It's just a gut feeling, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised. So those of you out there who are singing the praises of John Tavares as the next savior of the Islanders, don't hold your breath. The Isles only have a 25% chance of landing that first pick in the ideal scenario. Those are odds I'm not terribly comfortable with. However, I won't say that you should lose hope. Every loss brings the Islanders closer to having a better chance but nothing is an absolute lock.

There is definitely hope on the horizon for this franchise. We have a GM and Coach working in harmony. There are prospects that are thriving in their respective leagues and roles. We've got some really promising youth on the NHL club and the AHL club is kicking some major tail now halfway through the season. And finally, the Lighthouse Project, a beacon of better times to come, hopefully will be under way in the near future. Despite, the gloomy events of the recent past and present, the future is shining bright.

Come out in force tonight for the Islanders/Rangers game at the Coliseum and let's start off this home stand on the right foot. It never hurts to beat the Rangers (they can lose to anyone else as far as I'm concerned). I hope to see you there. Don't hesitate to come by the Blog Box and say "hi".

For Questions, Comments and Bonehead Calls e-mail me at DougD84@optonline.net.