December 14, 2007

12/14/07 - Where Are They Now? -- Islanders Free Agents 2007

The 2007 NHL offseason was one of the most tumultuous summers any hockey fan could endure. The new CBA, just two years old, is still being adjusted to and learned by GMs and organizations around the league. Across the board, every team faced some roster shake up, and the Islanders were no exception.

But the free agency splash rippled out and subsided just in time for the '07-'08 season to start. By October, the Islanders were a totally different team, losing six of their top ten scorers to free agency, and replacing them with a mix of young and old faces from around the league. This new team has gone on to beat all the "expert" analysis and is in striking distance of the division lead, despite a recent scoring drought.

But as the season heads to the halfway mark, how have the ex-Isles been with their new teams this season? I asked some fellow NHL bloggers to give an inside perspective on the former Islanders' performances so far this year.

~

Jason Blake - Toronto Maple Leafs
By far, one of the most popular Islanders players in 2006-'07 was Jason Blake, who led the team in both goals and points. After his breakout season, however, the team and Jason couldn't come to terms on a new contract, and he was headed for Toronto. Fellow hockey blogger Michael Forbes from the Bitter Leaf Fan Page offered a look into what Leafs Nation expected from Blakey, and how he has been living up to those expectations.

"Before the signing, I didn’t know a great deal about Blake," said Forbes. "At $4M a year, all agreed that the salary was decent, but the five years term was way too long. Not many fans expect a repeat of his 40 goal season, but most expect him to net 25 to 30 this year."

Right before the season Blake had seemed poised to lead the Leafs as he had led the Isles. "The pre-season seemed to hold some promise. Blake and Sundin lit the lamp, the coach was confident, the players seemed gung ho. Then came Blake’s cancer scare."

In early October, Jason Blake announced that he has a chronic form of leukemia. His particular cancer is highly treatable, and according to Blake, "[the cancer] will not impact my ability to live my life as I otherwise would, and will not affect my ability to perform at my highest level."

"I hate to say it, but I think Blake’s health issues have buffered him or at least sheltered him somewhat from criticism for his performance to date. His performance (or lack thereof) has also been overshadowed by larger issues with the Leafs," added Forbes. Just as the Islanders have been shuffling lines to find production, the Leafs tried to find Blake a new place on a new line. It worked.

"By the 25 game mark, Blake’s goal production was dropping faster than a bungee jumping David Diehl, and coach Maurice moved him off the top line to a unit with Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker/Mark Bell. Since being moved to the second line, Blake’s production has gone way up. He’s potted a few goals and picked up even more helpers, good enough for 3rd on the Leafs in scoring. His offensive output came just in time as many were starting to question the signing."

Forbes concludes that, "given the price and term of his contract and the fact that team management sold Blake as the first line scoring winger, it’s probably a good thing that his health concerns have sheltered Blake somewhat from the usual off-ice media nonsense. He seems to have found a much better home on the second line and I hope Blake can continue to contribute, stay healthy, and have a good run the rest of the season."

We for the Islanders couldn't agree more. Jason treated us well, and we can only hope for the best for him in Toronto. Currently, he's on pace for 13 goals and 42 points this year. Be sure to check out Forbes' Bitter Leaf Fan Page for more commentary on Blake and the Leafs.

~

Ryan Smyth - Colorado Avalanche
When the Is
landers acquired Oilers hero Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline, it was the talk of the league. What many saw as a shame for Edmonton (and for that matter, all of Canada), us Long Islanders saw a trump card for the 2007 playoffs. On our drive to the post-season, Smyth added everything we had hoped for-- leadership, grit, points. But the market for Smyth was huge at the end of the season, and keeping him on the Island would prove to be a tremendous challenge. Despite being offered a huge contract to stay, Smyth chose to accept a lesser offer in Denver. Colorado Avalanche blogger David Driscoll-Carignan (inthecheapseats.com) tells the story from an Avs fan's perspective:

"Smyth is a guy many Avs fans have coveted for a while. When the extension talks with Edmonton ended with him getting traded, we all marked July 1st on the calendar. He seemed like a perfect fit for the team - we play a lot behind the net and he would have been a perfect addition for that system. Plus, he adds a lot of leadership and grit - we had plenty of the former, but none of the latter. We also had a ton of cap room. It seemed like a perfect marriage."

Thanks, David. It seemed just lik
e that for us, too. (Just kidding.)

This year, Smyth is playing comfortably in Colorado, and is on pace for 26 goals and 66 points. "So far, it's worked out well. He has [25] points. That's solid enough, but, in typical Smyth fashion, he's been involved in many goals he didn't get a point on, either from screens, near deflections, or just generally being a pain in the ass in front of the goalie. He's mostly played with Sakic on the first line, but has also spent time on the 2nd line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. I actually think this is the better line for him, but he's still been solid,"
Driscoll-Carignan said.

Interestingly enough, the one thing that seems to be holding Smyth back in Colorado is something that the Islanders have in spades: a point shot. As Driscoll-Carignan points out, "there is one thing that's holding him back a little bit on Colorado. None of our defensemen have a really great slapshot, so his effectiveness standing in front of the net and deflecting point shots on the powerplay is diminished a bit." You can't help but wonder how effective the Islanders PP could be with Bergeron and Berard shooting at the slot with Smyth setting up shop. (Sigh.)

The verdict, according to David? "All in all, we're quite happy to have him - he seems to be worth the money." Well put. But would he have been worth slightly more money? That's just something for us Islanders fans to ponder and lament. Check out the latest on Smyth and the Avs at David's blog: inthecheapseats.com.

~

Tom Poti / Victor Kozlov - Washington Capitals
Two of the Islanders' biggest factors last season left as a duo to the Washington Capitals. Defenseman Tom Poti and forward Victor Kozlov found new homes in America's Capital after Isles' management decided not to give in to inflated salary demands. Unfortunately, our Capitals friends over at Japers' Rink couldn't be reached for comment, but we can still look at the facts and figures
with a neutral view.

Tom Poti has been well known for his point shot, and has worked the PP effectively for years. It's strange, then, that he has yet to net a goal all year. His +/- has also slipped a bit, and is on pace for -15 by the end of the season. At his rate, he will garner 27 assists, and, well... zero goals.


Kozlov, on the other hand, has made his own space on the Capitals, coming in at 4th on the team in overall points, with 15 assists and 3 goals. At that rate, he'll have 48 points at the end of the season. That is slightly less than he earned last year on the Isles (51), but on a slumping Capitals team, that is nothing to shake a stick at.

In all, the Capitals did well in picking clean the NY teams, adding their number-2 scorer in Michael Nylander from the Rangers.

~

And who could forget our old friend Alexei Yashin... our token under-achieving all-star.

That old boy is doing well in the Russian Super League, coming in 22nd in league scoring with 24 points.

It appears he's making friends, too. This video has surfaced of him making acquantances with Anton Belov. (Yash is number 19, which is the number he originally wanted here in the US, but was retired (Trottier), so he took 79 because it was similar.)





~

Thanks for reading, and let's go Islanders!

December 6, 2007

12/06/07 - Free Fall

Well, the Islanders are doing... terribly. Go figure the last game I can see on TV this year is another depressing loss to the B's. Anyway, I wanted to quickly assure everyone that I'm still here -- working through the last weeks of the Fall semester -- and I'm now working on a collaborative piece with other NHL bloggers. It should be ready soon, so check back sometime next week for the scoop.

November 10, 2007

11/10/07 - Ketchup

Hey. It's been a while, I know, but it's also been a hectic few weeks (combined with a few stretches of no Islanders games). In any case, things are looking up for the Islanders lately, who stand tonight with the 2nd best winning percentage in the East.

Today, the Islanders re-acquired defenseman Freddy Meyer, which is by all accounts a great move. Letting him go wasn't the plan back in October; the roster conflict necessitated his move to the Sound Tigers, but having a one-way contract, Freddy needed to be put on waivers first. If he's nothing else, he is even more gritty depth and insurance against further injury. I doubt that he is going to be traded, as well.

Additionally, it looks like Bryan Berard is just days away from returning to the lineup, which should help pull the powerplay back up to the top of the league (he left with 4 points, and 2 game-winning goals in just 5 games).

Satan has been playing like he's possessed lately, and keeping him hot will be crucial to winning those close games. It also seems that Guerin has found a new role on the 3rd line, and Hunter is starting to play like his old self.

It really is a case of teamwork, grit, and determination that is leading a scrappy team to the top. Nobody expected the Isles to be where they are, even after 12 games.

It's a real good sign that the Islanders' attendance figures are way up this year (the sharpest year-to-year increase in all of sports, in fact), which shows that the fans are not only noticing the team's effort and hard work, but they are returning to the Coliseum regularly. People say that the NHL is on shaky ground with all the administrative bullshit and the lack of decent national TV coverage, etc., but the sport of hockey is still very popular, and people will indeed come out to see a good game.

Tonight, the Islanders host the Devils, and the next few games are all vital points against the division. It should be a very exciting November.
Let's go Islanders.

October 14, 2007

10/14/07 - Week Two

An interesting week, indeed. Following up a gritty win against the Rangers was an embarrassing loss in Toronto, and a tough loss in Philly. But we should have known what was coming, playing in Toronto after last season. (Unsportsmanlike on Comrie? Are you serious?)

Anyway... while parts of the team preformed well, namely Bryan Berard and the 3rd and 4th lines, the Comrie-Guerin-Fedotenko top line has seemingly fallen asleep. If the team is going to be successful regularly, it is going to have to rely on this line for at least one or two points per game. Obviously, it's a lot to ask of a single line, but in all honesty, they have the skills to do it. And the way the defense is shooting, it won't take a whole lot more to take the pressure off of DiPietro and Dubielewicz. Let's not forget that the Isles bought-out Yashin because he was inconsistent; what the team needs is a reliably producing first line.

But in any case, let's not look down on everything. Berard has proven to be a great acquisition, stepping up his defensive and physical games against the Flyers last night. Simon is back, and was almost waiting to drop the gloves. It was a rough week, sure, but the team is still shaking itself down and finding the right spots for everyone. No games until the Capitals on Thursday, giving the Isles lots of time to practice and rearrange accordingly. I'm excited to see what happens.

October 9, 2007

10/09/07 - Week One

After three games, the Islanders stand with a 2-1 record against the Rangers tomorrow night. This nationally televised game will surely be every bit as exciting as the preseason brawl that occurred just over two weeks ago.

With that said, the Islanders have been playing very well as a team, and the new top line of Guerin, Comrie, and Fedotenko has proved to be among the league's most effective over these past games.

Despite yesterday's loss to the Capitals, I've really liked what the Islanders have put out there thus far. And with today's addition of Bryan Berard to the formal lineup, things can only get more interesting. It's unfortunate to see Freddy Meyer go (waivers to PHX), but you gotta do what's best for the team, and Berard can clearly run our powerplay most effectively. Not to mention that the Isles have the best PP in the league thus far, as well.

There is much more to be said about the past week, but of course, time is short. If you're like me, and find yourself out of NY for Wednesday, be sure to check out the Isles-Rags match on Versus.
Let's go Islanders.

September 17, 2007

9/17/07 - It Begins

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, hockey fans everywhere were able to view tonight's preseason match between the Islanders and the Thrashers in North Bay, Ontario.

Now, if only they would make that sort of thing possible on nightly basis... wait.

Today also marked the launch of the NHL's new online TV service, powered by NHL Center Ice. For $150, even a castaway (ha) like myself could watch the games live. This could be huge. But then again, $150 is a lot to a college budget. For now, we'll see what happens.

Moving along. The gap in posts. A combination of lack-of-news and the bustle of move-in and classes has kept me from posting for a little less than a month. A quick recap, for continuity's sake:
  • 8/30 - Berard at training camp officially announced.
  • 9/04 - IslanderMania, a fan-run message board is made the official board of the Islanders.
  • 9/10 - Islanders name Mike Dunham goaltending coach.
  • 9/11 - Islanders trade Nokelainen to Bruins for Ben Walter and cond. 2nd rounder in 09.
  • 9/13 - Training camp opens in Moncton, N.B.
  • 9/17 - Islanders lose in OT to Thrashers in North Bay, ON.
Okay, so a quick rundown is great, but what's to come?

More posting, increasing as the season begins. An increased focus on details and editorial pieces, rather than simple report-and-opinion posting.

It's been a busy sophomore year so far, but the Isles still find a place here, among the hectic schedule and class demands. A million thanks to those who have come back often during the blog pause. It's good to be back, and it's good to have the Islanders back.

Thanks for reading, and let's go Islanders!

August 26, 2007

8/26/07 - The Case for Bergeron

Early this week, it became apparent that the Islanders will have defenseman Bryan Berard try-out at training camp this year. Berard, who will be testing his injury-prone back and poor eyesight for a shot at a job, would be expected to fill the role of offensive defenseman with his powerful shot and offensive skill. But can too many cooks ruin a power play unit? Let's not forget one of the scoring defensemen we already have.

At 5-10, 197-lbs, Marc-Andre Bergeron is not the biggest defender there is, and due to his size, he will probably be forced to give up some ice time against the bigger forwards. He won't be able to fill the same role that Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, and Radek Martinek will.

But with that said, his clear niche is the power play, where he can regularly deliver that booming shot of his. Since the start of his playing career in 2003, he has been touted as a power play quarterback, much along the lines of Berard and McCabe. It's surprising to me that so many people are writing Bergeron off of their lineups so soon. Given the right circumstances and teammates, he shines.

Consider this: in 55 games with Edmonton last year, Bergeron totaled 25 points and was -9. In the short 23 games he played with the Islanders, he earned 21 points, was +5, and his shooting percentage rose to 11%. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. At this rate, if Bergeron had played the full season with the Islanders, he would have tallied 21 goals and had 54 assists, for a total of 75 points. Tom Poti, although assuming a similar role on the powerplay, only scored 6 times and earned 44 points last season.

Would a power play unit benefit from having two shooters the likes of Bergeron and Berard at the point? Or would the focus on offense leave a dangerous gap for a shorthanded rush? To me, the best situation would be two separate power play lines with one point-shot on each, paired with a bigger, defensive-minded defenseman. Although Berard is bigger than Bergeron (6-2, 220-lbs), he lacks in physical play and can often forget that he is a defenseman. And let's not forget that Campoli has shown some offensive promise of his own.

With the kind of potential we're looking at next year from Marc-Andre, we may want to look at Berard as a wait-and-see luxury. If he meshes well at camp, he could find a solid place on this team. But for what the Islanders do have, he may have a tough time breaking into the defensive corps.

So when we want to make predictions as to who will have a "career year" in '08, let's not count out Marc-Andre Bergeron, who stands to impress a lot of people this year.

August 25, 2007

8/25/07 - A New Look

Hey all, sorry for the brief period of downtime as I fixed the blog template. But as you can see, I've finally got the colors working better, and added a new background image! Please, if you have a second, give me some feedback on the poll to the right! Or, if you really have some great ideas, criticism, or otherwise interesting words to get out, leave a comment.

Thanks,
-Andy

August 17, 2007

8/17/07 - Sizes, Prices, and Cut

Since yesterday, many questions have come up regarding the new RBK Edge uniform for our Isles. The Islanders' order form was oddly vague, and offered little as far as choice and quality.

It also appears that the uniforms being pre-ordered by the Islanders are the replica cut, and even customized for $210, are not the same as those featured by the team.

But it seems that the NHL.com store has other, cheaper plans in store. Offered today was the "Premier" cut of the Isles RBK Edge home and away jerseys, in sizes ranging from Small to XX-Large, two sizes more than currently offered by the Islanders. It appears that "Premier" is to the new RBK Edge uniforms as "Replica" was to the old.
The NEW 2007 New York Islanders Premier Jersey from Reebok® is made of high-quality polyester two-way stretch pique fabric and has solid mesh inserts for ventilation. This officially licensed jersey is engineered to duplicate the on-ice team jersey. The front crest is embroidered just like the authentic jersey and the single layer screen printed tackle twill shoulder patches (where applicable) are sewn directly to the jersey.
But the real kicker is that the price on NHL.com is actually cheaper than those on the Islanders' pre-order. At $115, they are slightly more reasonable than the pre-order pricing.

As of now, customization of these Premier uniforms seems unavailable, but at these cheaper prices, it would probably be best to order one plain at this price, and have it customized later. Who knows, maybe then you can omit the number on the upper chest and add a "C" or "A" for your respective player.

So far no word on the Authentic cut of the Edge uniforms, but I'll keep an ear out for anything more about these new uniforms and their pricing and details.
Thanks for reading.

Update - 8/18:
Just an interesting, yet small, note: IceJerseys.com is currently offering preorders of the "Authentic" cut of the new Islanders uniforms, at a fairly reasonable price of $250.

August 16, 2007

8/16/07 - New Uniforms Unveiled

Put this one to bed, folks. After months of speculation, nerves, and flying rumors, the Islanders today unveiled their official RBK Edge uniforms for next season. And let me say, they are very sharp indeed.

As you can see, the new uniforms are indeed the ones noted previously in the leaked photos and some renderings. Orange sleeves, broken with white and blue stripes, shoulder area etched with opposite colors, thinner stripes at the waist, and a larger logo. All of these things have grown on me quite a bit, especially the new geometry and stripe design at the waist. It may look strange on its own, but I think it will really make the uniform look less awkward when it is on somebody.

However, there is one detail I am not too happy with, and I'm sure most of you already know what I mean. The numbers on the front of the uniform. If there is anything else that could have made the uniforms look like NFL jerseys, please let me know. It's not like it will help people in the stands or watching on TV recognize the players any better. To me, it's an unnecessary feature that only clutters the front of the uniform.

But don't get me wrong. I really like these uniforms. They are sharp, bright, and most importantly, didn't change the overall look of the team. Sure they aren't exactly the royal blue traditional uniforms many of us were hoping for, but there is word that next year there will be a royal blue 3rd jersey. I'll keep my ears out for anything to that effect. Until then, thank you to everyone who helped along the long wait for this day. It's really indicative of the whole fanbase that we had so many people out there sending in photographs, drawing up their own renditions, and even meeting with the team. It really made for an exciting offseason.

Thanks for reading.


Follow-Up - 4:00pm

For your convenience, here are the pricing and details for the uniform pre-order, which is now being offered via the Islanders official website.
Current sizes available: S, M, L, XL (adult only)

Non-season ticket holders:
> Non-customized uniform - $135
> Customized w/name & number - $210

Season ticket holders:
> Non-customized uniform - $75
> Customized w/name & number - $150

Pick-up at the Islanders team store: Free
Shipped: add $17
Not too unreasonable, especially given the supposedly nicer material that they are made of. And with the new dimensions and cut, hopefully the uniforms will look better for everyday wear, as well.

But, as with most things with this team, nobody will agree 100% on the new look. But the one thing that every fan will agree on is simple: put a winning team on the ice, and it won't matter what they are wearing.
Let's go Islanders.

August 15, 2007

8/15/07 - Isles add Vasicek, Depth

It wouldn't be late summer if you could actually recognize the Islanders team, would it? But as I like to look at it, change is good. And as for a team that lost nearly all of their top players in July, we'll take all the depth we can find.

Today, the Islanders signed depth forward Josef Vasicek. At 26, the large-framed center brings a lot to the defensive end of the forwards. From how he is described, he is another classic 'Nolan-type' player.

And that's a phrase I've heard less and less of since the draft. In all the stress and confusion of the free agency period, especially considering the amount of pure... loss the Isles have seen, we seem to be forgetting that the organization is building a team around a belief. While I wanted to keep Jason Blake on Long Island, I knew that he didn't exactly fit into the team's mold for the future. That's probably why there was never a heavy pitch to keep him around. In the same motion is the effort to sign players that, -- like Vasicek -- show grit, character, and a good work ethic.

If this means that we will have to wait to build our team, I am fine with that. But with the progress that Garth and Co. has made over the span of the summer -- especially given the "dire" circumstances -- I think that we might all be in for a surprise next year.

August 13, 2007

8/13/07 - Back in Business

Hey all,
I'm back at the helm, with a freshly tuned computer and a fresh look at the Islanders community. The summer is beginning to wind down, and as any good hockey fan knows, that means things are just getting started for another year.

But it also means that I'll soon be returning to Boston... a place where there are no Islanders, only Bruins. But that's only going to redouble my efforts here. After all, following the team from afar is what I do; it's why I'm writing here.

Though this week brought some Islanders news I couldn't be here to cover, there will assuredly be plenty more as this summer ends, as training camp begins, and right through until the drop of the puck on October 5th.

As I continue participating (as much as I can) in the Islanders community, I thank all of you for reading and supporting my writing. For a blog writer, there is nothing better than getting feedback from readers. Whether it is in a comment to a post, or simply seeing readers return on a regular basis, I really appreciate the support.

Thanks again, and here's to a great team in '08!
Andy Facini

August 4, 2007

8/04/07 - Downtime

Due to computer repair and a short time spent away from home, Islanders Castaway will be unattended for a little over one week. Apart from (very) major developments, there will be a lull in updates until next Monday at the earliest.

You can find all the latest Islanders related news, rumors, and discussion from any of the fine sites in IslesNet, located on the right-hand side of this page.

As always, thanks for reading!

August 3, 2007

8/03/07 - Hunter Gets a Raise

Though not the full asking price for Trent, an arbitrator ruled that Trent Hunter's salary for 2007-08 will rise to $1.55M. As expected, the Islanders accepted the ruling. I couldn't put it better than Garth himself:
"Letting Trent go was never a consideration for us," said Islanders general manager Garth Snow. "He's an important piece to our team; that was never up for debate. We're glad he'll be in an Islanders uniform in September."
He really is the future of this team, on and off the ice. Can't wait to see what he does in the upcoming season. He is on track to have a career year, being an UFA next summer.

August 1, 2007

8/01/07 - Hunter at Arbitration

Today, clutch forward Trent Hunter and the Islanders made their cases in front of an NHL arbritator. There is no news regarding the meeting or its outcome, but there will surely be some details.

Check back here often, as well as all the sites in IslesNet for the lastest updates on the case; they may come as early as tonight.

UPDATE 9:10PM:
According to Newsday, a ruling on today's meeting is expected by Friday. The meeting was reported as being "amicable".

We can hope for a very positive outcome for both sides. I am sure today's meeting was smooth, unlike the Sean Avery arbitration.

July 28, 2007

7/28/07 - Isles Uniforms '08 III (Update)

Thanks to an alert Islanders fan at Islanders Country forums, we now have another look at the new RBK uniforms for next year.

This photo is from Stony Brook University, where there was an Islanders moon-bounce set up as a promotion at the SBU Film Festival.

Hey, it's Yashin! Not sure when this was painted, but it can be assumed that (based on more recent accounts of the uniforms) it was after the buy-out and the order was simply not updated/changed.

Note some differences from the prototype leaked photograph, including blue all-around torso and white numbers. Orange tie-up laces are seen as well. It still isn't official, of course, but it is an interesting find for sure.

July 26, 2007

7/26/07 - Islanders Uniforms '08... Again

There's been a recent lull in Islanders news, so now might be a good time to discuss what's new with the uniform redesign for the Isles.

Before all else, let's just acknowledge that nobody really knows what is going on in the Islanders camp, and that everything we know is based on a leaked photo, and dozens of rumors and other conjecture.

Here is the infamous leaked photograph:


We know for sure that the photo was taken with a cell phone, and that the uniforms pictured are real. But real doesn't mean final. Many have noted the various other uniforms hanging up in the photograph, and expect that this one is most likely a prototype.

Since that photo came to light, there has been little more hard evidence out there other than "I heard from my friend..."s and more guesswork.

Then recently, a group of administrators and moderators from IslanderMania were invited to a meeting, of sorts, with Chris Botta and company at the Coliseum for a sneak peak at the uniforms. They were candid, as instructed, about the look of it, but from what they could tell us, it is a "variation of that "prototype" that we saw. But different." The general sentiment is that the new uniforms are quite nice looking, contrary to popular opinion regarding the leaked photo.

Here is a graphic rendition, based upon the accounts of the IslanderMania witnesses. I am told it is not far off. Interestingly similar to some of those early NY Islanders Country members' designs back in June.


As for when the official announcement will come, that is still to be seen. There are reports floating around that it could come as early as next week, but as Greg Logan reports, they will most likely be unveiled at the beginning or the end of Islanders training camp, September 13th or 22nd.

As for the Team Store, which recently reopened in the Broadway Mall, there are more rumors from the workers there that support a more early unveiling, possibly August 8th or 15th.

But again, nobody knows anything for sure. The new changes are coming, and we do have a general idea as to what the uniforms will look like, but now the question is a matter when it will become official. Check back here for news and updates as they happen.

Thanks for reading.

EDIT 7/28: See update and new photo here.

July 21, 2007

7/21/07 - Chris Simon Returning for 08

According to the NHL Players' Association, the Islanders have completed a deal with LW Chris Simon. The terms are $475k over one year. Simon still has a few games remaining on his suspension from his March 8th slash of Rangers' Ryan Hollweg.

This is a crucial move that absolutely needed to happen for the Islanders. Chris Simon was a big piece of the team all last season, and his absence showed during the playoff run. It's about time we move on and understand that his slash on Hollweg was nothing more than a terrible, but momentary, lapse of judgement. He is a force on the locker room and on the ice, and he will definitely be a huge boost to the Isles next season.

July 20, 2007

7/20/07 - Alexei Yashin Signs with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

According to their official website, former Islanders captain Alexei Yashin has signed a contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League. The terms are unspecified.

Alexei played for Lokomotiv during the 2005 NHL lockout, and will be joining 2006-07 Islanders teammate Randy Robitaille.

I hope for only the best for Alexei. It was clearly not working on Long Island, and that's all there is to it. He has been a class act through the entire buy-out proceedings, and I really hope he can return to his old form playing in Russia.

July 18, 2007

7/18/07 - 10,000 Visits & A New Look

Sometime yesterday afternoon, as I returned to work muttering and grumbling about the last development in the Nassau Hub transit dilemma, Islanders Castaway received its 10,000th page visit since late March. I can't express enough thanks to the loyal readers out there who have made this blog such a success.

To celebrate this milestone, I have revamped much of the site's look and feel, changing several fonts and moving some pieces around. I also revisited the primary logo, using a few familiar pieces from Islanders logos past. I hope you enjoy the new look, and I would love to hear any feedback you have!

Also, be on the lookout for an special Islanders Castaway giveaway/contest sometime soon. I am working out the details now, and hope to have the fun going by next week! Any ideas/recommendations would be appreciated!

To everyone out there reading, thank you!
Andy Facini

July 17, 2007

7/17/07 - Attendance Woes, Part II

In what I can only describe as rampant idiocy, the top three solutions to the Nassau Coliseum's transit problem were thrown out yesterday, according to Newsday.

The linked article details that the propositions for a LIRR station, a trolly service, and a monorail to the Coliseum have been scrapped. The remaining ideas for rapid transit service to the new NVMC site are: light rail transit, rapid bus transit, or an "automated guideway transit system", which is apparently a monorail on wheels.

This decision is infuriating. While the remaining three options will certainly help the situation, the real solution was to place a Long Island Rail Road station in or around the proposed Hub. As I've discussed previously, Long Island is a unique place for hockey. The majority of the fans aren't found over a 10-mile radius. No, try a 100-mile radius. LI isn't built like a city, and the task of just getting to the arena can become a real challenge for some people.

The only existing infrastructure connecting Long Island (besides the highways) is the LIRR. Regardless of how much it costs to build, and how much it costs for people to ride, for that matter, nobody can argue that direct connections to the NVMC site would provide millions (if not tens of millions) of Long Islanders with an easy way to get to the Islanders and Dragons games, not to mention the many concerts, conventions, and public functions that will be held there.

I'm not placing blame on who exactly is the loony in this situation. That is still to be seen, and at this point, doesn't really make a difference. But regardless of who dropped the ball yesterday, the site developers should still be fighting tooth and nail for the opportunity to directly connect their proposal with the rest of Long Island.

Isn't that the idea, after all?

July 16, 2007

7/16/07 - Campoli Contract Complete

And just like that, there is some news.

Despite some unfounded rumors that the Islanders were in the midst of sending him off in a trade, the Islanders today signed 23 year-old defender Chris Campoli to a 3-year contract. The exact value of the contract is currently undisclosed. This comes at a time when the Islanders are severely lacking on the blue line, and can only provide some much needed depth to the system.

Personally, I love the move. Campoli has found his way under a lot of peoples' skin lately, but I believe that he is the future of the Islanders defense. At the very least, he is expected to become a powerplay specialist, and with the right leadership from veteran defenders, could really become an all-star player in the future.

It is also telling of the Islanders future as a whole. The team is committed to building from the ground up, using veteran leadership to enhance the development of the younger players.
A great move, in my opinion.

7/16/07 - All Quiet on the Island

Perhaps too quiet. It is Monday afternoon, and there is no real news to report. But not for a lack of speculative buzz, however.

All signs point to this week being a busy one for many NHL teams, with arbitration closing in, and many teams struggling to resolve their payroll. The Islanders have been rumored to be on the verge of completing a significant trade, most likely with a team on the West coast. I would have to assume Vancouver, which is in need of scoring, and is looking to move some defenders, which is something the Islanders lack. Additionally, several UFAs are still reported to be in talks with the Isles, among them Derek Morris, Andy Suttion, Bryan Berrard, and to a lesser extent, Danny Markov.

While there is no news to break now, that may change as quickly as tonight for the Islanders. Check back here for news and developments as they happen. Thanks for reading.

July 9, 2007

7/09/07 - Islanders Press Event Recap

Well, I was wrong. In fact, I was "bogus". From the Islanders website:
Although the rumor of the new Islanders jersey being unveiled today is certifiably bogus – and there is not expected to be news of any additional free agents today – fans will want to stay tuned from beginning to end. You never know: there could be a surprise worth waiting for.
Well, a whopping 15 minutes later, and there was no real surprise. At least, nothing close to the new uniforms us fans are waiting for.

After introducing Sim, Fedotenko, and Comrie, Garth Snow presented Bill Guerin with the team captaincy, in as boring a fashion as one can imagine. It was nice to see all the new players and to have some enthusiasm going for the Islanders, but I can't help but feel gypped a little.

Hopefully, more news will come sometime soon.

And only to clear record, I was not starting a "rumor" concerning the new uniforms. That's not my game. I was offering my own speculation to a very convincing and realistic scenario. C'est la vie.

July 8, 2007

7/08/07 - Islanders Press Event Preview

On Friday, the Islanders website announced a press event to take place Monday at 12:30 PM. The event will focus on the introduction of the Islanders' new skaters; Sims, Fedetenko, Guerin, and Comrie.

From the moment I read the announcement, something struck me as strange. There is an odd kind of buzz that the organization is trying to start. Even the fact that it is being called a press 'event', rather than a press conference is somewhat interesting.

Then it hit me. The Islanders are planning more than just an introduction of their new players. They are going to introduce the "new look" of the team. Literally.

Expect the Islanders to unveil their new 2007-08 uniforms at this press event. Of course, I could be wrong about this, as I have no 'inside info' to the situation, but everything seems to be falling into place just right.

A team that, after a series of embarrassing losses at the dawn of free agency -- trying to recover and rebuild -- is a perfect candidate to make yet another big announcement to keep moving forward. We already know that the team has had uniform prototypes made up for a few months now. Factor in Friday's other announcement of the new players' official uniform numbers, and I believe you get the picture. The situation is just right.

The event is scheduled for 12:30, and will be covered on the Islanders website, and on IslesTV. You can be sure that it will be exciting, uniform announcement or not.
Thanks for reading.

July 5, 2007

7/05/07 - Islanders Completely Restart

It's funny, how fickle we Islanders fans are. Just four days ago, we were crying our eyes out and lining up to return our season ticket packages. But suddenly, in the span of under three hours, life is good again on Long Island.

GM Garth redeemed himself today by signing veteran winger Bill Guerin and hard-nosed center Mike Comrie. They were signed to a 2-year, $9M contract and a 1-year, $3.4M contract, respectively.

Between today and yesterday's addition of Ruslan Fedotenko, the Islanders have regained a solid first line, and can finally fill a full four lines of forwards. There is yet some work to do, but major problem number one has been addressed, and the team is rebounding well indeed.

With players like Guerin and Sillinger, the Islanders certainly have enough experience and veterancy to lead the team.
With players like Comrie and Hunter, the Isles also have enough youth and talent to turn a lot of heads yet again.

So, before you decide to proclaim "Garth must go", and before you turn in your season tickets, think again.
Patience has paid off.

The Islanders haven't gone anywhere. They're just going to be a little different. Again.

July 1, 2007

7/01/07 - Islanders Face a Complete Restart

Gutted.

The New York Islanders no longer bear any resemblance to the team that surprised everyone in 2006-07. Tonight, after the first day of free agency, the Islanders retain four of their top ten scorers in 07.

Jason Blake signed a 5-year, $20M contract in Toronto.
Ryan Smyth signed a 5-year, $31M contract in Colorado.
Victor Kozlov signed a 2-year, $5M contract in Washington.
Tom Poti signed a 4-year, $14M contract also in Washington.

That's a loss of 232 points from last season. Add in the Yashin buy-out and Robiataille's decision to play in Russia, and that number jumps to 322 points that the Islanders currently have zero replacement for.

That should pretty much speak for itself.

After all that, how could there be any reason to keep the faith?
Consider this.

Rather than spending an exorbitant amount on the other free agents this afternoon, the Islanders held the line. As much as this non-action may have contributed to Smyth's decision to leave, this also leaves the team with one of the biggest cap spaces in the league. And not for lack of choices, either; some major players are still available.

Look at the Rangers. Today, they picked up both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Two big-name free agents, for sure. But take another look. The Rags gave up $7.3M a year in cap space to Gomez for the next seven years, and $7.05M a year in cap space to Drury for the next five. If either of these players doesn't work out, or becomes injured, the Rangers just committed salary cap suicide. Not to mention the fact that an all-star at every position doesn't equate a winning team. Look at the Yankees. What place are they in?

That aside, the average age of the Islanders just fell a considerable amount as well. Though a lot of fans doubt the Isles minor-league status, the truth is that there are a lot of determined young skaters out there waiting to fill the Ted Nolan mold.

Unfortunately, the biggest blow the Islanders suffered today was not on ice, but rather off ice. There's no doubting the organization is nearly undefendable in the eyes of the rest of the league. Attendance... well, that will probably end up being the biggest joke next season.

So in this pit that the Islanders have gone so gracefully headlong into, there is nowhere to go but up. It will be very interesting to watch Snow and Wang pull the team out of this tailspin.

But don't give up yet, Islanders fans. It's still only July 1st, and while the team has a long way to go before September, try to have a little faith in the team. It will be a hard sell to the remaining free agents and any other potential players out there (especially without Smyth sticking around), but rest assured, the Islanders will be there in the fall, and they will show up to play. Wether it takes the signing of a few fresh free agents (at inflated prices, of course), or a complete team restart with a roster of unknown faces and possible suprise talents, the Islanders aren't out of the picture, not in the slightest.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. And let's leave it at that for now.
Thanks for reading.

June 29, 2007

6/29/07 - Smyth to Test Free Agency

Say it ain't so! Over at Spector's Hockey, Spector reports that Ryan Smyth's agent, Don Meehan, said that Ryan would test the free agent market tomorrow. Meehan, was quoted from a Toronto-area radio talk show, was backed up by Darren Dregger of TSN.ca.

This really can't come as much of a surprise to us Islanders fans. With the kind of buzz (and money) being thrown around this summer, wouldn't you want to see what all your offers were?

I still have faith that Smyth may remain an Islander.

It makes you think, however, about what all that buzz was about yesterday. Could it be that there is already a deal or an agreement already in place, and it is contingent on the Islanders' moves in the FA market? Or is it possible that yesterday's buzz was exactly that- yesterday's buzz.

June 28, 2007

6/28/07 - On the Brink CORRECTED

No, not only on the brink of the free agency period.

There has been what can only be described as "explosive buzz" tearing through the Islanders communities in the past few hours. I originally reported that an informant on IslandersCountry has leaked information that something "BIG" is about to go down.

It has since become apparent that the leak was first brought to light at IslanderMania forums. Thanks to a concerned reader who contacted me and set the record straight.

From the information divulged, one can only be led to believe that Ryan Smyth has signed a contract with the Islanders. Not only do all the pieces fit together perfectly, but the details (including those about lawyers being involved) are being backed up by other sources, among which Eklund at HockeyBuzz. Normally, I don't put much stock in Eklund in the Smyth affairs, but these are details that are backed up by multiple sources. I believe that makes at least an (E2) by his count. [sarc.])

But, of course, nothing is final until the hammer hits the chisel. You can bet something is going to happen in the next 24 hours, if not much sooner. Check back here often for updates, as well as Greg Logan's blog for breaking news.

June 24, 2007

6/24/07 - Draft Day II

Well, the draft is over, and in essence, not much has changed for the Islanders. The team acquired some solid defensemen in the later rounds, but aside from that, the Islanders are the same team they were two days ago.

Despite numerous unfounded rumors from the Canadian press, the rights to Smyth were not dealt, and the team is moving ahead without any unnecessary roadblocks. It's good to be proven wrong once in a while, eh Canada?

Anyway no hard feelings... we are all waiting (unpatiently) for July 1 to find out the actual destination for all our free agents.

Additionally, I was surprised to see that only three teams (Washington, Boston, Columbus) unveiled their new uniforms at the draft. I suppose most teams decided to wait for the right time over the summer. (Anyone else thinking a Ryan Smyth press conference, perhaps?)

Some good news, though... the Blue Jackets are already taking public orders for their new uniforms, and the price for a "premier" (the equivalent to replica) is a reasonable $110 for an adult; $55 for kids. Naturally, there is an authentic version for $250, but even that price is a a great deal better than the rumored $500+ price tag. Add in $75 for name/number if you wish, but you still have a very reasonable price for a new hockey jersey.

So, only a few days left until another busy weekend in the hockey world. I'll be keeping my ears open for any interesting developments.

Thanks for reading.

June 22, 2007

6/22/07 - Draft Day I

Today is the day!

The NHL Draft will begin tonight at 7:00PM EST at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Expect a lot of buzz to be generated over the next 48 hours, as teams choose their draft picks, trade out players, and unveil their new uniforms. Although the Islanders currently do not have a first or second round draft choice, that may change rapidly in dealings with other teams.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to update Islanders Castaway with the latest news and draft buzz until later tonight at the earliest. Until then, I recommend you check out the great sites ain IslesNet, located on the lower right of this article.

Thanks for reading, and let's keep our fingers crossed for an exciting and productive draft!

June 21, 2007

6/21/07 - Update II: New Bruins Uniforms Announced

Officially announced at the official Bruins website, the team has changed their look for the 2007-2008 season.


The new "B" spoke logo is very sharp, and I love the retro secondary logo.

This confirms the rumors regarding the "alternate" Draft Day caps for sale at NHL.com, and reinforces the notion of big changes to come soon.
Note: the Draft Day hats being more believable now, I think it's safe to announce that the Islanders will see a return to royal blue, or at the least, a lighter shade of navy for next season.

More updates as they break.

-----
UPDATE: 4:00pm

It seems the Bruins have taken the leap and announced their new RBK Edge Uniforms for 2007-08. Here they are, courtesy this article at HockeyJournal.

They are great. A return to the vintage design for the B's, and finally, the proof we needed to stop sweating about those horizontal lines. If the Caps' and Bruins' decisions to return to their traditional roots is any indication, I think a lot of Islanders fans are going to be very pleased when the new uniform is announced.

Tomorrow promises to be an explosive day for hockey. Let's all keep an open mind and an open ear for all the developments that are sure to happen in the next 24 hours.

June 20, 2007

6/20/07 - Islanders Uniforms '08 - Part II

Today, the Washington Capitals new uniform was leaked on their website. This was, of course, to be expected to happen at some time; it's actually a surprise it took so long for this to get out.

As you can see, the Caps have made the return to the classic red, white, and blue color scheme, and have redesigned the old logo.

Even though the photo is of less-than-great quality, the uniform looks very sharp. I am glad to see the primary "eagle" crest design get the boot, and the new font for "Capitals" combines old tradition with new style.

What is interesting to note is that the Caps' design is not just a re-colorization of the original All-Star Game templates. This is a very good thing to see; one of the rumors floating around was that the new team uniforms were going to be based upon the All-Star Game designs. . In the same boat of such rumors, though, it is evident that there are no horizontal stripes shown in this photo. Granted, the image is cut off and the uniform may very well have some stripes at the end of the sleeves or the waist, but there is no evidence to debunk this troubling rumor.

What does this mean for the Islanders?

Well, if you still want to believe what the Caps uniform failed to disprove, the Islanders may lose the traditional orange/white stripes on the sleeves and waist. Yes, this would be a huge loss, but I still have faith in the people behind the redesign, and I don't think us Islanders fans have a lot to worry about. I also don't think we have to worry about those under-arm and side vertical stripes, as seen on the All-Star prototype. If the Caps didn't adopt it, then it must not be necessary.

In related news, the NHL Draft Day baseball caps were unveiled recently, and several of them raised a few eyebrows around the league. "Alternate" designs of these hats were found on the league server, among them one with the new Capitals logo. Some of these caps aren't yet available for sale, and speculation is that the league wants to wait for the official announcements.

The Islanders' own Draft Day cap is stirring up a little buzz, as well. As first noticed on IslandersCountry, the cap is colored royal blue, and not the navy blue the team has used since 1995. This seems to conform recent rumors about the return to royal for the Islanders, including supporting theories on the color design of their new website.

Other thoughts:
It is reported that the new Columbus Blue Jackets' logo will be their current third logo; the Ohio flag wrapped in red, white, and blue.

According to extra images found on the NHL store server, the Bruins logo may face a slight change in the "B" font.

There have also been rumors of the Buffalo Sabres having a total redesign again, amid much criticism of their new 2006-07 crest.


Friday is the day for all fans waiting for the official uniform announcements. Even before the 2007 NHL Draft kicks off in Columbus, several teams are already planning their official announcements. More is sure to come, and as Draft Day comes closer, the possibility of more leaks will be high. Keep it here for updates and thoughts.

June 18, 2007

6/18/07 - Bergenheim Back for 07-08

Islanders TV is reporting that Sean Bergenheim has negotiated a deal that lands him back on Long Island for the 2007-2008 hockey season. Bergenheim signed a 1-year contract, and will appear at Islanders training camp in the fall.

For the full story, visit the Islanders web page and watch the Islanders TV article featuring GM Garth Snow and Asst. GM Ryan Jankowski.

June 16, 2007

6/16/07 - Hockey Night on LI Recap

Today, I co-hosted the Hockey Night on Long Island radio show, along with Alex and special guest Tom from IslesInfo.com. The original special guest, Shawn P. Roarke, did not call-in as expected. Nobody's quite sure what occurred in that respect, but a Alex and I were very grateful to Tom for calling in on such short notice.

We had a great show, where we talked about today's Samsonov trade, the Isles' new website, the upcoming draft, and of course, lots of free agent speculation and thoughts. Some callers brought up interesting points, and made for a generally solid discussion.

If you missed the show, and would like to listen to the tape, visit the Hockey Night on LI radio website. You can find today's and any of the other 16 shows available online at any time under show archives.

Thanks to those who tuned in!

June 15, 2007

6/15/07 - Hockey Night on Long Island: Saturday at 3:00PM

Our friends over at Hockey Night on Long Island have humbled me with an invitation to co-host tomorrow's matinee show. Unfortunately, regular host Steve is unable to make it tomorrow, and I was offered the chance to fill in for him. Of course, I accepted.

The show starts at 3:00PM, and the (very) special guest will be NHL.com's senior writer, Shawn P. Roarke.

If you haven't tuned in before, you're in for a treat. The boys run a great show, and have had a great lineup of special guests from around the league. Tomorrow's show promises to be yet another interesting discussion.

Please tune in online at 3:00PM. As always, you can call-in with your thoughts and commentary at (718)-664-9597, or shoot Alex an instant message at hockeynightli on AIM.

Hope to hear from you there!

June 11, 2007

6/11/07 - The Calm Before the Storm

For the Islanders, this offseason is key. Our recipe for headline-busting news: one part crazy owner, one part powerful GM, two parts unrestricted free agents, and a liberal amount of building momentum. The buy-out of Alexei Yashin was only the beginning in an offseason that will be full of drama and anticipation.

Anyone that has been even loosely following the team can tell you that the buzz surrounding the Islanders is as high as it's ever been, and that there is certainly something exciting happening within the organization this year.

The team has shown by example that it is dedicated to bringing respect and a competitive team back to the Island, and with any luck, the fans will respond in numbers. For a change, the Islanders are turning heads, and not because of scandal and controversy. As hollow as the rumors surrounding Smyth, Blake, and the rest of the league truly are, it's clear that more and more people on Long Island are listening and waiting for the next big announcement.

Like I said, this offseason is key. Long Islanders are interested in the Islanders again, and so far, the organization has made all the right choices. If there was ever a time to get excited about the future of the team, it is now.

This post is meant to boost that notion, and to set a tone for which the next two weeks will most assuredly be kept. There's no new information here, no rumors to analyze or news to break. Just a little thought for the rest of the month. July 1st can not come soon enough for hockey fans on Long Island.
Try not to bite your nails too bad, everyone.

June 6, 2007

6/06/07 - Breaking News - Yashin Bought Out

According to Newsday, the Islanders have announced the contract buy-out of captian Alexei Yashin. It will cost $17.63 million, and according to Ted Nolan, it was a "hard decision, but when push came to shove, it was the best decision for this organization to give Yash a nice, fresh start."

Read the full article here. More to come soon.

June 4, 2007

6/04/07 - Islanders Uniforms 08: Predictions and Thoughts

Amid the ongoing, tumultuous flow of rumors, news, and speculations concerning the free agent pool, I'd like to take a little time to step back and change the topic a little. If you're looking for the latest free agent talk, please check out our pal Carey over at Isles Blog.

As you probably know already, the NHL has decided to change the standard uniform design for all teams next season. The new model, designed by Reebok and dubbed the "RBK Edge", includes high-tech lightweight materials, form-fitting measurements, moisture-repellent fabric, greater breathability and motion motion range, and (reportedly) they can make espresso.

They debuted this January at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas, and were met with rave reviews from the players, but less-than-rave reviews from the fans. The players say that they're comfortable, maneuverable, and dry. The fans, naturally, resisted the change. And of course, there's little doubt that this change is largely motivated by the league's desire to rake in a lot of extra cash.

But as time went on, and the idea of the uniform redesign sank in, it started seeming less and less of a bad idea. If the players will benefit, then it should be good for the sport. And that's always good for us fans.

But now it's nearing truth time for the new uniforms, and we're all getting a little worried about the impending changes again. Information has been very sparse in regards to the changes that will take place, and it's no doubt the league will keep it that way until the last minute. What we do know (or think we know) is that the league has encouraged all teams to use the template design that we saw at the All-Star game to redesign their uniform design for next year. If this is true, it is worrying.
Honestly, the uniforms aren't that different, fundamentally. They looked really good in Dallas, but that graphic design is unique, and just does not agree with the "look" of a lot of the teams in the league.

The other bit of information that has been rumored about these new threads is that it is very difficult to print up horizontal stripes on the new material. What that means is up to a great amount of interpretation, but if it means the removal of horizontal stripes from uniform designs, there is going to be a huge amount of backlash from virtually every team's fans-- because, to a point, we're all traditionalists, and 90% of the teams feature horizontal stripes and color changes on their uniforms.

I find that rumor hard to believe -- based on the long tradition of horizontal stripes in uniform design -- but the fact that the All-Star uniforms didn't have such horizontal stripes leaves little comfort for those who doubt.

In any case, those with some ties to the Islanders have heard a few rumors about the Islanders' future look, and others have interpreted those rumors à la photoshop. Here's some from the fine artists at IslandersCountry:

Courtesy "RumMunkey"


Courtesy "SteveDepot"


Courtesy "bvon44"

They're all great renderings, and I'd actually be happy if these were anything like the final cut. Remember, these are fan ideas and are based on rumors, so don't take these as more than they are. We won't know for sure what the new Isles uniforms will be until they are officially announced.

It's going to be an interesting offseason for our Islanders, to say the least. The Capitals are set to unveil their own uniform design early this summer, so maybe we will get a better idea soon.

May 24, 2007

5/24/07 - A (New) New Direction?

Today, the Islanders announced the addition of 20 year old defenseman Andrew MacDonald.

MacDonald makes five for the Isles' blue line prospect list, and with another recent addition of LW Sean Bentivoglio and increasing talks of top prospect Kyle Okposo leaving the University of Minnesota to join Islanders training camp this fall, maybe Garth Snow and the Islanders scouting team have something in mind for 2007-08.

Remember, when the Islanders acquired veterans like Sillinger, Witt, and Poti, the team was still under the leadership of Neil Smith.

The team lost prospects Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson in the trade for Ryan Smyth, but the gap has been more than made up since.

Consider a short list of potential Islanders next season.
Kyle Okposo - F
Frans Nielsen - F
Blake Comeau - F
Trevor Smith - F
Sean Bentivoglio - F

Dustin Kohn - D
Tomas Malec - D
Andrew MacDonald - D

While the odds of any of these players making the full-time roster out of training camp is low, the future is beginning to look very bright. Maybe the Islanders organization is being re-re-invented. Again.

Now consider this situation: Blake walks, and Smyth and Yashin remain. Hill is gone, and Martinek won't be ready for game 1 after all. The Isles face a big 40-goal gap and need to fill in the defense. We're not realistically going to be able to rely on signing players the likes of Drury or Kariya this summer, so maybe our best bet would be our up-and-coming prospect Okposo. Or maybe Tambellini, Campoli, Gervais, and Nielsen step up to the challenge. Letting these young players get the chance to play with seasoned veterans like Sillinger and Witt can allow the full NHL-level acclimation that will develop the players' full potentials, as well.

So does this mean that Neil Smith's plan was to add veterancy and experience, and Garth Snow's plan is to add youth and build the future? Not necessarily. Maybe Garth is looking to build up for the coming seasons, and maybe he is still focusing on the changes that are going to happen come July. It's anybody's guess at this point, but it will be extremely interesting to see how the situation unfolds through the summer months.

In any event, free agents or no-free agents, the steps that Snow has already taken to build up this team's prospect roster give a great deal of confidence in this summer. Whatever happens, I think we can all rest easy in knowing that the team is in good hands, and the future is looking better and better all the time.

May 19, 2007

5/19/07 - Gripe #1 - Attendance Woes; Nobody Goes.

This is the first in a series of Islanders-related gripes that I will write about this summer. These aren't meant to be disheartening or purely cynical; just some criticisms that point out a few opportunities and ideas.
Today's topic: mass transportation and the Islanders' attendance.

Everyone knows that the
Coliseum is old... it's one of the oldest in the league. Not only that, but it is the NHL's smallest arena in terms of capacity.

But falling chunks of concrete and lack of seats aren't the problem with the poor attendance rates for the Isles.

The main problem (or at least one of them) is transportation. Since the
Coliseum is located in a place that is far disconnected from the LIRR, and there currently isn't a shuttle system in place for Islanders games, the only option left for fans to get to the Coliseum is by car. Even for those who live nearby, walking across Hempstead Turnpike -- or even Lindbergh Ave for that matter -- is never a great choice.

Yes, at times, the turnout is fine for the team. The Isles still see plenty of sellouts, especially against the Rags and in the playoffs, but any season ticket holder will tell you that the real problem lies on those weeknight games -- some games barely straddling the 10,000 fan turnout.

Most critics around the league point at these figures and jump to the conclusion that the Islanders just have a shrinking fanbase, and that hockey cannot survive on the Island. If you're reading this, I assume you're a pretty big Islanders fan at the least, and should already know that the Isles have one of the most dedicated, unique, and biggest fanbases in the league.

If you're here representing another team, or no team at all, and you doubt this fact, recent data revealed that the Islanders are the 8th most popular team in the league on the web, and Islanders-related blogs featured on NHL.com are ranked #1 in hits. Read more on this here (under 'webology'). The fans are out there... only no one wants to make that drive to the game

So, enough complaining and feeling indignant about things. Andy's crackpot solution time.
Since the low-turnout problem is really an infrastructure problem, there is no easy fix for the
Coliseum. The place is a black hole for mass transportation, and that can't be changed by digging a subway or laying down a crazy monorail system.

There are five competing bids for the upcoming
Coliseum redevelopment, with Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project the current favorite. The easiest solution to the transportation problem would be to move the entire arena, and all its planned expansionary projects, to a different property; one closer to the LIRR or even MTA hubs. Unfortunately, that is unrealistic, and the only plan to actually address the problem of transportation is the crazy monorail plan (which also calls for a baseball stadium and carries no guarantee for the Isles staying there). (That link, by the way, is a great read and is full of lots of great details.)

Until things can get sorted out on the
Coliseum's future (or until they put me in charge of the Coliseum project and Nassau County), don't look for anything in this regard to change. It seems that us fans that are able to are forever destined to make the long (and increasingly more expensive) drive out to Hempstead to see our team play. It's unfortunate -- mass transportation would surely lead to higher game attendance, and that would solve so many problems and shut up so many critics.

May 11, 2007

5/11/07 - The Dilemma

Our forward situation for next year is not looking well, Isles fans.
Time to play GM.

Assuming we sign Smyth (meaning buy-out Yashin), this is what I can see:
(And in no order, just for placement's sake.)

Smyth Sillinger Hunter
Satan(?) Kozlov Zednik
Hilbert Park(winger) Tambellini
Simon(?) Asham(winger) Bates(?)

This is assuming we're not getting Blake back (I'm not convinced we will). And talks of trading Satan are going to have to wait until we can find a [very] good replacement scorer for line 2.
If we -can- get Blake to sign again, however, things will already look better, and we can then focus on a more viable center for line 2.

We aren't going to be competitive at all if we can't muster up two or more really solid, reliable lines of forwards.

We need some depth.
Bad.

With that said, letting Yashin go is (reportedly) a must to get Smyth, but it really puts us in a spot where we only have one solid center and leaves a vacuum in the 3rd and 4th lines.

In short:
  • Get Smyth and be pressured to find a center
  • Lose Blake and be pressured to find a scorer
We were looking at some FA wingers before... we really need to be looking at centers at this rate. Drury is the obvious pick, but I doubt we will be able to swing it.

What to do?

May 7, 2007

5/07/07 - What Smyth Means to Long Island

Just as free agent negotiations are about to begin, the impact that Ryan Smyth had on the Islanders is finally starting to be measured.

As so many reporters put it, the trade to bring Smyth to the Isles brought back a level of 'respectability' to the franchise. More than that, however, he brought a level of hope to the fans on Long Island. At a turning point in the Isles' season, Smyth stepped in and stepped up. Whether on the score sheet or in the locker room, his presence was clearly felt in the Isles bid for the playoffs.

This wasn't unnoticed by Islanders fans, and Smyth quickly became a favorite. For the first time in many seasons, Islanders fans had a big-name player to rally around and be proud of. Instead of loathing the slacker types like Yashin and Satan, us fans could brag about the success of Smyth and his linemates. Movements like "Sign Smyth" are indicative of his effect on the club.

Just as Smyth came to the team at a turning point in the season, the free agency decision comes at a turning point for this franchise. For the first time in a long time, the Islanders have some real talent and potential for the future. The fans are paying attention, and are anxiously pleading to have our new leader signed for next year. If the Islanders organization had any type of foresight, they would make signing Ryan Smyth priority #1; if not for his skills, but for the support of the fans. Us Islanders fans can't take much more heartbreak from this team, and if the Isles want to have a future as a hockey club, they need to make a tighter knit relationship with their fans.

We're pleading - are they listening?

May 6, 2007

5/06/07 - Yashin and Kovalev? Something to ponder.

Some of the many rumors flying around the league have concerned our dear captian Alexei Yashin and his slacking counterpart in Montreal, Alexei Kovalev. As you might already know, Kovalev has failed to achieve his own level of play in the past few seasons, this season especially. Montreal is frustrated with his play, and will likely unload him for cheap. With as many FAs as the Isles have, it has to be

Yashin, as we're all quite used to, has suffered the same underachievement in the last few years. As it turns out, the Alexeis are good friends from playing in/for Russia. It might be interesting to see if the former linemates could work some chemistry together and pull each other out of their slumps.

As intriguing as this may seem, I don't think it will happen. With Nolan's new team model, and Snow's aim to bring a new face to the organization, the Isles won't be picking up any slackers this summer. Even if the deal could work out to the benefit to both players, I'd much rather see the Isles trade out Yashin to the Habs, not the other way around.

In other news: Camp Smyth is scheduled to meet with camp Snow sometime in the coming days. Stay tuned here for news, rumors, and tongue-in-cheek skepticism.

May 3, 2007

5/03/07 - Reconstruction

UPDATE:
Check out the new design and logo!
Please comment and let me know what you think.
Thanks!

5/03/07 - Some Isles Buzz

Hey there, hockey fans. As the Stanley Cup playoffs progress, I know that all of us are moving on entirely and totally from our Isles' round one loss.

Right.

In any case, there have been some interesting developments in Islanders World over the last week. I'll be plain and address them one-by-one (in no particular order):

DiPietro - Well, this was a surprise to me, at least. It seems that DiPi has undergone hip surgery, and uh, it went well. I guess we can't be all that surprised that no information was divulged by the team prior to the surgery. Perhaps "general body soreness" struck again. Whatever- according to the team site, he will be fine for training camp.

Yashin / Smyth - I like Smyth for his skill, work ethic, and on/off the ice personality. Call me crazy. Though Yashin was sort of instrumental... kind of a little, in 2004-ish games, well... uh... he sucks. Does he still have the skill to be a top 20, nay, 10 player in the league? We've all seen it. Will he ever really pull it off? Not a chance. I'm not even going to go into his captaincy status; that's just some sort of anomaly of the highest caliber.
Now, according to our good friend Gary Harding (via), it seems that Symth's future as an Islander hinges on a certain someone else not being around next season. That's right: if we want to keep Smyth, we are going to have to let Yashin go.

Oh no.

This is probably the hardest decision in sports. Ever.

Blake - Has anyone heard -anything- about this guy? All the general buzz that seems to have surrounded Blake and the rest of the free agents seems to have died out entirely. Does anyone know what the story is?

Well, in any case, there's still 57 days to negotiate our free agents and (hopefully) sign some more talent. With Yashin out of the cap, we'll have room for some real big names as well.
We'll see where we end up.

Until next time-

April 21, 2007

4/21/07 - Season Over - Thank you

As the last few seconds ticked off the clock in Buffalo last night, I crumpled down and groaned in frustration. Only this season, with this Islanders team, could things have come down to such a close margin.

Last night, and in fact, for the entire season, the Isles fought an uphill battle. Despite being written off in September, the Islanders banded together and played with heart. After leading the division in late 2006, the team fell to their lowest point just after new year's day. From there they faced a steep climb out of their hole. But Garth Snow came through for the team, adding some real talent and leadership just in time for the playoff push. Again, the Isles were written off as a contender, but one more time they would prove everybody wrong. The team came together again, and with the help of some unlikely heroes, the down-and-out Islanders won four elimination games in a row to clinch a playoff birth in the last moment possible.

It's true, the playoff series with Buffalo was full of controversy and drama, as was much of the regular season, but nobody can deny that the series brought some of the best hockey anyone's seen from our team in years. Don't look at the score, but look at the game as a whole. I know that I was actually standing for most of the game last night, and it wasn't just in the third period. I grew up in a time where it was embarrassing to be an Islanders fan for a long time. This year, I'm proud to support the Isles. Even though we were eliminated in 5 games, we accomplished so much more than the statistics will reflect.

There is a lot to be said about this year's team, but I feel like I should mention a few players that really stood out in the fight against Buffalo.

Ryan Smyth - He brought so much more to this team than anyone else in the short time he's been here. He worked hard, was vocal on and off the ice, and set the tone for the entire team in the postseason. He should be priority no. 1 for the off-season.

Trent Hunter - Trent won nearly all his battles on the forecheck and consistently made that skill pass in the zone, which was, quite honestly, the sole reason for dozens of Islanders scoring chances. He is an invaluable piece of the puzzle, and must also be signed as soon as possible.

Mike Sillinger - Enough can't be said for the team's top worker. He worked powerplay and penalty kill, forecheck and backcheck. There is almost nothing he can't do, and he works well with everyone.

Victor Kozlov - Sure, he is streaky, and sure, it seems that he can disappear at times, but in this series, he really came alive. Kozlov was responsible for dozens of Isles' carry-ins, taking chops and slashes as he pushed the rush forward. He has eyes in the back of his head, and can retain the puck better than anyone on the ice.

Andy Hilbert - God bless him, he's trying. No, really though, he is literally inches away from 20 or 30 goals per season. He works so damn hard; it's just a shame he seems to have a knack for finding the goalpost or otherwise missing his shot in confounding ways. Let him develop, and we will have a very strong forward very soon.

In any case, this season is over. As sad as it is, I find it to be strangely relieving to finally be done. No more NHL drama (I hope), no more heart-attack third periods. I love this sport, and I love supporting our team, I really do. It just feels now, that it might be time for a rest. Haha, I know it sounds strange, but hopefully someone will know what I mean.

I'd like to take this time to thank the entire team, as well as all my fellow fans this year. This year was the first time I really felt any real connection to the players and to the community, and that really made the entire season so much fun and so memorable. Honestly, I'd really love to get the chance to talk to some of the players, and let them know how much this season meant to their fans. I hope that next year will be even deeper, and that the Isles can play with the same great sense of team and spirit that was present this year.

So finally, a heartfelt thanks to all who have read my blog over the last short month. I am really glad that it has become somewhat of a success, and all of it is due to my fellow fans (and occasionally, enemies). I don't plan on going anywhere. This summer, I'll be back (probably on some sort of weekly/monthly basis) to discuss Islanders news, rant about the league, and/or share some random thoughts about the organization.


So to the team, the fans, and everyone out there reading, thank you.
Andy Facini