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-