An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: Honor and Sacrifice


Let us take time to remember what the last Monday in May really means.


Memorial Day is a day of mourning to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. As Americans, the significance of such a day needs to stay with us and be more than just a day off from work or a chance to attend a summer party. Please don’t forget, instead offer a time for contemplation to those who were lost to us. Remember them and what they did so the United States could remain free and vigilant.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, May 24, 2013

KoC Season in Review - beLIeve: Your 2013 New York Islanders


 
Garth Snow took over as General Manager of the New York Islanders for the 2006-07 season after Mike Milbury "stepped down" from the job.  He would first start by adding veterans to his existing roster to kick start his team into the playoffs.  They would reach the playoffs, but fail to make noise.
 

2006-07, 92 pts, 4th Atlantic, Lose to Buffalo in 5, in 1st round of NHL Playoffs


After losing seasons, scorn from top free agents  and regression, the Isles management decided they would enter a true rebuild mode.
 

2007-08, 79 pts, 5th Atlantic, DNQ for Playoffs

2008-09, 61 pts, 5th Atlantic, DNQ for Playoffs

2009-10, 79 pts, 5th Atlantic, DNQ for Playoffs

2010-11, 73 pts, 5th Atlantic, DNQ for Playoffs

2011-12, 79 pts, 5th Atlantic, DNQ for Playoffs


During this rebuild, they would put the pieces in place through the NHL draft and specific trade or waiver opportunities.  It was a slow process that saw some results, although bottom finishes and failures to take the next step were common place.  Younger players were inexperienced and the veterans that were on the team could only do so much.  Garth Snow was never able to sign the top free agents, so he did the best he could and went for character and what he saw as a good fit for the team in acquisitions rather than flash or fame.  What worked in the long run, was a young team, gaining experience and slowly righting the Isles' ship.


2012-13, *55 Pts, 3rd Atlantic, Lose to Penguins in 6 in 1st round of NHL Payoffs

*Lockout, 48 GP
 

In the 2013 season, shortened by an NHL Owner's lockout, the young Isles team would mature and find their stride right before us as we watched on TV and from the stands.  The highs and lows of this season were many.  Dark periods of losing streaks and breakdowns, followed up by an improving and more consistent effort and game plan by the players and coaches.  It seemed that management kept the pieces in place despite what was falling down around them at times, drawing the ire of fans and media alike at points in the season.  I even called out Jack Capuano and demanded that he leave a promising team that somehow managed to compete, despite him being their coach.  Though I am not completely sold on Capuano, I would owe him somewhat of an apology after watching the season play out.
 

This team of high draft picks, unproven prospects and discarded assets, came together under Capuano's leadership and bought in to his game plan.  They seemed to improve when they attacked and forced their opponent to play their style of game.  Coach Weight and Thompson had special teams and an out-manned defensive core playing well in front of an aging goaltender.  The Isles finally found a balanced attack and defensive responsibility.  All four lines were able to score goals and the defense were aggressive and mostly successful, dictating play in the neutral zone later in the season.  They played with puck control and a tight checking game.  They added grit, physical edge and always finished their hits.
 

These elements allowed for puck control and a more easily executed game plan that the team rode into the first round of the playoffs.  Despite losing to the first place, talent-ladened team, Pittsburgh Penguins, the young Islanders came to play and made Pittsburgh fight for every inch, until an O.T. win in game six, closed out the series.  It was for Penguins GM, Ray Sherro to tell Isles GM, Garth Snow, "You gave us everything we could handle & we wish you were moving to the Western Conf."
 

I was a proud Isles fan when I saw my fellow fans in the NVMC crowd drown out the Pens celebrations of a series win, as they cheered on their eliminated, but beloved team and salute them for a season to be proud of.  "Lets Go Islanders," echoed repeatedly throughout the Coliseum with a roar, most likely led by Section 329.

KoC: "I am so proud of the fans at the NVMC. Thank you for showing the players watching on the ice what the Isles & their fans are all about."
 
 
Just wait until October!
 
 
 
 
 

Lets take a look back on what made 2013 what it was for your New York Islanders.
 

CENTERS

NO.

NAME

AGE

HT

WT

SHOT

BIRTH PLACE

BIRTHDATE
10
Keith Aucoin
34
5-9
187
R
Waltham, Massachusetts
11/6/78
12
Josh Bailey
23
6-1
190
L
Oshawa, Ontario
10/2/89
24
Brad Boyes
31
6-0
195
R
Mississauga, Ontario
4/17/82
53
Casey Cizikas
22
5-11
187
L
Toronto, Ontario
2/27/91
27
Anders Lee
22
6-2
209
L
St. Paul, Minnesota
7/3/90
29
Brock Nelson
21
6-3
205
L
Minneapolis, Minnesota
10/15/91
51
Frans Nielsen
29
6-1
180
L
Herning, Denmark
4/24/84
16
Marty Reasoner
36
6-1
197
L
Honeoye Falls, New York
2/26/77
91
John Tavares
22
6-0
199
L
Mississauga, Ontario
9/20/90
 
LEFT WINGS

NO.

NAME

AGE

HT

WT

SHOT

BIRTH PLACE

BIRTHDATE
36
Eric Boulton
36
6-0
224
L
Halifax, Nova Scotia
8/17/76
6
Jesse Joensuu
25
6-4
209
L
Pori, Finland
10/5/87
17
Matt Martin
24
6-3
206
L
Windsor, Ontario
5/8/89
26
Matt Moulson
29
6-0
205
L
North York, Ontario
11/1/83
41
David Ullstrom
24
6-2
195
L
Jonkoping, Sweden
4/22/89
 
RIGHT WINGS

NO.

NAME

AGE

HT

WT

SHOT

BIRTH PLACE

BIRTHDATE
40
Michael Grabner
25
6-1
186
L
Villach, Austria
10/5/87
13
Colin McDonald
28
6-1
210
R
New Haven, Connecticut
9/30/84
21
Kyle Okposo
25
6-0
212
R
St. Paul, Minnesota
4/16/88
 
DEFENSE

NO.

NAME

AGE

HT

WT

SHOT

BIRTH PLACE

BIRTHDATE
7
Matt Carkner
32
6-4
227
R
Winchester, Ontario
11/3/80
52
Joe Finely
25
6-8
249
L
Edina, Minnesota
6/29/87
3
Travis Hamonic
22
6-1
206
R
Winnipeg, Manitoba
8/16/90
14
Thomas Hickey
24
5-11
190
L
Calgary, Alberta
2/8/89
47
Andew MacDonald
26
6-0
185
L
Judique, Nova Scotia
9/7/86
4
Radek Martinek
36
6-2
210
R
Havlicko Brod, Czechoslovakia
8/31/76
37
Brian Strait
25
6-1
200
L
Boston, Massachusetts
1/4/88
2
Mark Streit
35
5-11
191
L
Englisberg, Switzerland
12/11/77
11
Lubomir Visnovsky
36
5-10
197
L
Topolcany, Czechoslovakia
8/11/76
 
GOALIES

NO.

NAME

AGE

HT

WT

SHOT

BIRTH PLACE

BIRTHDATE
20
Evgeni Nabokov
37
6-0
202
L
Kamenogorsk, USSR
7/25/75
60
Kevin Poulin
23
6-2
211
L
Montreal, Quebec
4/12/90

 

 

The lines and pairings were tweaked often.  Maybe too often, but here is a sample of what they looked like against Pittsburgh in the Playoffs. 


Forwards: Bailey-Tavares-Boyes, Moulson-Nielsen-Okposo, Ullstrom or Strome-Aucoin-McDonald, Grabner-Cizikas-Martin.


Defensive Pairings: Streit-Carkner or Hickey, Hamonic-MacDonald, Strait-Visnovsky or Martinek.
 

###

 
Keith Aucoin was a waiver wire addition by Garth Snow to address immediate need with a low risk acquisition.  He came through and played a pretty good role in the teams' success when called upon, especially after returning from a long series of scratches after a strong, early start.  Aucoin is a good role player, but may not make an improving Isles roster next season.



Josh Bailey had a slow start, but came on with Kyle Okposo making them major catalysts in the Isles playoff push this season.  They both came out hard and outworked opposing players while finding time to score the big goals.  Okposo and Bailey had 24 and 19 pts respectively.

 

Brad Boyes was signed after P.A. Parenteau's departure in hopes he could re-ignite the former sniper to the totals he enjoyed earlier in his career.  Mgmt. wasn't giving P.A. his 4M/season asking price, so Boyes filled his spot at 1M/season.  He enjoyed time on the top lines and turned out to be a valuable player for the Isles this season.  Boyes was 10 and 25 for 35 pts.  For those scoring at home, P.A. was 18 and 25 for 43 pts for the Avalanche.



Casey Cizikas.  If you read KoC, you know who he is.  I have said, and still believe, he will be the Bobby Nystrom of the new Isles team and he will figure into the success of the rebuild prominently.  His high energy and physical play was infectious, and his presence on the ice was felt by his team mates and the opposition.  As an agitator along with Colin McDonald and Matt Martin, he was able to distract the oppositions top players from their game all season and in the playoffs.

 

Anders Lee and Brock Nelson got their first taste of NHL hockey as members of the Islanders this season.  Anders Lee got a goal in his first game and looked good doing it.  While he needs more improvement defensively, Lee is a big, strong forward with big upside and the talent to make an impression on this young and improving team.  Brock Nelson played in game 6 on a semi-regular shift and saw special teams time against the Penguins in the playoffs this season.  He had a positive showing and just continued his strong improving play from his time with the BST.



Once again, Frans Nielsen was overlooked for the Selke trophy, given to the best two way forward in the league.  Its OK though, because the Islanders know what kind of player Nielsen is.  He is a valuable piece to the Isles team who can score during a game, overtime, shootouts, win face offs and be a leader on and off the ice.  His play in the defensive zone and on special teams is invaluable and makes him one of the few complete players in the NHL.

 

I am no fan of Marty Reasoner.  He is a veteran who was supposed to bring some offense to the line up and an experienced face off specialist.  Frankly, he has been a disappointment since he got here.  I wish him luck, but hopefully it is on one of the other 29 NHL teams.

 

What else can you say about MVP finalist and Islander superstar, John Tavares?  He has led by example on and off the ice and stepped up when the Isles needed a hero on many occasions.  He has improved each season and really learned what to expect from the opposition in the games leading up to and in the playoffs this season.  When called upon, JT always answers with his best effort and has really started to emerge as an elite player in the NHL this season.  JT was 28 and 19 for a team leading 47 pts.
 
 

Eric Boulton made quiet and not so quiet contributions to the Isles this year.  While his ice time is limited, he actually played a better game than just a tough guy called upon to throw some fists.  He started to play the Isles system well and wasn't just a liability on the ice like some career tough guys.  He impressed the Isles enough to offer him another contract for the upcoming season.  No disrespect to him, but I still think the Isles miss Trevor Gillies.

 

Matt Martin won the Bob Nystrom award this season.  He was the leader in hits for the second NHL season in a row.  Martin is a tough guy with offensive upside and is another leader, especially in the energy game.  His play has turned the flow of games this season and he is a great representative for image of the new Isles team.

 

Matt Moulson is a Lady Byng finalist, given to the most talented player who exhibits an equal level of sportsmanship on the ice.  Matt Moulson is a classy player who can deliver for the Isles with both offense and defense.  He has been a great line mate for John Tavares and even after a period of struggle this season, fought through it to contribute to his new line, Nielsen and Okposo.  Moulson was 15 and 29 for 44 pts.
 
 

David Ullstrom has spent enough time on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, so management called him up multiple times this season.  Ullstrom is a talented and explosive scorer who once acclimated to the NHL game, could turn into a 25 goal scorer for Long Island.



Michael Grabner is the fastest and one of the most dynamic players I have had the pleasure of watching.  If he can only fine-tune his game to finish more, he will be one of the most explosive scorers in the NHL.  He has scored several big goals for the Isles this season, helped on special teams and brought punch to the Isles energy lines.

 

Colin McDonald earned an NHL contract for his play this season.  After solidifying a spot out of training camp, all McDonald did was score, irritate the opposition and bring energy to his teams play on the ice.  Like Cizikas and Martin, McDonald helps give the Isles dangerous components to their 3rd and 4th lines.

 

Matt Carkner is a big, physical defensemen who is valuable to the Isles line up when grit is needed.  He single-handedly made the Isles tougher to face in the playoffs and is an expert at drawing penalties.

 

Joe Finely was one of three defensive additions Garth Snow made from the waiver wire at the beginning of the season.  While he struggled with positional play early on, Finely got better defensively with more minutes played.  He is a good, physical depth defensemen the Isles can call upon when needed.

 

Travis Hamonic is an anchor on the Isles defense with partner Andrew MacDonald.  This season, he had some tough luck and serious growing pains as an NHL defensemen, but came through it like a pro.  He is valuable on special teams and showed Crosby and Malkin what frustration was while he faced them in the playoff series.  Andrew MacDonald had his share of frustration this season as well, but I felt he grew more this season than in previous seasons as a defensemen in the NHL.

 

As another early season waiver pick up, Thomas Hickey finished the regular season with a team high of +9 and looks to have found a place with the Islanders.  Hickey played well for the Isles for most of the season and even though he struggled in the playoffs, he showed some big league defensive vision on the blue line.

 

Resigned as a minor depth move, Radek Martinek was a solid NHL defensemen for New York.  Used in a limited role, Martinek was able to play at a high level when called up and stayed healthy when the team needed him.  His leadership and experience were big for the Isles this season.

 

Brian Strait was the third waiver defensemen grabbed by Garth Snow at the start of the season.  As he became acclimated, Strait proved to be worth more than a waiver pick up and got signed to a multi-year extension for the Isles.  Despite a serious injury around the midpoint of the shortened season, Strait came back a few games late in the season and helped the Isles in the playoffs.



Mark Streit has said he wants to come back as an Islander next season.  Despite losing a step on the blue line, I think Streit would be a good, short term extension for the Isles defense.  He is better than most of the players available in the free agent market this summer and likes it on the Island.  Plus, he can still score and is a valuable quarterback to the PP.

 

Lubomir Visnovsky was worth the wait.  He immediately made the Isles defense better and has a dangerous shot that must be respected whenever he is on the ice.  By signing an extension, he is yet another big name that was won over by the organization and destination that has gotten an unfair slight by some players in the NHL.



Evgeni Nabokov played all-out for the Isles this season.  He is a cool and calm goaltender who gave the Isles a chance to win every night and kept them close in a lot of games.  Nabokov wants to return to the Islanders and has been in talks with management to return again.  I would love to see him resigned, short term, but with his age becoming a factor, the Isles will probably look to a free agent as a starter with their prospects (Nilsson and Poulin) a year or two away.


Kevin Poulin was 1 and 3 for the Isles in a relief role for the Isles this season.  He played well in some tough spots including a win vs Winnipeg late in the season.  Poulin is a highly regarded prospect and is a fan favorite already.  Patrick Roy once called Poulin the best goalie in Juniors.


Anders Nilsson lost most of the season due to injury, so only saw limited time in Bridgeport in 2012-13.  Nilsson is projected to have even more upside than the talented Poulin.

 
###


Its hard to understand how Garth Snow was snubbed for GM of the year award  especially with the team's budgetary constraints implemented from Owner, Charles  Wang.  These type of restrictions were not imposed on Bergevin, Murray or Sherro, the three finalists named for the award.  Plus the Islanders have come a longer way with Snow's moves this season than Montreal, Anaheim and Pittsburgh have attained.
 

This summer could see some key additions with several padded teams over budget for shrinking cap (70M down to about 64M).  Deals they might not get without giving up way too much normally.  Here is where I feel Charles Wang will let up a little with spending money to get closer to an even better team.  The organization could also chose to just stay with their own prospects to add to the big club.  I am hoping for a combination of the two possibilities.
 

B.D. Gallof points out the inevitable for next season, Isles camp will have Strome, Nelson, Nino, Reinhart, de Haan, Donovan & more knocking on door ... plus some vets that have really upped their game this season like Frans, K.O. & Bailey, etc.


The Islanders need a top level winger, a top level defensemen and as close to an elite goaltender as they can get without overpaying.  That was easy, right?  So what's the hold up already?


With all the talent in the system already earmarked for spots in the line up and the possible Cinderella prospect ready before his time, the Isles need to be cautious about free agents.  Term and price must work in Snows plan and the free agent must know and play up to his roll.  The Isles don't need an under performing player who occupies a roster spot that an up and coming prospect could use to improve his game.  Plus, the move to Brooklyn will most likely attract even more FA's to a new arena.


 

Forwards:

A trade for Bobby Ryan (ANA) or FA's like Nathan Horton (BOS), David Clarkston (NJD), Brenden Morrow (PIT), Eric Nystrom (DAL), Pascal Dupuis (PIT), Colby Armstrong (MTL) could be what the Isles need.  The option to resign Brad Boyes is always a possibility as well.  Jesse Joensuu can be resigned and given a real look by management.  His lockout injury limited his play to a few games at the close of the season into the playoffs.  He looked good in the few games played for the Isles.
 

Defensemen:

Ron Hainsey (WIN), Sergei Gonchar (OTT) could be a defensive solution for the next few seasons.  Mark Streit could be resigned for 1-2 years because of his skill and presence in the room and he could hold the Captaincy until management gives it to John Tavares.



Goal:

Per Eric Hornick, "Since save % became official stat (1984ish) -- no G has won 3 playoff gms w a worse combo of GAA/save% than Nabokov's 4.44/.842."


Nilsson and Poulin are probably the Isles future, only a year or two removed.  Until then, they should continue to improve in Bridgeport.  I will always cheer for Rick DiPietro, but he should be moved off the BST roster with an available amnesty buy out.


If Tim Thomas can be talked out of retirement, he could be an awesome addition to a resigned Evgeni Nabokov for the short term in Isles goal.  Niklas Backstrom (MIN)  would be a good pick up, but would most likely be out of the Isles price range. Ray Emery (CHI) has been good lately,  but isn't as solid a bet as I'd like.  I am not sold on Mike Smith (PHX) as a real #1 net minder and Chris Mason (NSH) is a gamble you might take in hopes that his impressive early career play could return.
 
 
Its a summer to look forward to Isles fans. 

 




Isles Notes:
 
 
I'll have a better breakdown & analysis on off season buzz in time for the upcoming free agency period.
 

The National Hockey League announced today that New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson has been named a finalistf or the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
 

On 5/17 the New York Islanders signed Eric Boulton to a one year deal.


Isles Player Transaction: Forward Chris Bruton agrees to terms with Islanders on a one-year, two-way contract. Most likely, a physical depth signing for BST.

Nino Niederreiter rises to the challenge at IIHF World Championships. He tallied 5 and 3 for 8 points to earn a silver medal with Switzerland.


"Anybody that watched the games, that saw the crowd . . . I'm sure we've got some respect around the league right now." - Capuano

 

“I’ve appreciated every single time someone comes up to me and tells me they’re an Isles fan” "We have an incredible and passionate fan base. It was special to be a part of. We're hoping we can bring some more success on the ice." -JT

 

"Seeing the building the way it was, it makes us hungry for next year. We didn't get the results we wanted but we'll be back." "We proved a lot to the hockey world and to ourselves that we’re coming." -Okposo

 

"We heard about how the building could be during the playoffs, but it definitely exceeded by expectations. It was amazing." - Michale Grabner

 

"Unforgettable year! You guys were AWESOME!!" - Casey Cizikas


Per Mark Herrmann, "Pierre McGuire on WFAN w Mike: Isles fans are 'phenomenally smart.' Crowd Sat nite was 1 of loudest he's ever heard (incl Finals, Olympics).


Islanders Prospect Report.


On 5/22, Former Isles defenseman Andy Sutton has announced his retirement from the NHL.



“33 years ago this very moment, @BobNystrom23 scored THE GOAL that made Long Island the Center of the Hockey Universe” #namesake #honored
 
 

NHL notes:

 

Bad Call?  Everyone has witnessed the decline of NHL officiating over the last few seasons.  It seems like the quick or slow whistles always happen in your opponents favor or a penalty is called or ignored if the result will bad for your team.  How many times have you witnessed your star player get destroyed right in front of an official and be completely ignored?  How about when a guy on your team is getting his head slammed repeatedly into the ice right in front of one during an overtime period with no call, but one of your guys gets a call made against him when his free hand is supposedly able to "pull down" one of the best skaters in the NHL?  Lets just say the NHL officials need a lot more work on judgment calls and they should be held accountable for their work on ice like everyone else in the NHL. 


Dmitry Chesnokov remarks, " ... the KHL suspends refs after bad games/calls. They even suspend video review officials.  One video official was suspended for the entire season this year in the KHL for a wrong no-goal call."