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

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Isles Belmont Bid Is In

The deadline for the Islanders to submit a bid to develop a new arena and complex at Belmont Park needed to be done prior to 2 pm yesterday after official proposals were requested on August 1st. So what happened? The Islanders have “submitted a comprehensive proposal to create a world-class sports and entertainment destination at Belmont Park.” Per Jim Baumbach and Robert Brodsky of Newsday, “The Islanders’ group is labeled New York Arena Partners, LLC. It includes Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the Wilpon family, the Mets owners, and Oak View Group, an arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden.” The plans would most likely include a destination that would develop other viable infrastructure on the property, around a state of the art facility.

“The Belmont RFP calls for plans that include retail, entertainment, sports and hospitality options on the 43-acre vacant land surrounding the horse track. ESD has given no timeline for its decision and it could be several months before the state picks a winning bidder.” The Islanders are currently in negotiations to modify their lease at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but reports of ownership touring other new NHL arenas (at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena yesterday according to John Shannon) and what they have to offer have surfaced over the last year, so the rumors seem to be accurate. If the re-negotiations don’t go well, executives could terminate it as of January, 2018. 

Could the revived preseason experiment at the renovated (still small, inefficient and still limited luxury suite designed) Nassau Coliseum be a test for a temporary alternative to the Barc if things go south? Twitter exploded yesterday when the Islanders announced that NHL GM's have been told to not bother inquiring on John Tavares until at least January 1, possibly, further solidifying the of a JT’s extension to be tied into new arena deal. The rumors remain that both Tavares and the Islanders organization are not worried about the talks.

The Islanders group was quoted as saying, “We look forward to discussing with the Empire State Development Corporation.”

The NYCFC professional soccer team also wants to build their own 26,000 seat stadium on the site. The organization is owned in part by the New York Yankees, who along with partners appear to be the major source of competition against the Islanders. Per, “NYCFC said it would submit a proposal in a partnership with the Related Cos., a real estate firm founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.”

The New York Cosmos tried a couple of times to build a stadium on the site, but failed. But don’t think the NYCFC and its backers are going to go down quietly. They will only back out if opportunities are better elsewhere or things aren’t worth pursuing. And the Blumfield Development Group didn't submit another proposal after being denied on two previous bids, most recently among four failed bidders in 2013.

“The Belmont site in Elmont, New York, is controlled by the New York Racing Authority and sits about 19 miles east of Manhattan, just outside of Queens. It is accessible by car and by regional rail, and an arena there would bring the Islanders closer to its traditional Nassau County fan base.”

Andy Graziano points out, “Can't make this stuff up....#isles Belmont bid backed by Sterling (Wilpon) and Oakview (MSG). Oakview helping renegotiation with Barc. Lol.” So we wait on the next dramatic chapter of “Isles Uncertainty” to unfold, “Lighthouse” be damned!

Until then, we wait for the Empire State Development Corporation to pick a winner.

Isles Notes:

Islanders finish pre-season at Sabres tonight 7 p.m., and then at Flyers on Sunday, 5 p.m.

Per Arthur Staple, “Weight asked if Barzal has done enough at this point to make the team: "Yes."

Ho-Sang is getting the job done so far at Isles camp.

Per Brian Compton, “FWIW, Doug Weight told me this morning he's willing to sit veterans if the kids are outplaying them.”

NHL Notes:

NHL announces rule changes for 2017-18 season

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Islanders Sign Kieffer Bellows to ELC & Mid-Point Notes on Isles Camp

Yesterday, our New York Islanders announced that 6’1, 201#, Kieffer Bellows agreed to terms on a three-year, ELC. Son of former NHL’er, Brian Bellows, Kieffer was a member of team U.S.A. National Development Program, where he helped his squad win a gold medal at the U-20 WJC this year, netting 2 goals in the finals. He also has an international bronze medal to his credit from the 2016 U18 WC with 5 & 3 for 8 pts. in 7 games at the tournament.

Per release, “A native of Edina, MN, Bellows scored 81 points (50 goals, 31 assists) in 62 games while with the United States National Team Development Program in 2015-16. He finished second on the club in scoring and became just the fourth player to score 50 goals in a season with the U.S. Under-18 team, joining Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.”

Bellows was the Isles first round selection (19th overall) in the 2016 National Hockey League Draft and had 14 points (7 & 7) in 34 games as a freshman with B.U. Bellows said he wanted to commit to playing the 2017-18 season for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, so the timing of the signing was a bit of a surprise to me. The only thing I could think of is that Bellows made an early impression to where the Isles feel he could be used in Bridgeport (when eligible) sooner rather than later, especially while they continue to observe if their rosters meet expectations. While talented, Bellows needs more fine tuning to play at the pro level and should be given every opportunity to develop properly.

The Islanders have been tuning up for their season with a rookie and team camp, and the buzz is starting with fan favorites, and “could-be” future stars getting a look by the staff and fans for the first time this summer. Per The Hockey News, the Islanders finished tied for 3rd (Caps) with 199 even strength goals (Pens & Wild) last season. Their PK is and has been very good. I think the ‘17-18 Isles could just be a PP away from a dominant team in the east. Can Buchberger & Gomez help put in the right man-up scheme in place for the team to take that jump and can Eberle & possibly Pulock raise the bar enough offensively to help get them there?

Our New York Islanders started camp roster with 52 players: 31 forwards, 16 defensemen, 5 goaltenders per Staple. Camp is a great way for the new coaching staff to gel, get to know their veterans and prospects and come together on who will best fit the needs of the new look team as they approach the 2017-18 NHL season. While the buzz on the eventual signing of John Tavares lingers, the players and prospects seem eager to get things back on track in Islanders country.

Arthur Staple got a couple of quotes that caught my attention for sure. “Clutterbuck on Sunday's Coliseum game: ‘It's the first time I've seen so many veterans say they want to play the first preseason game." And with the vacancies and injuries reported prior to camp, the prospects are fired up as well. “Scott Mayfield on #Isles D: "Everyone knows what Travis meant to the organization. But now there's also a spot open there and I want it."

So the Isles opened their preseason against the Flyers with a 3-2 OT win at the sold out (13,917) refurbished Coliseum. Hey followed up with a controversial (goal disallowed) 1-0 OT loss to the Rangers, a split squad 3-2 win and 3-2 OT loss against the Flyers. Last night against the Rangers, the Isles pulled off a 2-1 win in Bridgeport in the Webster Bank Arena at Harbour yard. The warm-up schedule finishes with the Devils in Brooklyn on Monday, at Sabres on Friday and another tilt against the Flyers in Philadelphia on October 1st, before their October 6th season opener at Columbus.

On the pre-season stat sheet, the Isles had some regulars and some exciting names contribute offensively so far. Barzal, Beauvillier, Eberle, Lee, Pulock and Tavares all have 2 points so far, with Barzal and JT scoring 2 goals each. Cizikas, Boychuk, Ladd and Devon Toews all have a goal to their credit. In all, 17 players have registered at least a point out of the 47 players to see varying degrees of action and playing time during camp, including goalies.

Speaking of goaltenders, Jaroslav Halak still has that axe to grind and he doesn’t seem to want to go away quietly. Halak has seen action in 2 games, gotten a win and stopped 52 of 53 shots, posting a .60gaa and a 981Sv%. Thomas Greiss has played in 1 game and posted a 1.50gaa with a .944Sv%. Minor leaguers, Christopher Gibson (2 games, 1 win, 2.00gaa and .900Sv%), Eamon McAdam (1 game, 2.61gaa and .950Sv%) and Kristers Gudlevskis (2 games, 1 win, 3.50gaa and .864Sv%) got a look as well and gave the coaches at Bridgeport some data as they prepare for their own camp opening on Monday.

Arthur Staple had a few roster updates for the team at the mid-point of camp.

He mentioned the first major shift of players went down and likely bound for Bridgeport in time for their Monday open to camp. 

That leaves 31 players remaining in main group, (18 F, 9 D and 4 G).

The full list of moves, releases, waivers and remaining players can be found in this update per release:

Sebastian Aho, Kyle Burroughs, Michael Dal Colle, Tanner Fritz, Ross Johnston, Kane LaFranchise, Eamon McAdam, Kyle Schempp, John Stevens, Devon Toews, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon.

Six other players were released from their professional tryout contracts: Casey Bailey, Scott Eansor, Jeff Kubiak, Ben Holmstrom, Travis St. Denis and Yannick Turcotte

The Islanders also placed the following players on waivers: Christopher Gibson, Kristers Gudlevskis, Seth Helgeson and Connor Jones.

The Isles also returned Kieffer Bellows, Arnaud Durandeau and David Quenneville to their junior clubs. - Staple

Per Release, the Islanders roster looks like this as of this afternoon:


Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Steve Bernier, Jason Chimera, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Jordan Eberle, Stephen Gionta, Joshua Ho-Sang, Connor Jones, Nikolay Kulemin, Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Shane Prince**, Alan Quine** & John Tavares


Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan, Seth Helgeson, Thomas Hickey, Nick Leddy, Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelec, Ryan Pulock, Dennis Seidenberg


Christopher Gibson, Thomas Greiss, Kristers Gudlevskis, Jaroslav Halak

** - denotes player on injured reserve

Today’s practice showed (Staple) the lines of Lee-Tavares-Eberle, Ladd-Barzal-Bailey, Beau-Nelson-Ho-Sang, Kulemin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck & Chimera-Gionta-Bernier. First PP unit of Leddy-Barzal-Lee-Tavares-Eberle and 2nd unit of Pulock-Bailey-Ho-Sang-Nelson-Ladd, with Boychuk and de Haan included in the drill work. Pelech (Signed one-way, 4 year deal in late July) and Mayfield have more NHL experience and are the guys I feel are fighting for the open defensive spot, despite the attractive idea of Pulock sticking around, especially on the PP. Like all young D-men, Pulock needs to sharpen his skills a little more defensively before he can make the AHL to NHL leap.

Isles Notes:

Per Dan Saraceni at Lighthouse Hockey, “Beyond nostalgia, Ledecky gives update on team’s Belmont RFP bid.”

On 9/20 per Chris Botta, “Will be writing 2-3 #Isles columns a week starting Oct. 3. Got ideas, tips, opinions (ha!)? Please place in replies or email. Thx!”

Per Arthur Staple, “Weight outlined staff responsibilities: Cronin runs PK, Buchberger/Gomez on PP, Richardson runs the D. Gomez eye in the sky for games.”

9/13, “Casey Bailey, attending #Isles camp on a PTO, was in attendance today. So were Steve Bernier and Seth Helgeson, both on two-way deals.”

On 9/12, Isles Blog did a twitter poll for #isles season ticket holders getting close to 600 votes. “For ticket holders, if #Isles ended up with a short term situation that had games at BOTH Barclays and Coliseum, how would that impact you?” 18% said worse, 19% said no change and 63% said better.

Per Randi Marshall, “Talked to Brett Yormark today, who's hoping yesterday's Coliseum game is "first step" to bringing #isles back.”

Sound Tigers Notes:

Matt Lane, Kellen Jones, Pat Cullity & Mike Cornell have agreed to #AHL deals.

Monday, September 11, 2017

2017 KoC New York Islanders Season Preview

Doug Weight renewed the teams’ focus at the end of last season and the offense and defensive units went through some restructuring. The special teams were a bit scattered and ultimately they missed the playoffs by a point. My take on last season and supporting stats can be found in part one and part two of last season’s recap.

Considering the coming season and what might be in store for our New York Islanders, a few things stand out. The foremost thing on the minds of the fan base is the John Tavares contract extension. It’s been said by JT and his teammates, that this shouldn’t be an issue entering the season. Tavares seems comfortable with the situation right now and is waiting to see the final roster, chemistry and most importantly, the future venue of the Islanders. The back and forth of the Barclays Center, its problematic ice and state of the art, yet abbreviated amenities experienced by Islanders fans has been a hot button issue since the team has moved to Brooklyn. Rumors of a Belmont Park bid should come into focus at the end of the month and could be tied to the team’s future with Tavares.

But the real question we all have is who will be playing with John Tavares on the Isles top line. Anders Lee had a break out year (3rd in team points with 52 pts) last season and Josh Bailey played the best hockey he’s ever shown (2nd in team pts with 56) as an Islander. Both wingers had chemistry while playing with Tavares, but it’s also interesting to think about recent acquisition, Jordan Eberle (51 points with EDM last season) playing with Tavares on that first line. Isles country is excited to see what Eberle will bring and to see if he can be a pure scorer as advertised or the talented player that only scores against weaker teams. Apparently, Connor McDavid certainly wasn’t happy to see Eberle go. “It sucks' losing … Eberle to trade, but it's a business.” – McDavid. What can be said is that Eberle is a friend and countryman of Tavares, very familiar with him on the ice after much international play with team Canada since the junior level. As informal skates turn into camp and the team starts evaluating their roster, it will be interesting to see how the lines shake out.

Bailey would look good on the second line with Brock Nelson and exciting forward, Josh Ho-Sang who should secure a regular spot with the big club this season. Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier should also get a serious look out of camp and would be a good fit with an experienced and renewed Andrew Ladd after a big push (31 pts for 7th on team) on the stat sheet at the end of last season.

Jason Chimera also enjoyed a surge (33 points, good for 6th on team) as the Isles made their playoff push and might make the perfect complement to Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Cizikas (25pts) and Clutterbuck (20 pts) need a bounce back season and will be relied upon to bring their intangible energy and snarl to the Islanders offense. Shane Prince will miss up to 6 months due to injury while versatile Nikolay Kulemin ($4.187M) and big hearted, Alan Quine ($612K) both have 1 year left on their deals and will need to show other teams what they can offer or somehow make quite a splash to remain. Especially with cap room at such a premium.

UPDATE: 9/12 Per Arthur Staple, “Alan Quine out 4-6 weeks with an upper body injury. Opens a spot up front for a young player out of camp.”

On the defensive side, Nick Leddy (4th on team with 46pts) will be relied upon even more from the blue line with Travis Hamonic being lost (CGY) to free agency. Leddy has grown to be the Isles go to, all-purpose D-man since being acquired in a trade with Chicago for defensemen T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka and the rights to restricted free-agent goaltender Anders Nilsson in October of 2014. The Isles will also look to Johnny Boychuk to bounce back after missing 16 games last season and add his brand of high level defensive and special teams prowess. The ever steady Thomas Hickey will be back for at least one more season (2018-19 UFA) and Calvin de Haan will be looking to make a statement as well and build on last season’s strong career showing to show management he is a cornerstone for the Isles future playoff plan. 

Dennis Seidenberg earned an extension after being more than just a stop gap last season and should lend some veteran stability to New York's defensive core, especially with newly re-signed Adam Pelech and hungry, talented prospects like Scott Mayfield and Ryan Pulock fighting to get noticed in camp. Never forget the shows put on by Devon Toews, Sebastian Aho, Robin Salo, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon last season, scrimmage this summer and this season’s rookie camp currently under way. The rookie camp will also feature a rookie game in Philadelphia on Wednesday Sept. 13 against the Flyers.

In net, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak will get a shot at earning the number one spot. Greiss (26-18, 2.69 gaa, .913Sv%) has been a reliable anchor when slotted as a number one and we all know Halak (12-9, 2.80 gaa, .915Sv%) can be a top NHL goalie when healthy. Management wants Greiss in the future plan after re-signing him to a three-year extension, but Halak (1 Yr @ $4.5M remaining) will be a free agent next summer. The Isles added Kristers Gudlevskis for NHL-AHL depth along with BST goaltenders, Eamon McAdam and Christopher Gibson. Linus Soderstrom is at least a year out from the organizational fold, but is sure to be featured prominently in their soon to be future.

The Islanders have $2,984,167 in Cap Space (CapFriendlyand a need to manage their money and assets extra carefully with re-signing Tavares in their immediate plans. They also need to hope Doug Weight’s new look coaching staff of Greg Cronin (Assoc.), Kelley Buchberger (Asst.), Luke Richardson (Asst.), ScottGomez (Asst.), Matt Berttani (Asst.) and Fred Braithwaite (Goaltending) along with Chris Terreri (Goaltending Development Coach and Goalie Coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers) can make an impact as well. Improvements on offense, defense, special teams and consistency are all needed to take the next step. That’s a collection of mostly experienced and all talented coaches to partner with a new look Islanders team with a ton on the line and time ticking away on the new ownership's dime.

Here’s to a new season, a million possibilities and a single goal in mind.

Isles Notes:

Nassau Coliseum not an option for Islanders, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says.

Former Isles captains concerned about franchise's future.

The Hartford and the Belmont Dilemma.

New Isles Practice Jerseys


Take a moment to remember the fallen heroes & people who lost their lives 

in the 9/11 attacks. #NeverForget