Hockey from the Blind Side, Back on the Grid for Another Season

It has been a long time, I know. Unfortunately, the summer brought a lot of business related distractions and some travel as well. I have not had much time to write anything, and barely enough time to keep track of what has been going on in the sport’s world.

Nevertheless, with the preseason under way and being back from a vacation, I have had time to catch up and get myself back into the swing of things. After Gary and I did our interview with Garth Snow for Sports Talk 1240, it really started getting me excited for the new season, but I didn’t have time to get myself up to speed until this week.

So, with that all said, I am going to comment on some of the more recently discussed topics surrounding the Islanders. There has been a lot that has been happening, and I have collected some “blind observations” to offer in regard to the items that I have been reading about the most. I’m sure that my opinions pretty much coincide with those of many other writers and fans, but, hey, it’s a start for me to get back into the world of posting here again. Also, well, it’s fun to toss my hat into the ring as well just because I am an opinionated jabrone anyway….There is no particular order to these items, and I’m sure I will miss a few. Still, here is my take on these areas:

• What about the lack of any significant “moves” by Garth Snow over the off season? Did anyone expect any earth-shattering moves? I wasn’t. I think there has been too much hand ringing and worrying about what other teams did and the players they signed. I don’t think the Islanders really had to go out and get anyone. Why mess with the core and interfere with the progress of this group? I think the upsides of guys like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson didn’t make it necessary to have to try to sign anyone on the offense.

• Why sign Marek Zidlicky to a one year deal?…. Why not? It can only help. Having a veteran like him on the blue line and power play to replace Lubo was, more or less, an insurance policy, in my opinion. If you have watched this guy play over the years, he has always been a good offensive weapon and a responsible back liner. Barring injuries, he will be a good stop gap to give some more time for Pulock and Mayfield to season a bit more in the AHL.

• Speaking of Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield, will we see them in Islander uniforms this season? Of course. Let’s face it. Injuries happen. Hockey is a contact sport, and the defense tends to get banged up as a season progresses. Without a doubt, either or both of these guys will get their chances to play. At that point, it will be up to them to state their cases in a way a guy named, Travis Hamonic once did a few years back..

• Why trade Michael Grabner? OK, I am of mixed emotions about this subject. I understand he was the odd man out up front. Injuries certainly hampered his season last year, but there can be no arguments that his presence on the penalty kill stabilized and improved it. Yes, the Isles restocked Bridgeport by bringing over 5 guys in return, including another goaltender, but I just hope this doesn’t end up biting the Islanders on the backside. Grabner, to me, still has the potential to score 20 or even 30 goals, and just his speed threat made him a weapon in the lineup when he was available to play. Maybe, he was the victim of the numbers game, but I hope I am proven wrong about this one in the end. I still hear about that “El Nino” guy we sent to Minnesota from a friend of mine who lives in Saint Paul, and I got a thank you note from another friend who lives in Toronto while I was away on vacation ….

• Will Kirill Petrov be on the roster for opening night? I was really curious to find out what all the talk was about him. From what I have read, he was quite impressive playing with other Russians, but was not so much so when not on a line with his fellow countrymen. Clearly, the language barrier has a lot to do with this, but the bottom line is I am of the mind that he most likely will start the season with the Sound Tigers. As with Pulock and Mayfield, though, most likely, he will get his chance to crack the lineup at some point, and it will be up to him to convince the coaching staff to have him stick around.

• What does George McPhee’s new position mean? As a special advisor to Garth Snow, it really means he has a more “official” position with the team. He has been working as a part time scout over the last season, and based on his relationship with new ownership from the Washington Capital days, it’s probably not surprising. I think it can only help the Islanders, but contrary to what a few family and friends have “suggested”, I certainly don’t think it reflects on a lack of faith in Snow’s job as GM.

• Who is going to play with John Tavares on the top line when the smoke clears? Good question … I think the Isles are in a great position in that they have several options. Anders Lee has certainly made a case, and Ryan Strome on the right side has made it an effective, dynamic trio. However, Josh Bailey certainly shined playing with JT, and let us not forget Kyle Okposo’s chemistry as well. So, I have a feeling this will be kind of a rotating situation as time passes unless something truly solidifies in a demonstrative way right off the bat.

• What about Michael Dal Colle? The scenario of him being allowed to play nine games and then being sent back to juniors is probably how this will play out, if I was a betting man. Unless he really shines and proves to the coaches that he is NHL ready, I don’t see the Islanders taking a gamble on keeping him around as they did with Nino Niederreiter. Could he step up and make an impact? Of course, and that would only help the Islanders and, possibly, add another option for the top line.

• Alarm clocks and Josh Ho-Sang … I am of the mind as Christian Arnold of IPB here. I don’t see a reason to beat this kid up over the incident. I have been there twice in my life as far as over sleeping through an alarm. Of course, the Islanders and Garth Snow did the right thing by immediately sending him back to juniors. A message had to be sent, and I agree with John Tavares’s comment about having 3 or 4 alarm clocks set for ones first day of training camp. Still, he’s 19 years old, and this is a life lesson one can hope he will take to heart for the future.

I am not going to offer any definitive predictions or definite prognostications. This team should make the playoffs again, and based on collective lessons learned, their first round playoff performance should be a much better one. Things have not changed as far as the importance of secondary scoring, and there are some guys who really need to step up their games this season. The goaltending should be solid, and the defense, I think, will be even better than some are concerning themselves over. Sure, some teams have improved, but this is a team that is growing another year with experience under their belt and yet more NHL seasoning.

Beyond that, we are just a few weeks away from opening night, and let the fun begin again! Brooklyn is our new home, folks, so we must adjust to that fact, and still rally around the boys. Yes, yes Yes!


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