Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

02/10/2010

Potentially HUUUUGE Move For Albany AHL Hopes

A funny thing happened while reading the generally useless Troy Record, I found a nugget of information that’s truly fascinating.  The Troy Record generally covers only the high school beat and RPI hockey, but they posted a story on the sale and move of the Albany River Rats and had something far more interesting contained within.

The emergence of another AHL team calling Albany home, possibly owned by automobile mogul Billy Fuccillo, is merely speculation at this point. Sources said Fuccillo had high interest in own a team, but has since cooled if he doesn’t have full control of the franchise.

For those of you not familiar with Billy Fuccillo, some might say you can be considered fortunate as his television ads for his numerous car dealerships across upstate New York are plentiful and catch-phrase-tastic.  A lot of folks find him to be terribly annoying, but after seeing his ads follow me back home from my college days in Oswego, NY he’s grown on me for how classically old school he is as a car dealer/TV pitchman.

Since the Record says that any and all talk of Fuccillo’s wants for a team are speculative, I did a bit more research and found this item on Albany TV station WTEN’s site.

Furthermore, local car dealer Billy Fuccillo’s Chief Financial Officer reports he is in initial discussions with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, a Connecticut AHL team affiliated with the New York Islanders.

Well that amps up things quite a bit.  The site also adds this heartwarming note:

Fuccillo’s CFO says he wants the people of Albany to have a hockey team.

Well isn’t that nice. I’m sure those of you not in Upstate New York are wondering who the heck he is.  Well, he’s huge up here. Literally.

After all, a guy that does commercials like this has to have an idea on how to market and sell a team, not to mention a seemingly endless flow of cash to advertise the hell out of the team.  If there’s anything any Albany-area professional sports team fails at miserably it’s keeping a high profile in the media and selling the hell out of it to make people want to go.

Of course, if Fuccillo does go through with it and gets the Sound Tigers, that would make the Islanders organization two for two with wacky owners.  In case you’ve forgotten, Charles Wang is the owner of the New York Islanders and some of his decisions are already part of mocking folk lore in the NHL.  More importantly for the city of Albany, it would provide them a team that is actually affiliated with a pro team that’s based in New York State. It would be fitting that the state capital be associated with a team from its own state, right?  Before anyone asks, yes there are Islanders fans here upstate, although not as many as say Rangers fans.

If you’re curious, as the Record story stated, there is a bit of a history in the area with the Islanders as the Capital District Islanders once called Troy home and played home games at the Houston Field House on the RPI campus.  That team then became the Albany River Rats.  The minor league circle of life continues on.

If Fuccillo’s interest is true and he does want to buy the Sound Tigers and bring them to Albany, then this is a huge coup for the AHL. They’d be keeping a team in Albany and adding an owner who, while seemingly wacky and insane, is a dogged and tenacious businessman and a guy that hates to lose a buck as much as anyone and demands optimum performance from everyone in his organization.  He’s shrewd, he’s smart, he’s tough as hell and he knows what it takes to succeed.

In short, in a league that needs to have committed ownership and as many guys with deep pockets and an ability to market the hell out of their teams, Fuccillo could be the exact right kind of guy the AHL needs to help build up attendance in a city that has severely lagged behind.

09/24/2009

Thanks For Playing: New York Islanders

Filed under: Charles Wang,John Tavares,New York Islanders — Joe Yerdon @ 2:46 AM

Last season I did a twist on the customary season preview kind of story.  Instead of painting everything with the forever awesome hopeful brush, I came busting through like the Grim Reaper (no, not Stu Grimson) and tapped five teams before the start of the regular season to tell them that their season was over before it started.

I tried on the black robe once again and it fits great and the sickle is just as menacing as ever and it’s time to go a-reaping.  My goal this year was to pick on five teams that I didn’t touch on last year, barring the possibility of those teams being so piss-poor that it was thoroughly unavoidable.  My five choices last year were the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers.  My only slip up came with the Blues as they powered through last season to find a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs and giving me the finger the whole way.  Thanks guys.

This year after breaking down the teams I was faced with the inevitable task of having to pick on one team because they qualify under my own rule:  The Islanders.

Now as much as I’d like to be a mean-spirited prick, I find the Islanders to be in such rough shape that it’s evtavaresen beyond me to be mean.  I know, feel free to call me names – it’s fair enough, but getting to meet a lot of Islanders fans in Montreal this summer showed me that you guys are tremendously faithful and very eager for the future and for that I don’t blame you.

A trend that you’ll find amongst the walking dead teams in these previews (MAJOR HINT FOR WHAT’S TO COME) is that most of these teams have a bevy of issues going on off the ice that do nothing to help alleviate the fans’ worries about what’s going on with the team actually playing on the ice.  In this case, it’s Charles Wang taking on the Town of Hempstead in trying to build the Lighthouse Project.

The team itself are doing some of the small things to make things better for the future.  In the offseason, the Isles drafted potential franchise savior centerman John Tavares first overall and followed that selection with defenseman Calvin de Haan, an eventual power play quarterback on Long Island.  While Tavares will undoubtedly begin playing for the Islanders this season, de Haan’s near future likely lies back in Canadian Juniors and while he gets to learn there, Tavares will only have the burden of being the main attraction on an otherwise hapless team.

There are nice pieces on the Island.  Defenseman Mark Streit is a true power play quarterback in his own right and as the featured defenseman with the Isles, he’s lifted his game with it.  Forward Kyle Okposo too is a stud but, much how things go with the Islanders these days, he’s hit a bump in the road courtesy of Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Okposo was likely set to eventually be Tavares’ right wing at some point this season but with a concussion, you can never be too sure when, exactly, you’ll be OK to play.  Looking at the Islanders potential depth chart, the enigmatic Trent Hunter looms as the potential top wing along with Blake Comeau.  Those of you unfamiliar with the Islanders are likely asking, “Who?” and now it’s hitting you as to why the Isles are being featured first and foremost this season.

Another forward who might sound familiar is Doug Weight who had his own unreasonable run-in last year at center ice with Hurricanes forward Brent Sutter, difference being that Weight was on the delivery end of the hit.  Sure, a couple of other names might ring a bell or two (Jeff Tambellini, Sean Bergenheim, Richard Park) but as far as being a big scoring team… Well, the Islanders are just not going to be that.

Defensively, Mark Streit is the do-it-all deity on the blue line and hey, why not, he’s Swiss and that’s pretty fun – isn’t it Roger Federer?  Brendan Witt is the other name you’ll recognize here and he’s also there to be the team peacekeeper.  Outside of that you’ve got the oft-injured Radek Martinek and Bruno Gervais as well as the oft-injured Andy Sutton.  Come to think of it… Those are three guys that are usually banged up.  Thankfully for the Isles and general manager Garth Snow they managed to address one sort of weakness in goaltending.

Goaltending was a major problem for the Isles last season given that superstar Rick DiPietro again found himself shelved with nagging injuries.  In his stead, the team ran with superstars like Yann Danis, Joey McDonald and Peter Mannino in goal.  Goaltending depth shouldn’t be a problem this season as both Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson were brought on board to help steady this ship while DiPietro, again, rehabs from a knee injury.

At the very least the Isles won’t get caught with their pants down in goal but in tcharles-wang_392his case, it’s merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic after it’s already at the bottom of the ocean.  Yeah, that’s a bleak outlook but being part of a perpetual rebuilding project often has huge roadblocks, the least of which is an Eeyore-like black cloud looming over the franchise about whether or not their future lies in Long Island or some other place.

All of that stuff will just provide little to no respite for Isles fans who will get to soak in the future stardom and celebrity of John Tavares while watching their team struggle for offense (unless Tavares goes 1980s Gretzky on us) and hopefully avoid the injury bug that’s bitten this franchise for three years running.

Realistically, this team will be one of the five worst in the league which, considering their building blocks with Okposo and Tavares, might not put them in a bad spot for the future.  For now, however, they’ll struggle terribly and being stuck in a division with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins as well as the built-to-kill Philadelphia Flyers.

Enjoy Tavares Islanders faithful and don’t worry about if you get caught daydreaming about the future, you won’t be at fault for doing so.

07/18/2009

New Faces In New Places: Smorgasbord

After what a rousing hit the last set of premonition photos were with Tampa Bay and Washington…

…Wait, what’s that Professor Frink?

Ahh, yes, good to see yours is working. Well played, sir. Glavin!

Since folks aren’t overly entertained by the Lightning nor the Capitals it was high time to step it up in a big way. Again big thanks to EA Sports and XBox Live for providing the means to whet all of your appetites for the upcoming season.

This time the top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft makes his (sort of) video game debut, the New York Rangers unveil an entirely new lineup, Professor Pronger dons the black and orange, Nikolai Khabibulin does his best Andy Moog impression and a guy lets his new paycheck commit to the Indian in Chicago.

I’m going to let these photos appear to be a bit smaller on the page here because there are A LOT of them, but as always, feel free to click on them to make them reasonably life size on your screen.


2009 #1 Draft Pick Jonathan Tavares slips around 2009 #3 Draft Pick Matt Duchene.


This will not end well for virtual Marian Hossa as Chris Pronger steps up in the slot to greet him.


Professor Pronger stays in form: Elbows up at all times


Poise. Grace. Steadiness. Ray Emery. Wait, why are you laughing?


It’s John Madden doing what he does best.


Ian Laperriere was called in as a witness in Daniel Carcillo’s assault case (background) against Niklas Hjalmarsson.


Tomas Kopecky deals out some beach justice to Chris Pronger.


Marian Gaborik shows how far into the defensive zone he’ll ever go.


Nikolai Khabibulin stones Marian Gaborik in close. Gaborik pulls groin in process.


That’s just Donald being Donald.


Matt Gilroy shows the rest of the team how to play defense correctly. Take notes Roszival!


How do you know its a video game? When Ales Kotalik is trying to play some defense.


Christopher Higgins is just playing it out until the post-game party starts.


Hey look! It’s those two guys that got traded for Ryan Smyth!


What Dwayne Roloson doesn’t know is that he’s wearing Tommy Salo’s number and he’ll have to start more games than not. Let’s see how he reacts…

06/26/2009

Bienvenue à Montréal

The Gross Misconduct Hockey Road Trip extravaganza gets to close out the 2008-2009 season as well as get you prepared for the 2009-2010 season all at once by visiting one of my most favorite cities in the world:

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Those accents are very important.

Tomorrow morning I’ll hit the road, the illustrious I-87, to attend the NHL Entry Draft. No, I won’t be giving you a mock draft since that would be amateurish of me to do and would likely end up sounding really freaking stupid because, honestly, what am I going to tell you that you’re not going to find more well informed elsewhere? Hell, just hit up the links on the sidebar and you’ll find something you’ll enjoy – it’s out there and other folks are busting their ass a lot more on this than yours truly.

That’s just how I roll. I guess.

The one bit of insight I’ll give you is this, and these are the things I’ll be keeping an eye out for.

Thankfully, one of them focuses in on the first two picks. I’m curious to see if Garth Snow and the Islanders have just been jerking all of us around for weeks and he’s going to run to the podium and make it official that the Islanders give a crap about the team’s future and select John Tavares first.

Not selecting Tavares would be damn near criminal and that’s not a slight on Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene but Tavares was virtually NHL-ready last year. Hell, they tried to bend the rules to allow him to be drafted last year.

Tavares is the real deal and he’ll be the guy to resurrect the Islanders back into relevancy, which is good since both Hedman and Duchene are pretty fantastic booby prizes for the Lightning and Avalanche who select after the Isles.

Provided the Lightning don’t do something thoroughly insane they should take Hedman and have him starting on the blueline for the Lightning come September. He’s big, he’s Swedish, he plays defense. That’s a pretty good pedigree to have coming to the NHL.

Then again, this is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team owned by the wackiest pair of terrible owners in the league, a couple of guys in Oren Koules and Len Barrie who were brought into Little Gary’s office this week to get their problems figured out. Of course Gary sided with Oren Koules and hey, why not, he deals in real estate that’s a really solid industry lately. No problems there at all.

Oh and Koules wants to pare down the payroll and get rid of Vincent Lecavalier. That ought to go over really well for the fans in Tampa who have already had these two jackals ruin what was once the crown jewel of how to be a non-traditional market and thrive.

This is also the team with the general manager Brian Lawton who said in an e-mail to other teams that if you want to talk about the Lightning that you talk to him and him alone.


“Please be advised that in order to avoid any confusion over the next couple of weeks, as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning Organization I am the only person authorized to speak on behalf of the team with regard to player transactions,” the email read.

“No other person is authorized to negotiate player transactions. Any questions, feel free to call.”

Oh good.

Of course with the flux in Tampa Bay and not knowing just what they’ll do, Lawton has felt it necessary that Tampa will hang on to their pick which would be pretty wise considering a guy like Hedman would help sure up their defense for a good long while.

Then again, if Koules is getting the bigger share of the decisions on what to do, perhaps trading out of the spot will seem more appealing.

Sure it would. Then again, if the Islanders do go against the grain and do something unbelievably foolish like skipping over Tavares in favor Hedman then the power is in Tampa’s hands. And if that happens? Hang on to your freakin’ pants because Toronto general manager Brian Burke might actually start table dancing like the fine ladies at Club Super Sexe, full-frontal and everything.

Go ahead, go puke. I’ll wait.

Feel better? Good.

If Tampa gets themselves into a position where they can use their #2 spot to leverage whatever they want to out of anyone, then perhaps even Burke might feel compelled to give up his BFF defenseman Luke Schenn in order to land John Tavares. Then again, who knows what other teams might want to throw at Tampa in order to get a crack at Tavares.

If, and these are HUGE ifs, the Islanders take Hedman or anyone else not named John Tavares the NHL Draft officially becomes a circus and the time allotted to Tampa at pick #2 becomes the most exciting time of the Draft as the Lightning phones will not stop ringing the whole time and with Lawton having to handle things with Koules and Barrie also calling to get their say in…

Well for chaos purposes alone I pray for this to happen. Then again, for the Islanders to become a relevant franchise again sometime before I’m dead, I hope they take Tavares. The Isles lack a lot but Tavares gives them the guy to build the franchise around and gives Kyle Okposo someone to have fun with out there.

The other things I’ll be looking for this weekend come from a sheerly selfish standpoint in being an RPI Engineers hockey watcher and there’s as many as four players with RPI connections who may get their names called this Saturday during the 2nd through 7th rounds.

Three of these players haven’t suited up for the Engineers yet but two of them will in the 09-10 season in Jerry D’Amigo and Brandon Pirri. D’Amigo is getting a lot of press of late and could find himself getting called late in the second round or early in the third.

Christopher Ralph at HockeySpy has this scouting report on D’Amigo who he lists at #50 on his Top 60 list which includes some pretty high praise:


Scouting Combine Performance: Eug Sorokin observed: “Good looking guy, heard some chatter amongst the GMs and some teams like him a lot.” Sorokin was reminded of Zach Parise with respect to D’Amigo.

If RPI can bring in a guy who is anything like Zach Parise, head coach Seth Appert will do back-flips to celebrate because RPI will improve instantly from his presence.

Brandon Pirri comes into the draft having some questions over his defensive skills, but his offensive talents are unquestionably noticeable. His stats from this season playing for two different junior squads in Streetsville and Georgetown:

44 GP 46 G 48 A 94 PTS

For an RPI team that severely lacked scoring, Pirri will be a God-send for the program and any defensive shortcomings he may have will be picked up by his teammates. After all, when you’re showing up as a sniper, worrying about backchecking probably doesn’t rank out too high. Pirri also claims to have added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame bringing him up to 180 pounds, he’ll need that to deal with some of the bruisers he’ll line up against in the NCAA, most notably those at Cornell.

Pirri projects to be potentially anywhere from late third round to early fifth round for the 2009 NHL Draft.

The other players on the potential draft radar are 2010 recruit Jacob Laliberté and current Engineer forward Patrick Cullen. If either or both of them are selected, count on it being in the sixth or seventh round. Laliberté is a small sized forward but worked as a power play maven in the CJHL last year putting up astounding point totals. Cullen was a rookie sensation for the low-scoring Engineers and figures to build strongly on his freshman success getting teammates like D’Amigo and Pirri (among others) to join him in Troy this season.

One other quick note on this weekend. I’ll be reaching out from the basement with a host of other tremendous bloggers from across the Internet this weekend at the official NHL Draft Tweet Up.

Yeah, I know, the Twitter name makes it sound sort of lame – deal with it, Twitter has taken over the world.

Nearly 100 folks from across the NHL blogging spectrum are taking part in this in some ways and even some of the big shots (Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, the folks from Pension Plan Puppets, even Eklund) are going to be there. I’d tell folks in Montreal to hide the beer and their daughters but it’s too late to hide the beer and, well, who knows who’s going to think it’s a good idea to hit the “fun” parts of St. Catherine’s Street on Saturday.

I kid.

I think.

Either way, this event, something as simple and kind of under the radar like the NHL Entry Draft has evolved into a blogger summit, and even the folks at All Habs have extended a special invitation to everyone’s favorite diminutive analyst, Pierre McGuire, to make an appearance and shake hands with some of the folks who enjoy needling him the most.

If he shows up somehow, this turns into an epic gathering of MONSTER proportions.

As if it wasn’t going to be already.

Stay tuned to my own page at Twitter
for draft observations, pictures, and other assorted nonsense. Hell, there’s even a chance you’ll get to see me suited up in my own zebra stripes.

05/21/2009

Charles Wang Wants To Flex His Nuts

Filed under: Charles Wang,Kate Murray,New York Islanders,Relocation Radar — Joe Yerdon @ 6:03 PM

Everyone’s pretty well consumed with what’s going on with the Coyotes but there’s another team to get on the radar, a team whose owner has already warned the locals about his plans to get out of town (well, he’d take a look around at least) should they not work with him to improve their facilities.

Get your relocation radars prematurely locked in on the New York Islanders.

We know that Charles Wang is a loose cannon and that his trust in people is sometimes bizarre and greatly unwarranted, take a look at Rick DiPietro’s contract and Mike Milbury’s tenure on the Island for examples.

Give Wang credit where credit is due, however. He’s been battling the Town of Hempstead and more pointedly the town supervisor Kate Murray. Two of the NHL Blogosphere’s biggest Charles Wang backers are B.D. Gallof at Islanders Independent and Chris Botta at Islanders Point Blank.


Strange things are afoot at the Lighthouse.

Chris Botta offers the perspective of a guy who has worked for the Islanders as a PR man for Charles Wang’s operation. Botta’s name came up in the news today after it was announced the Islanders were mysteriously letting go of Corey Witt, the PR man that replaced Botta. As is mentioned over at Islanders Independent, it’s curious that Wang’s operation would do this as both Botta and Witt are perfect PR people for the organization since they’re local homegrown guys that genuinely love the Islanders.

The thought presented at II is that strange things are afoot in Long Island and none of them mean good things if you like the team where it’s currently located.

Sue me for jumping to conclusions, but this organizational change is just another indication of why I am just about convinced that the Isles will not be in NY (much less LI) very much longer. I won’t list my “indicators” here, but I have been pointing them out on Logan’s blog for about 3 months now. (No anticipated free agent signings, failure to secure or even make an honest attempt at Mr. Hobey Baker, etc etc) Greg describes Corey Witt as a lifelong, born and raised, love LI til he dies, Islander supporter. Not much different than what Chris Botta brought to the Wang Organization. Botta is gone…and now so is Witt…..Another “home grown, ties to the community, press and media relations” guy. Someone that Wang WOULD NOT want involved in certain details about the long term plans of the organization……if those plans were dark.

Now that’s the kind of tinfoil hat talk I like. No, seriously, I dig it a lot.

Aside from drumming up more of your own bad public relations, what’s the point of letting go of people with strong local ties to the Islanders and have been life-long fans? You know, the kind of person you’re ideally looking for to fill that position.


Strap it on, we’re going deep.

OK so Charles Wang made sure to say that if the Town of Hempstead doesn’t get something done to allow him to build his impressive and paid-for-with-his-own-money Lighthouse Project that he would begin to look for other options on where to go and whether or not he should sell the team.

And this, to me, shows that in this era when sports teams are busy yelling at locales to build them a new arena to sell luxury boxes in and getting the cities to pay for them it’s stunning to me that Charles Wang, a guy people don’t realize is solely responsible for the Islanders remaining on Long Island, is willing to plunk down his own money to build this sprawling and, honestly, incredible project in Hempstead.

Yet the town wants nothing to do with Wang’s money or development seemingly citing the lack of support the Islanders get as their reasoning for not allowing an eccentric millionaire to build what he feels the team needs to survive and help draw crowds to see the Islanders once again.


Dear Hempstead: LET ME SPEND MY FUCKING MONEY ON YOU!

This is where I question Kate Murray and her seeming vendetta against the Islanders because what are people coming to Hempstead, New York for in the first place? If you were to believe Hempstead’s website for tourism, the Islanders are one of the main attractions.

Well then what the fuck gives?

Charles Wang isn’t a totally crazy guy and he can tell when he’s not wanted and with the Town of Hempstead continues to dick around with him, as is detailed at Islanders Point Blank:

And so it goes with the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse Project, the development of Tom Suozzi’s HUB that Nassau County has tried for decades to get off the ground. So it goes for the revitalization of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as set forth by a Request For Proposals by Nassau County and approved by a 16-2 margain.

Wang, who is said to be completely satisfied by the stewardship of the proposal by Suozzi and the County, has set a October 3 deadline for Town approvals for obvious reasons. The Islanders lease expires in 2015. A “transformed” Coliseum would take four off-seasons to complete. The math is simple. Wang has to decide if he’s finally done losing at least $20 million a year with no development deal in sight.

So, there’s a method to all the madness here for Charles Wang – who’dve thunk it? So much for being an eccentric millionaire if you’re not going to just haphazardly make deadlines and want to spend loads of money on something a town doesn’t even want to bother with.

So what if there’s nothing in place by Wang’s October deadline to get things started?

Just like Islander Independent said: Start lining up ownership prospects and new locations.

Sure, if Balsillie’s attempt to land the Coyotes fails (and there’s virtually no doubt in my mind that it will) he’ll make a move on the Islanders and for that, all I ask is a seat in the board room at that meeting between Balsillie and Wang.

Imagine that pow-wow. Amazing.

Outside of that, perhaps Bruce Ratner gives Charles Wang a call since the roadblocks in his development of his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn appear to be falling and construction may begin soon. Why not add another tenant to join the Nets in what would be a huge piece to revitalize Brooklyn?

Then again, maybe Wang will be thoroughly tired of dealing with being unappreciated and asinine politics in New York and just look for the first readily available green pasture that wants to have a hockey team.

I don’t know, maybe that pre-season audition they’ll get against the Los Angeles Kings in Kansas City is a nice way for the folks at AEG to shmooze it up with Wang to show him everything the Sprint Center can offer the Islanders.

I know this was all theorized before when the game was scheduled (as is proven by that TSN link) but with Hempstead’s seeming disdain for anything and everything Charles Wang tries to do perhaps he’s left with no recourse but to aggressively start looking for a new place to call home.

It’s easy to be critical of Charles Wang, he brings it upon himself quite easily by playing outside the norm and operating his team like a maniac but in his dealings with Hempstead in trying to revitalize the Nassau County Coliseum and develop the area around it and turning it into a place people will want to go to…

Well, perhaps Charles Wang is just the alchemist the Islanders need.

10/07/2008

Thanks For Playing – Part 4: New York Islanders

Filed under: boring,Kyle Okposo,New York Islanders,Rick DiPietro,Scott Gordon — Joe Yerdon @ 8:06 PM

You could make an argument that while the 2007-2008 Atlantic Division had one of the more interesting and exciting playoff races ripe with rivalries in full effect, old school hatred brimming over and plenty of tight games to decide who landed where in the standings that it may have been one of the most exciting divisions to watch beat each other up endlessly throughout the unbalanced schedule.

You remember that nightmare where intradivision opponents would play each other up to eight times a year during the regular season. This was Herr Bettman’s method of developing rivalries between teams within the division.

Think of how dumb that sounds on its own. For the most part, these divisions featured teams that have been playing each other since each other’s inception. The Atlantic, in this case, had no expansion teams – the most recent addition to the crew was the Devils in the early 80s and they managed to tick off the Rangers, Flyers and Penguins over the course of the last 20 years pretty easily. The battles between the Flyers and Rangers, Penguins and Flyers, and the playoff matchups that ensued between the Devils and Rangers as well as the Pens against the Rangers and Flyers proved that Gary Bettman’s means of creating rivalries, in the Atlantic Division’s case, was pretty freakin’ stupid.

The Atlantic featured some of the closest games last year and had some of the best competition on the ice in the NHL….

Hang on, sorry. That’s what the NHL suits would like me to write. Here’s what it really was like.

BORING! IT WAS REALLY, REALLY, BORING!

Let me clarify a bit. Games that involved teams from outside of Pennsylvania were horribly, terribly, boring.

The biggest offenders of this? You ready for it?

No, seriously…You ready to hear who the most brutally boring team in the Atlantic Division as well as the entire NHL was last year?

Ready?

Surprised? You better not be – get ready for a statistical throwdown.

I’m showing you the standings because there’s a column to the right of wins, losses and losses obtained due to the skills competition. It’s the GF column. That’s “Goals For” for those of you who have been dumbstruck by the revelation that the New Jersey Devils weren’t the most boring team in the NHL.

The Islanders scored 194 goals last season – good for second-lowest in the NHL. Columbus was one worse with 193. They allowed a stunning 243 which makes it more abundantly clear who Philadelphia and Pittsburgh seemed to be lighting up the most. The Flyers allowed 233 goals but they at least covered up for themselves scoring 248, best in the division. The Flyers also finished the year as the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Islanders finished 13th in the East and 15 points out of the 8th spot in the playoffs. With Ted Nolan at the helm and teaching an overly cautious defense-first style of play on a team that was also riddled with injuries…well, suffice to say, it wasn’t meant to be for the Isles.

This year? Ted Nolan is out after disagreeing with General Manager Garth Snow over just about everything and Scott Gordon moves up from the AHL where he coached the Providence Bruins. With him, Gordon brings his upbeat, pressing and attacking brand of hockey. Good things, right?

Not so fast. The Isles are severely lacking in a little thing called “talent.” To their credit, they were smart and tricked/convinced college standout Kyle Okposo to leave the University of Minnesota and jump into the fire in the NHL. This year, he’ll be counted on heavily to make a major contribution to a team that is relying heavily upon untested youth.

Sure you’ve got Mr. Hillary Duff, Mike Comrie leading the way, but he’s coming off of off-season surgery. By the way, Comrie lead the Isles in scoring last year with 49 points. 49!

There’s the semi-ageless Bill Guerin on the wing and while, sure, he’s the captain of this team… I can’t think of another captain in the league who’s as well-traveled as Guerin is. Then again, Isles owner Charles Wang figured that naming him captain upon arrival to the Island was a good idea, especially since Alexei Yashin was given the boot. I guess anyone would’ve been a step up from Yashin but…yikes.

Looking at their depth chart as it stands now the team looks like the kind of lineup you would put together if you were playing fantasy hockey and you had to assemble your team after 29 other teams had done all of their drafting already and you got the scraps of what was leftover.

After all, if you’re really thinking that Doug Weight is your #2 center…you’re in deep.

Is there hope here? Maybe, but it will have to come from their youth. Jeff Tambellini, Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau and Okposo are all going to have to play above their expectations. Most of these guys got a healthy dose of NHL play last year which either means they could be ready to mature and emerge, or they’ll be ripe for a sophomore-esque jinx and not build any chemistry with each other.

On defense, the Isles, and I can’t stress this enough, have to stay healthy. Unfortunately, they’re already dealing with problems. Andy Sutton and Chris Campoli are already dealing with injuries. Is it a harbinger of doom? Let’s hope not – injury problems like the Isles had last year, including losing Campoli, Brendan Witt, Marc-Andre Bergeron for long stretches of the season made playing defense in Nolan’s system even more difficult.

The Isles brought in free agent defenseman Mark Streit to quarterback their power play and should Gordon’s system work out the way he wants it to, Streit will benefit greatly from it after playing something like that in Montreal. That said, the offense is going to struggle again and if Rick DiPietro can’t carry the bulk of the load in goal (and given his injury history) things look pitiful on the Island.

At least when Wade Dublewicz was backing up DiPietro, there was some kind of safety cushion there that they could count on. Now it’ll be up to Canadiens outcast Yann Danis and journeyman Joey McDonald to have to be ready at an instant to step in if/when DiPietro breaks himself again.

It would take a remarkable stroke of good luck and good health to keep the Islanders in the hunt for the playoffs and while the NHL schedule doesn’t force as many intra-divisional games this year, the Isles still are getting the bulk of their games against four playoff teams. While each of those other four teams all have their own sets of question marks, those teams are also light years ahead of where the Islanders are right now. The Isles will get to fatten up on the likes of Toronto and half of the Southeast Division, but they’re going to get beaten up and tossed around by their neighbors.

The only bright spot I can find here is that at least they won’t be completely dreadful to watch. An upbeat, aggressive style, even when played with less-than-stellar parts can be entertaining. At least then you can count on the better teams using that to their advantage and showing off.

Then again, Isles fans, those few of you out there who are continuing to stick by them, and bless you for doing so, you don’t want to watch your team get throttled on. The only bit of advice I can offer to you is to listen to this guy (and ignore the lizards):

06/15/2008

Alexei Yashin & Charles Wang – BFF 4EVR

Filed under: Alexei Yashin,Charles Wang,New York Islanders — Joe Yerdon @ 6:28 PM

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

Alexei Yashin is drawing interest from the New York Islanders.

OK so you’ve stopped me, fine. Be that way.

But this story is actually new. So now you’re curious, the way someone is curious when driving past a fiery wreck or when you see someone trip and fall.

Initially, you feel concerned but deep-down you want to laugh.

Out loud.

And point.

It’s time to just not be concerned here folks, the time for concern is over. This is point-and-laugh out loud time.

Yashin’s agent, Marc Gandler told Newday he spoke with Islanders’ general
manager Garth Snow on Thursday but no agreement was reached.

“We’ve had discussions,” Gandler told Newsday. “But it’s been very slow
because I told them in the beginning how much I wanted. They’re obviously not
happy about that. But clearly, they missed him. They didn’t have a first line
last season.”

Oh, the beauty of being an agent – you get to mangle with the truth!

In case you’ve forgotten, Alexei Yashin is a former Hart Trophy winner with the Ottawa Senators and he’s the father of the obscene Islanders contract. You know, before Rick DiPietro signed for 15 years, Yashin signed on with Wang’s Islanders for 10 years and $87.5 million dollars.

It could be argued pretty easily that Yashin’s contract (along with Bobby Holik’s Rangers contract of 5 years $45 million) are Exhibit’s A and B as to why the NHL Owners needed to be saved from themselves and help ruin the final shreds of relevancy – but then Charles Wang went and gave Ricky D a 15-year deal after the lockout. Go figure, idiocy continues unchecked!

What’s incredible is that Yashin is taking the season he had with Yaroslavl, a Russian professional team, and using that to try and convince the Islanders that his scoring touch, in a league that’s a little bit lacking compared to the NHL is good enough mind you, is back.

Amazing!

The fun doesn’t end there from Yashin’s agent – a true spin doctor if I’ve ever seen one.

“If we can’t get anything soon, we’re going to take the offer with
Yaroslavl,” Gandler told Newsday. “I think they’re interested, but I’m not sure
they’re comfortable with the amount.”

That’s right Islanders, you’re on the clock until July 1st to decide if you want to bring back the face of failure to the franchise. The best part of all of this is Gandler’s insistence that the only thing keeping the two sides apart is MONEY.

Really? You mean to tell me that the Islanders are gunshy about giving up a ton of money to a guy that was, for all intents and purposes, a colossal failure on the Island. Being an agent must be the most ridiculous and fun job on earth for all the nonsense you get to come up with and potentially get away with.

The saddest part of all this is that the Islanders could use a guy with some scoring touch. The Isles were brutally inoffensive last season. Mr. Hillary Duff, Mike Comrie, was the team’s leading scorer with 49 points and Bill Guerin was the leading goal scorer with 23. Ouch. The unrestricted free agency options for scoring are mostly lacking and going the restricted route is most dangerous and unexpected.

Is an older Yashin the answer for the Isles? No, but if the options are slim, and chances are no one is going bonkers trying to play for the Islanders, the Isles and GM Garth Snow might want to take a flier on Yashin just because.

To think that Yashin is going to want a ton of money from them is laughable, especially considering Yashin is still on the Islanders books from being bought out before the start of last season.

He’s on the books until the 2012-2013 season! Unreal.

Believe me, Alexei Yashin is a bad guy to have on a team. He’s selfish, doesn’t much care for the success of the team and looks to fill out his own scoresheet above everything else – and I was a big fan of Yashin’s while he was in Ottawa. That said, I can’t help but feel we’ll see #79 on the ice again for the Isles, mainly because they’ll have no other options left to fill out their ranks with talent.

Let’s just hope Charles Wang is smart enough to not give him more than a two-year contract.

08/17/2007

Clichés And Those Who Fulfill Them

Filed under: fish sticks,new uniforms,New York Islanders — Joe Yerdon @ 2:31 PM

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — George Santayana

Remember the fisherman…

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