The battle that “they” will make a lot about, but was never a battle, is starring Nino Niederreiter.
Nino has been penciled to play this year on the Isles since early this summer, if not last year. They knew what they had with Nino last year, and knew he was ready this year for the big club. They have slotted him to play a line with Blake Comeau and Josh “Last Minute” Bailey.
They see Nino eventually being a first line winger, but he will have to unseat P.A. Parenteau who had 20 goals and over 50 points. The question is not IF, but when for Nino, who is rated very highly by the Isles internal staff. He is projected by the Isles as a first line winger. Expect him to start on that the third line unless he IMMEDIATELY clicks with Moulson/Tavares – something I have said since last May. If he does make the top line out of camp, Parenteau shifts to line 3.
The real battle that will occur this preseason is on defense by their 2009 first round draft pick, Calvin de Haan. de Haan is projected to be a top-two defenseman. This is why they made so many moves to scoop him up at No. 12 after getting John Tavares at No. 1 in 2009. de Haan was on the young side of the draft, and his body has filled out since.
De Haan can win a spot on this defense in their preseason…. IF and WHEN he gains that spot, whether it be at season’s start or midseason as a call-up remains to be seen; but anyone who does not think that the Isles future is with de Haan slated as a top D-man is just plain mistaken. He is a key component of the rebuild and their defensive futures, even over Travis Hamonic who is a projected 3rd/4th D-man. I like Hamonic, but he has been a bit over-hyped and rated by previous bloggers.. thus overhyped by fans and message-boarders.
Those that de Haan, Hamonic and other kids will need to usurp are the journeymen D-men that the Isles brought in last year. Everyone will move down a notch, and cusp players like Mike Mottau and even Mark Eaton can easily be displaced by youth being served.
Keep an eye on defense this camp, because unlike the offensive lines which have been pre-pencilled… a lot of question marks here. The Isles, as I wrote way back in May, wanted to do more than the patchwork of Band-Aids they placed on the defense last season. However, they were thwarted by reality when their aggressive move to grab Christian “10 year Buffalo” Ehrhoff did not pan out as a pre-free agency signing. Garth Snow was also aggressive on day 1 of July 1st’s free agency. But when they saw all their targets go, they changed gears and then just merely upgraded two spots on their bottom 6… Something i warned about that very day. One via free agency, the other via trade.
Before August 1st, Snow was still aggressive. It was reported by myself that Blake Comeau was being shopped. Comeau was an expendable chip who predates the Isles new system, who has scored 20 goals or more. So as Garth was still pushing that aggressive playoff desire button, a 2nd or 3rd dman was still a desired target. In fact, when Trent Hunter was dealt for Rolston, some reported that a followup deal was to happen immediately.
Lo and behold, it did not happen…
- August 1st and Charles Wang’s frustration has now changed Garth’s ability to spend and deal.
- Comeau and his agent blinked and he signed to the Isles offer. It took him off the table for now, but his price also allows the Isles an option to deal him later if need outweighs Wang’s new cap floor dictate.
- Rather than wait, Garth and John Tavares/agent locked in a 6 year deal. This was a brilliant move that avoids issues in subsequent years with venue and Nassau issues, and Garth’s locked down spending. Rebuild pieces are to be retained at all cost. And if you think the Isles psych profiling of draft and rebuild pieces look for loyalty… You’d be right. How good would be a rebuild if you didn’t look for players willing to stick it out and be retained? A wise system, indeed.
- Isles can afford to see what pans out in camp from the kids, like de Haan, and also those vets they gave invites to before seeing what comes loose from teams before the season starts. Isles can still wheel and deal, but it will now depend on who is available and at what cost. So clearly, based on other outside factors, not exactly a guarantee or necessarily a sure thing. So don’t hold your breath here.
So watch for what portends on defense, and on how the Isles three line offense meshes. A lot of this season depends on the kids panning out. Also keep an eye on Matt Martin, who has to fight to gain a roster spot. Haley, Rolston and Reasoner are pencilled in at the 4th line, with Gillies floating as pugilest. So Martin and even Ryan Strome have their work cut out for them to make the team. For Strome, he’d have to show he can make the top 3 lines. IF he does do this… to which I feel he could use another year… then you might see the Isles forced to make a move to create that space.
What You Should be Reading:
TSN’s Scott Cullen with a sharp eye on Long Island.
Interesting take and juxtaposition of the horrible DiPietro situation and contract along with the John Tavares signing by Dustin Pollack of the DigitalJournal. Only one disagreement with that piece is that Luongo really HAD shown that he was the answer in goal. The reason he was dealt was due to flack over what Luongo wanted contractually along with his agent to Mike Milbury.
Have a bit of an issue with the Isles PR staff writing their own pieces when there is a bevy of good bloggers that they are supposed to be touting, supporting and all that via the blog box. Here is one that fastens their goalie threesome as some possibly triple threat. Righhhhhhht. Won’t be messy at all. (we’ll address the three-headed goalie beast next blog)
Speaking of threesomes… Here is a good one. Eyes on Isles have a threesome of writers previewing the Isles this year. Make sure to give them a read.
The always excellent Lighthouse Hockey starting a series of ranking of the top Isles properties under the age of 25.
Note: Chris Botta has moved on, and I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking what is up with that, feeling conspiracy. Not true. Botta might be lacking a deep explanation, but anyone who has seen that his AOL FANHOUSE association ended can guess that job comes first. Isles have nothing to do with it.
The Isles, after sending me all sorts of press releases and such all summer before August 1st, now have cut me off from emails since. The price of actually actually having some desire for integrity instead of being a PR parrot, I guess. Stay classy Isles and Charles Wang!
Now something a bit more personal:
My mother, a survivor of two cancers, is going to Los Angeles to walk in support of her childhood and lifelong friend who is dying of cancer. Please give any amount or just pass along word via twitter or facebook.
READ ANYTHING GOOD, OR PERHAPS YOU WROTE ONE YOURSELF? Let us know in the comments or email me at email@example.com
About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.