CAUSE AND EFFECT: Beware The Blame Game & Reason For Hope

The Islanders start is not one for the ages, but lately it seems that fans seem to be whipped into a frenzy. First with Nabokov and agent seeming to spout off to the peanut galley, then once the rumors get cooking, catch flak and start saying the “party line” on record. Then suddenly we talked about the fate of the coach. Actually I wondered that aloud weeks ago, but it was of late that the machine whirled and started to hammer the coach and then, now, Garth Snow. The machine will keep going, and fans will be riled about all sorts of things, but the one to blame for many issues is one Charles Wang. The buck stops with Charles who seemed to kibosh intent to make moves post-August 1st. It is Charles who let Mike Milbury remain for years, and let the Isles sink into an abyss. It was Charles who hired and then butted head with Neil Smith. It was Charles who selected Garth Snow, and in the wreckage of a season gone wrong with Ted Nolan at realm, who then invested his trust in Garth and the draft system to constitute a rebuild that not just was for the NHL on-ice, but also to refurbish the Milbury decimated and rotten prospect system and pool.

It is unfortunate that it has been so slow, and still has a jury out on if this rebuild pieces are really all that is needed. I’d be leaning towards that some changes and corrections to it need to be made since this year seems to be lacking a lot of elements. Garth has attempted to use free agency to land key items, chasing many a free agent, but with no playoffs in a few years and a venue also atop that, it has made it difficult to be a player unless they damage their longterm. Perhaps Garth should have made a crazy deal like Ehrhoff’s 10 year deal for the Sabres? As crazy as it was, the fact it is front loaded might have be the saving grace with a new CBA and surefire adjustments going to be eaten in the near future.

Ehrhoff’s stats this season, at his current rate will put him near 50 points, something the Isles coveted and regarded him as a #2 dman. He is also poised for a -20 season, at current rate, but +/- is a flawed stat and hardly indicative of value.

Should have Garth overpaid, despite clearly being fiscally conservative since his start on Long Island? This season’s offkilter drag and the glaring need for scoring and defensive depth seems to indicate that you do get what you pay for, and that leaves the Isles and Isles fans wanting this November. 

There is certainly a lot of season to go, and with the rebuild chip of Nino Niederreiter poised to return tonight, it will certainly be a welcome sight. Nino spent the preseason working with the top line, but will likely be placed on the 2nd or 3rd to jumpstart the listless. What does Nino bring to the table? Quite a bit, and though people should not expect the kid to blaze a path of glory with his stuttered start due to injury, he will bring things to the team that are missing and sorely needed.

I corresponded with my friend over at The Prospect Park, Jess Rubenstein, who has watched Nino at Portland and who has been singing his praises before the Isles picked him. When I was in LA at the draft, Jess had mentioned him often as being a gem of a pick and exactly what the Isles needed.

 

Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park:

Nino’s strengths begin with his ability to create his own offense as well as for others despite what the numbers may say.  While people look at his goal scoring numbers I looked at his passing skills because he has the knack of finding the open guy even with 2 guys covering him.
Too many times I would watch teams try to shadow Nino with a defenseman and forward so when they did Nino knew where his teammates were on the ice and found the open man. If I am coaching the Islanders I tell who ever is playing on the ice with Nino to be ready at all times for a pass.
Nino is equally comfortable playing a finesse game as well as fight the physical battles anywhere on the ice.  That said I have to say this is a poor time for Nino to be making his season debut as I have trouble looking at the Islander roster and seeing linemates who would be good fits with him.

In Portland, the Winterhawks got the most out of him by using a pest (Brad Ross) and a very underrated clutch scorer (Ryan Johansen) because those 2 would give Nino the puck and stay out of his way. Nino may not have super speed but his skating is strong enough technically to cause problems for other team’s defenses.

At the NHL level I see Nino more as a playmaker than a goal scorer simply because of his ability to see the entire ice. If Nino has the puck in the corner then head directly to the net as Nino will find a way to get the puck there either via a pass or attacking himself.
Nino will not pass up a good scoring chance to make the perfect play either as he has an NHL quality shot that he can use anywhere on the ice.
The other thing I think people will be surprised to see from Nino is that he will not back down from anyone as he will hit you just as hard as you tried to hit him. And if he has to Nino will drop the gloves to defend himself and his teammates.

Defensively, Nino more than holds his own as he does not cherry pick when his line is on the ice and he is active at both ends of the ice.

 
The one area I do worry about his temper as the WHL defended against Nino mainly by physical play sometimes not always clean hitting. Nino has to realize that at the NHL level he only hurts his team if he drops the gloves.
Isles have another prospect under-the-radar:
BTW add a kid named John Persson to the stealth prospects the Islanders have. All this kid (6’2 190 LW) is being asked to do in Red Deer is replace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but ever since the Oilers made the announcement they were keeping RNH then Persson simply has been the best Islander prospect over the last 8 games. 4 three point games out of his last 6 games and against good quality teams too.

 

So is it all solved? Hardly, but if the Isles can get some scoring generated, and the Isles can scrape their way to .500, it would be far more within expectations. And to that, Nino, besides Bailey or Okposo turning on the jets, can be a big difference-maker.

What I would not do is jump off the ledge just because a pied piper is playing a familiar song. 

 

 

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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.

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  1. RobC/KO21 says:

    I would like to see KO scratched in replacment for Nino…It will most likely be Blake but that doesn’t send a message to the rest of the team…It just makes Blake the goat as usual…

  2. BDGallof says:

    I’d think it would be someone like Pandolfo.

    • Vlad from Brooklyn says:

      I think it MUST be Pandolfo. Just because there is some upside that can be squeezed from Blake. And there is nothing more is coming out from Pandolfo’s project.

  3. HyeDray says:

    Nice piece BD

    For me — the best scenario for this season moving forward is to sit Okposo tonight. It will be a big sting for him because its the Rangers.

    From there, if they can swing a deal to get Nabakov out of here, it gives them some added flexibility to sit Josh Bailey in favor of Ulstrom.

    Im not as big a fan of Haley’s right now. We don’t need another 4th liner here, we need people who can find the net.

    Comeau is a tough one. He is doing zilch now, so he has zeor trade value. May need to wait, but I think his days are numbered as well.

  4. Isles27 says:

    I’ve been telling you guys for the longest time that Okposo was overrated and over hyped by this fan base. I was told I’m the only one who doesn’t like him, well guess what, I have plenty of company now. He showed his true colors with the Bailey incident in Pittsburgh and then again by not taking on Phanuf HIMSELF and then finally when an opposing player made fun of his beard he shaved it off the next day, that might be the best story of them all about this overrated clown. I said way back when, he needed to grow a pair and he never did. I also posted in the summer that they should give him a 1 year contract to prove himself instead he gets a 5 year contract that has Wang’s fingerprints all over it. We know Tavares has a skating instructor in the off season and you can see the improvement in his skating but what does Okposo do in the off season besides play video games and read Harry Potter books, practice his trick moves that never work because his skating looks the same from when he came up he looks like he is skating on quicksand. Thanks to Botta he probably has an inflated ego with all the “future Captain” and “beast” crap. I’d rather have Haley and Gillies out there and at least be entertained then have softies like Okposo out there who bring nothing to the table.

    • Adam Malmut says:

      With all due respect, Okposo was a beast prior to his shoulder surgery. I think overrated at this point in his career is a bit unfair. He has shown much more than the likes of Bailey an some other 1st round picks whose names I wont mention.

      • Isles27 says:

        Really??? I guess you must have missed some of the comments from the fan base like how he was going to be a 30 goal scorer and you missed him backing down on numerous occasions, I don’t consider that being a beast. He’s a 7th overall pick and just signed a 5 year contract to say he is underachieving would be a understatement.

  5. Adam Malmut says:

    Haha! Awesome pic BD! I don’t think anyone really expects “El Nino” to be any sort of savior. He should definitely pitch in though.

    On another note, it was a big surprise to see Okposo sit in the press box tonight. Then again, credit to Capuano for sending a message.

    It was a great game verses the Rangers tonight, but obviously not the desired result.

    • Isles27 says:

      I was at the game tonight and really can’t fault them. They played a tough hard nosed game and got beat late in the third. I thought when they killed off that extended 5 on 3 they would pull it out. As much as I hate Okposo’s game I love the way Martin plays throws big checks and answers the bell when he has too. Also kudos to Mottau who is not a fighter but answered the bell against Avery.

  6. BCISLEMAN says:

    The Islanders have a wealth of talent in the pipeline. Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Kirill Kabanov, Casey Cizikas, Matt Donovan, Calvin De Haan, and Persson will all be big time NHL players. Persson, btw, is 6’2″, 211 and already has 27 pts in 21 games. Not bad for a 5th round pick. The NYI will be fine in a few years. Will Okposo, Bailey, and Comeau be part of the picture. This year will tell.