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.
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.
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.
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.
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.