Another season of hockey is upon us on Long Island and throughout the NHL. My hope is I get to continue to say that well beyond 2015 for the New York Islanders, but that is for a different day. Today, dawn is about to break on the New York Islanders training camp and regular season. I was able to take advantage of the Islanders rookie game last evening with family, and it was well worth it. Not just because the Islanders won their game 7-2, but because of what took place on the ice.
The young Islanders played an energetic, physical game. They sent an early message if not to the 29 other franchise certainly to the Baby Bruins — “don’t mess with us.”
The three fights within the first few seconds of the game put the Bruins on their heels the remainder of the evening and allowed the Islanders to rack up 7 goals before the Bruins notched their 2 goals late on garbage goals around the net. The physicality was not only that of a pugilistic nature. Throughout the game, Islander forwards and defenders operated their bodies like battering rams, affording the Bruins little time to react and forcing numerous bad passes and misplays.
On the opposite side of things, it is clear that Bruins Goalie Michael Hitchinson was not at his best, allowing some goals that perhaps a more focus or adept goalie could handle. Further, consider that this is not NHL level play, yet, and that errors will be made and that perhaps some of the Isles young guns dominated weaker skill. The same could be said depending on your perspective about the 8-5 game on Monday night. But I think that was also a great deal more to do with a Miko Koskinen’s struggles in allowing 7 goals on 14 shots.
Some Individual Observations
Nino Neiderreiter — He uses his body well and sees the ice well. He worked solidly with Ryan Strome and Tyler McNeely. Good in tight spaces. He will be the kind of player who can create space for others. He has a nose to drive to the net consistently, and he can and will finish his opportunities.
Ryan Strome — He is tiny in comparison to NHL players and needs to bulk up, as expected, but he needs to be careful not to get to “big” because I believe that one of assets is to be nimble. He has a very strong pass, sees the ice well, and makes things happen each shift. He worked well with Nino. One of his goals was a beautiful shot from the circle that was like a bullet. He let go of a wicked wrist shot that froze everyone. He did not disappoint.
Kirill Kabanov — Night and day from last season to this season. He looks bigger, and he played with a much sharper edge. Last time he looked to be a spectator on the ice waiting for things to happen. This time he was engaged more consistently, and throughout the shifts he took. He was absolutely robbed at one point in the 3rd period. Boston had changed goalies, but he received a fantastic pass and unleashed a gorgeous shot that was snapped out of the top corner at the last second. he was also more physical in his play then I would have expected. If he can play at this level, and keep his behavior in line (i.e. mature), the Isles could end up with the steal of the 2010 draft.
Andrey Pedan — he looks to be a little “off” at times in the way he moves around but he did not disappoint. He is able to chip in a bit on the offensive side of the play, but what I liked most was that he used his big body effective. It appeared that bones were breaking with each check he landed, and he hit everything that came his way.
Casey Cizikas — he certainly projects as a pest to play against although he will need some more time in Bridgeport. He is fearless in the corners and around the net, and he will come back to engage defensively without hesitation. He has nice hands around the net. He seems a bit off in foot speed, but it could have been just this game.
Matt Donovan — looked very nice overall. The first goal was off of a beautiful pass he made out of his zone which is so important for a defenseman. He is not a physical player, but he did not look out of place either.
Calvin de Haan — sees the ice well, and makes excellent passes. He is not a physical presence on a regular basis, but he will play with enough physicality to be effective. In other words — he wont shy away from using his body, but don’t expect open ice hip checks. He anchored the power play well and controls the puck well. I would like to have seen him shoot more however.
Anders Nilsson — considering his limited North American experience, he was very impressive. His big body takes up a large chunk of the cage. More impressive was his positioning. He was at the top edge of the crease consistently and his rebound control was substantial. It seemed that most shots just disappeared into his frame like a catchers glove. He looked and played a very poised, calm game. Exactly the kind of steady, non-flashy game you want from a goalie.
Aaron Ness — he is small, but he was effective at times. He will need a few years more then likely in Bridgeport to build his game.
This is but one game and it is a rookie game at that. While the play of the team overall, and some individuals was impressive, we need to remember it was one night, and against other rookies, not NHL talent. A player like Niederreiter and Strome should however be dominant in a situation like this, and they certainly were. Offensively the team clearly has a tremendous amount of depth. Defensively there is some work yet to be done, although we don’t yet have the chance to see Scott Mayfield. Ty Wishart and Travis Hamonic are already pushing for NHL jobs and not part of the rookie situation. Calvin de Haan looked steady and solid, but a year in the AHL bodes well for him based ONLY on what I have seen thus far, and I am not an expert — so take that for what it’s worth.
The Islanders have done a nice job drafting to be sure. Garth Snow and his team have done their homework with the draft. In previous years, there was not this level of skill and ability even in these kinds of games.
In some ways I am sorry to see Trent Hunter gone, but at the same time it was necessary. Trent’s injuries on a consistent basis made it wise to try to get some value for him. In Brian Rolston, the Islanders add an effective veteran forward who given the right situation can chip in offense, and I believe make the Islander power play more effective. Capuano’s coaching style seems to be “player friendly” and less rigid, allowing a player like Rolston to perhaps have a strong year for the Islander.
I was pleased the Isles were able to shore up the forwards with some veterans overall, but remain concerned that they have yet to fill a need on the blueline. I don’t doubt Garth Snows various attempts through trade/free agency, but just the same the GM has displayed a prudence that can almost be a fault. While I concur that a 10 year contract to Ehrhoff would have been a terrible mistake, it remains to be seen weather it was in error to not make a more formidable play for a defender — even offering Brian McCabe at 2 year deal to give that veteran lift to the back end. On the other hand, the Islanders could decide to go with a young defense that may not disappoint.
Josh Bailey is playing a dangerous game with his agent about his contract. I am growing more and more displeased with players who don’t quite see that they have not reached the level of play that warrants of big contract. Bailey is worth about what his qualifying offer would be. He has yet to display that he is a 50-60 point producer in the NHL and thus is not worthy at this time of a 3-5 year deal in the $2-$3 million range. Slightly more then a million should be getting this job done, and I would not sign him to more then a 2 year deal at this time with the possibility of revisiting in the summer if he begins to reach his potential.
Reports today that John Tavares, his agent and the Islanders are working on a long term deal should put to rest any rumors that John Tavares is anything but a stand up guy who wants to be part of the long term solution on this franchise.
There is still time as camp approaches and I believe all options are on the table for Garth Snow.
John Tavares has signed a long term deal with the New York Islanders. The tweets came from Arthur Staple on Newsday and Bob McKenzie at TSN.ca, while not officially announced until tomorrow, the details are being reported per tweets as follows StapeNewsday: Framework of #Isles extension with John Tavares in place: 6 years, roughly $5.5m average annual value, as @TSNBobMcKenzie said earlier.
This locks up yet another key element of the New York Islanders forward core and face of the franchise. It is reassuring to Islanders fans who may have been thinking that the franchise would lose a player like Tavares without long term stability in the future home of the team. With the failure of both the Lighthouse Project and this past summers referendum, Tavares could have opted for more security with another franchise. This give some indication of his personality, and desire to see this rebuild through. Clearly the young man wants to be a part of the solution.
Despite the condition of the arena, and the questions about the future of the team, the Islanders have been able to retain key elements to their hockey team. Tavares joins Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson as players who have agreed to multi year deals. This after outside players have spurned the Islanders.
So what is it that is keep these players here and why is it that players on the outside are not seeing the value of the team being built? Interesting…
About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: http://twitter.com/FilamentDesigns