The New York Islanders have had an amazing amount of misfortune this season. It’s simply unbelievable, if you think about it. If you put it on paper, it’s astounding.
If you consider everything that has happened this season, starting with training camp all the way through to Kevin Poulin’s dislocated kneecap, it’s amazing the Islanders have been able to play as well as they have over the past 6 weeks. Let’s take a look….
1. Training camp trip to China cancelled
Not that many people thought it would be a smart idea sending your team around the world for training camp, but the Isles had their camp set and exhibition schedule already set when the plans to hold camp in China fell through. It left the Islanders scrambling to make alternate plans and probably lead to some of the chaos that was Islanders Camp 2010.
2. Mark Streit’s akward fall
With a little more than half a period left in a scrimmage at the Nassau Coliseum, Matt Moulson shoved defenseman Mark Streit who fell awkwardly into the boards and skated directly off the ice in tremendous pain. That’s the last time any of us have seen #2 on the ice since. Streit, who is one of the strongest skaters in the league, suffered a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff and will be sidelined until at least March if not the rest of the season. Losing your top defenseman before opening night for most of the season is a pretty big hurdle to overcome….but then we found out…
3. Kyle Okposo shoulder as well….
Yup, Kyle Okposo, the Islanders best all around forward, was lost until the All Star Break with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Okposo, who doesn’t really know when it happened, knew from last season he had a problem with his shoulder. Losing one of your top scorers, PP point man, penalty killer and young leader was a back breaker. That would be enough for most teams for a whole season…but there’s more.
4. Andrew MacDonald’s broken hand
Promising defenseman Andrew MacDonald broke his hand blocking a shot against the Tampa Bay Lightning and was lost for 15 games. The Islanders won only 1 of those 15 games which basically torpedoed their season. The young MacDonald has been a revelation playing more than 22 minutes a night and forming a great tandem with rookie Travis Hamonic. MacDonald will be a strong number 3 defenseman for a long time on Long Island, but his broken hand was a huge blow to this young team.
5. Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton lost for the season…
The GM Garth Snow signed Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau to bolster the Islanders defense, I don’t think anyone saw these 2, who normally stay fairly healthy, playing a combined 54 games with 6 assists and a -14. The fact that both needed season ending hip surgery goes to show you that the black cloud is firmly hanging over the Coliseum this year.
6. Trent Hunter and The Captain MIA
I’m absolutely sure the team was counting on vets Hunter and Weight to carry some of the scoring load and take some pressure off the youngsters, that hasn’t exactly worked out. Hunter, out since November, is finished for the season with a torn MCL and will require surgery. Weight, has been out with back issues since early December and has recently been seen skating….in an Islanders jogging suit. The lack of a Captain (going on 2 years now) is without a doubt a detriment to this young team.
Need I say more? The immature and very dumb decision not to report will cost Mr. Nabokov, as the Islanders will most likely toll his contract and force him to either report to Long Island next September, or risk never playing in the NHL again. Either way, with injuries to starter (and I use that word lightly) Rick DiPietro and top prospect Kevin Poulin, Nabokov’s decision has hurt the Islanders.
8. DiPietro’s poor decision
I’m not talking about the fact he came out of his net and gave Matt Cooke a little shove (as we’ve seen Cooke is as dirty a player as there is in professional hockey), the problem, was his fight with big Brent Johnson. If you watch the video of the fight (you won’t have a problem finding it), you’ll see the smile on Ricky’s face right before Johnson buries him with a vicious left hook. It looked like it was a game to Ricky, and the result of him taking that fight with Johnson so lightly (or light heartedly), cost him 4-6 weeks. It also doesn’t allow him to finish the season healthy and go into next camp without the question of whether or not he still has the ability to stay healthy and be a number 1 NHL goaltender.
9. Poulin’s fall
No less than a week after DiPietro went down with his facial fractures, top prospect Kevin Poulin (during warm ups) gets his skate caught and dislocates his left knee cap, prematurely ending his season. Poulin, had the opportunity to send a strong message to management that he is the heir apparent to the Islanders goaltending woes (not that he hasn’t given them something to think about), but to finish the season on the Island could have really pushed him to the front of the line. Either way, Poulin has cemented himself as a top goaltending prospect, not just within the Islanders organization, but throughout the NHL.
Now there has been some thing’s I haven’t mentioned, Josh Bailey’s struggles being the major one, but there have been plenty of good things as well. The re-signing of Matt Moulson to a 3 year contract is a big one, the emergence of rookie sensation Michael Grabner has been huge, the solid play (albeit earlier than they would have liked) of Travis Hamonic and the continued development of John Tavares (54 points in 82 games last year, and he has 41 points in just 52 games already this year) are things to watch the final 28 games of 2011.
The Isles have recalled G Al Montoya and expect him to get the start tonight. The team also recalled Michael Haley, which should signal that the Islanders will not allow the Pens to push them around.
I know we’ve talked about it before, but has there been a bigger steal this century than the Islanders grabbing Michael Grabner off waivers? For as brilliant as Dale Tallon is, he has made some awful moves over the years.
After reading both articles about Zenon Konopka, I totally give him a pass, it’s not like he’s the first one who’s been misquoted buy a member of the Canadian press.
Good for Mikko Koskinen to get his first NHL win last night, I fully expect him become a good backup NHL goaltender (see Nashville’s Anders Lindback).
Tonight, I fully expect there to be a very fun filled game against the Pens. Though we have a huge disadvantage in goal, I think it’ll be a very spirited game where the Isles will make sure to send a message early to the Pens that they aren’t going to let them take free shots at them.
About the Author: The New York Islanders have been a huge part of my life since I was 7 years old, and during the past 27 years I have experience many ups and downs with this team. The back end of 4 straight Stanley Cups, the Drive for 5, the Easter Epic, trading of my heroes John Tonelli, and Kelly Hrudey. Mike Bossy's early retirement, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hunter, David Volek, Ron Hextall, Al Arbour's retirement, Bill Torrey to Florida, Mike Milbury, John Spano, The Milstein's, Hoistgate, the sale to Charles Wang, Draft Day 2000, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, Milbury's "reassignement", 40 days of Neil Smith, Ted Nolan, The Lighthouse Project, Kate Murray, Scott Gordon, going from 5 to 7 to 9, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin deHaan, El Nino, the 2 Kirill's and hopefully.....much, much more. I have been an Islanders blogger for the past 3 years, starting on Myspace, then for IslesNation.com and currently for HockeyIndependent.com, and I have been selected to the 2010-2011 New York Islanders Blog Box. I am an IT Manager for a quite large facility working for a government agency. I am married for 7 years to an incredibly patient woman and am the proud father of a beautiful 1 year old daughter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile