After 4 Games…

After 4 games this is what I’ve learned about the Isles

 Joel Rechlicz is the this year’s version of Mitch Fritz.  

Last season, Scott Gordon stated he wasn’t going to carry a enforcer that can’t play a regular shift. So of course when Trent Hunter goes down, they bring up Joel Rechlicz. The Wrecker, will eventually be a Steve Webb clone, albeit a better fighter, but to this point he has shown that he is still raw and needs more seasoning. Gordon recognizes this and plays him about 3 minutes a game. WHY????? With players like Thompson and Tambellini sitting in the press box and guys like Trevor Smith, Jesse Joensuu and Greg Moore playing in Bridgeport, there are plenty of options for players to take a regular shift. Tim Jackman and Andy Sutton have shown more than enough muscle to handle the protection of the skill players. The continuation of carrying Rechlicz on the bench for the entire game is useless. Which brings me to my next point.

 **UPDATE** Rechlicz has since been sent to Bridgeport

Gordon is reluctant to make changes….

 Last season Brendan Witt stated the Islanders needed to make adjustments which started a firestorm in the media (well maybe more with the bloggers….hard to have a firestorm with 1 beat writer). The problem was, Witt was right. The system did need adjustments, and after the Islanders blew so many 3rd period leads, were giving up wayyyyy to many odd man rushes and after Gordon spoke face to face with Witt, he finally relented and made some necessary changes. This thing with Rechlicz is the same issue we went through last season. You would think after seeing how this didn’t work last year, he wouldn’t make the same mistake. That obviously isn’t the case. Gordon comes across as extremely stubborn about his system and seems out to show everyone that it can work the same way it did in the AHL. To this point, it hasn’t.

 Is the team exhausted in the 3rd period?

 I won’t pretend to be an expert on the team’s stamina, but the data points to there being a conditioning problem, or the fact that the team needs to make adjustments during the game. The team has dominated the 1st and 2nd periods of all 4 of their games to date (for example, the Islanders out hit the Kings 19 to 2 in the first period and out shot them 14 -8). All 4 teams they have played are very good teams, and they dominated them for the better part of the game, so the talent doesn’t seem to be the problem. It’s something else, either the Isles let’s up at some point and these teams realize it and pounce (much like Pittsburgh and Boston did), or they give up a goal and say “oh no here we go again”, or they can’t play this system a full 60 minutes (and as has happened the first 3 games 65 minutes). Whatever the case, something needs to change and with so much time off in the early part of the season, you would thing that Gordon would be hard at work trying to fix the problem instead of sending the guys out there playing the same game getting the same results. Which leads me to…

 Is Scott Gordon the right coach for this team?

 Again, I am not a GM or a professional hockey guy. I have been around the game for the better part of my life though and I can honestly tell you I’m not sure if he’s the guy or not. The US Olympic committee obviously thinks enough of him as a coach to make him an assistant, and Garth Snow, who has definitely shown a keen eye for talent, thinks the world of him. But the results haven’t been there, or have they? There is no denying that players like Sean Bergenheim, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey have definitely raised their games under Gordon. Bruno Gervais and Mark Streit have been more than they have at any other point in their careers. Though you can’t look at the successes of the above mentioned players without looking at the failures of Gordon as well. Tambellini has definitely taken a step back and is barely on the team at this point, Blake Comeau has maddening ice time swings and was sent down to Bridgeport after last year’s training camp. Trent Hunter and Frans Nielsen have been unable to stay healthy (whether that’s because of the system or bad luck remains to be seen). Regardless, I believe Gordon will be able to finish out this season, but I would think that Garth will have to evaluate his coach at the end of this season and see if he is the right fit.

 Robbie Schremp is going to be a very good player.

I though Robbie Schremp played 2 great games this weekend. Every time he was on the ice, he was buzzing the net, taking shots and making crisp solid passes. He won a majority of his faceoffs, and has shown to be a much more complete offensive player than Tambellini can be. His goal in the shootout was fantastic, and if he can do that during the course of the game, he could be a 50 or 60 point guy.

 I really like Matt Moulson

 Not just because he has 4 points in 4 games, but for the fact that he leaves it all on the ice. He has the smarts to get in front of the net and wait for Okposo and Tavares’ left over garbage to pop onto his stick. If he continues to do that, he may end up scoring 20 goals this year.

 DP getting closer?

 It’s hard to imagine Rick DiPietro playing regularly again isn’t it? I mean it’s been what, 18 months since he was healthy? Well word on the street is Ricky is facing live shots and is getting closer to his return which could be in a little as a month. I have to say I am excited to see what this team will look like with DiPietro back in net and what the open market will fetch for Martin Biron. If you look at teams like Chicago and Washington, 2 teams who are on the cusp of being elite teams, yet both have had goaltending issues. They each have a vet (Chicago has Huet and Washington has Theodore), and a rookie sidekick (Niemi and Varlamov). Either General Manager could look to add a goalie who has played well in the playoffs and could bolster their eventual playoff run. Don’t expect a top prospect or a 1st round pick in return, but a trade could be worked out with the Islanders getting a serviceable young player in return. Just a note…Washington gave up a 2nd round pick for Huet at the deadline 2 seasons ago….it’s not out of the realm that the Islanders could get such a return on Biron…especially with his salary being so cap friendly. Which brings me to……

 Salary Cap

 I know I know it’s way too early to talk about next summer but after this season, which could go in a number of different directions, it could be the turning point for the Islanders development. After this year, it should be pretty certain where the Islanders will be playing their games for the next 25 years or so, and they are very underneath the salary cap. Could Garth hit the free agent market next summer and add that big time defenseman and that lethal winger that the Islanders so desperately need? There are no short of talented players on this coming June’s UFA market. Players like Kovalchuk, Marleau, Nash are the marquee names, and lesser names are Jokinen, Hejduk, Steve Ott and Alex Frolov. The name that most Islander fans want to see on the back of their uniform will be available this summer…that’s right Eric Nystrom will hit the UFA market July 1st (barring of course Calgary re-signing him). If this Lighthouse fiasco is settled by then and a shovel goes into the ground next summer, the Isles may be more inclined to add to the talented bunch that they have and advance the cause some.

 Next up, the Islanders are in Buffalo Friday night and back home at the Coliseum Saturday night for the suddenly inconsistent San Jose Sharks. As always feel free to leave any comments or follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/tonystabile

 

Enjoy!

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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: ajstabile@gmail.com Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile

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  1. Justin M. says:

    Interesting read, Tony. I definitely enjoyed getting the opinion of another Islander fan on some of these topics. I could not agree more with your take on Schremp’s abilities and the need for Rechlicz to take more time to develop. I really do think Schremp has the talent and skill-set to be a top-6 forward, but it will take the hard work and determination that he lacked in Edmonton to keep him there. I also like your part on Matt Moulson, even though I really do think he SHOULD break 20 goals, and possibly get up to 25 goals with the minutes he is playing and the opportunity he is being given. Lastly, as for the salary cap, I think it will be very hard for Snow to land an elite player like Kovalchuk considering the massive interest teams will have in him (and Nash has been resigned already long term). With that being said, however, the salary cap is going to come down, and teams are going to need to unload players in order to stay under the cap. I think this is where Garth Snow’s reluctance to spend will actually show it’s value. We will be one of the only teams able to help the overspending teams out. Great read!