Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
After six games in which the Islanders have collected five of a possible 12 points, partially due to a struggling power play which has now reached 0-for-20, Newsday's Arthur Staple reported today after practice that Ryan Pulock will indeed make his season debut tomorrow night against the rival New York Rangers in Manhattan.
The 23-year old defenseman from Dauphin, Manitoba has played only 16 career games over two seasons despite being one of the most highly regarded prospects in the organization, due to injury and defensive deficiencies that reared their ugly head in Bridgeport under Brent Thompson and stuck around for training camp.
That led to Scott Mayfield jumping ahead of Pulock on the depth chart and starting five consecutive games after missing out on the opener for Dennis Seidenberg. Mayfield has not done anything to lose his spot in the lineup, and for that matter, neither has any of the other five, with Calvin de Haan slowly moving past his early season struggles and Adam Pelech remaining steady in his own end.
So, head coach Doug Weight looks to go with seven defensemen, unless he has a change of heart overnight as the curious case of Anthony Beauvillier lingers on. While Islanders fans continue to sing the verse from Everclear's "Wonderful" -- "Please don't tell me everything is wonderful now," everyone from media to scouts to fans are struggling to understand what, exactly, Beauvillier did to deserve the press box banishment.
That aside, where does Pulock fit in an 11-forward, seven defenseman setup? Weight could choose to use Thomas Hickey at wing, a position the pesky Hickey has played before, albeit sparingly, giving regular minutes to his youngster against a struggling Rangers team. Or he could keep his defense the same and only use Pulock as a power play specialist in what has become, at least early on, a game of special teams given the crackdown on slashing penalties.
That carries with it some level of risk if any of the forwards was to go down with an in-game injury and is an unconventional lineup that most, if not all, coaches choose not to employ. As Shane Blackburn and I discussed on the latest Secondary Assist Podcast, can Pulock actually help a power play whose issues have not necessarily been from insufficient shots from the point?
The Islanders have shown "some" improvement over their last several chances with the man advantage, but due to poor zone entries and a lack of movement, have not found the most optimal setup with the extra skater to find the back of the net. Pulock is not known for neither zone entry or movement. If New York tries to force feed him, that could lead to the power play actually looking worse and not better, as they have on many occasions employed that strategy with captain John Tavares to no success.
Make no mistake, however, they need to figure out something, as it could prove to be an arduous journey up the standings if you cannot score when afforded man up opportunities. Especially the way the league is currently constructed and given the strict rules the officials are, at least for now, sticking to religiously.
Notes: Speaking of the captain, let's not put much stock into the plethora of rumors, columns and blogs coming out about what his intentions are or aren't. There are just as many "insiders" who think he will re-sign as there are who think he is surely gone. One thing is for certain, Tavares is loyal and committed to the organization he currently finds himself employed by, choosing to 'live in the moment' and let his agent do the heavy lifting in any discussions with general manager Garth Snow.
He and aforementioned agent, Pat Brisson, rarely, if NEVER, leak information to any source, inside or outside the Islanders organization. He has been a model professional so we are left to just let the situation play itself out. He has paid more than his fair share of dues and certainly earned that right.
What I can say, with almost complete certainty, there is nothing imminent, or has anything been discussed internally or externally, about John Tavares leaving the only team he has ever pledged allegiance to. Now, of course, that could change in three to four months, but let's not focus on what "could" happen, rather keep focused on what is actually happening instead.