With each day, the mystery grew deeper with a segment of Islanders fans. How come the Islanders did not honor Joey MacDonald for being the team's Player of the Month for November? Is there a conspiracy involved? The subject was a matter of frequent discussion in the Comments area during the team's recent road trip.
We dug deep and learned that MacDonald did receive his award. This season, the Islanders have not hosted on-ice pre-game ceremonies to honor the Sharp-sponsored Player of the Month. The team's game ops crew records a "photo op" earlier in the day with the winning Islander and then broadcasts the footage on the scoreboard during a timeout in the game while public address announcer Roger Luce does the narration.
Islanders sources confirm that MacDonald did receive his Sharp Islander of the Month Award for November and that footage of the goaltender getting his award was shown during a game in early December.
On to the next crime scene.
With the Islanders a whopping 19 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the focus changes with 40 games left in the season. Somewhat uncharacteristically - but welcome all the same - head coach Scott Gordon started talking about an emphasis on youth in the aftermath of the Islanders' loss in Calgary on Thursday night. Greg Logan has all the quotes from Gordon here.
Doug Weight, heart-on-his-sleeve talker, made some frank comments to Logan about understanding the Islanders' situation, but also this: "If I'm earning (icetime) and playing well, I would certainly expect to be on the ice." I doubt we've heard the last of this subject.
So now the latest challenge for Coach Gordon is managing the delicate balance between not alienating older players who have done their part like Weight and Bill Guerin, while providing the younger players with the proper amount of icetime in the second half. This is not easily done. The simplest way, of course, is to try to move veterans in trades, but that's not always the right solution.
As we've said, should be an intriguing next eight weeks.
Today's lineup at Iceworks for a 90-minute practice:
Comeau - Comrie - Okposo
Tambellini - Nielsen - Hunter
Sim - Bailey - Park
Bergenheim - Thompson - Jackman
Streit - Gervais
Witt - Martinek
Campoli - Pock
sleep 5Notes: Bill Guerin was given the day off the ice, but worked out in the weight room...Officially, the Islanders would not declare Frans Nielsen and Nate Thompson set for Tuesday's home match against Petr Prucha and the Rangers, but they appear to be getting closer...Rick DiPietro did not practice...Andy Hilbert, said to be closer, also did not practice.
Veteran Newsday scribe John Jeansonne was in for Greg Logan, who finally got home from Calgary via Ottawa late last night. John had a one-on-one with the head coach, so check out his coverage for anything I may have missed.
Looking to see a live hockey game tonight? Go see Trevor Smith and the Sound Tigers as they host Hartford at 7:00 pm at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Call 203.334.GOAL or simply get thee to the Harbor Yard box office.
After a 4-1 loss Friday night in Providence, the Sound Tigers are 23-11-2-2. Leading scorer Mike Iggulden (16-25-41 in 37 games) and defenseman Andrew McDonald (pushing for an Islanders job) were named to the Canadian roster for the AHL All-Star Game on Jan. 26.
Hoping to listen to some hockey talk on the radio today? Check out "NY Hockey This Week" at 5:30 pm on 1050 ESPN Radio with Don La Greca and yours truly. More often than not, these weekly shows have been at least half Islanders-dominated. Last week we had both Doug Weight after his 1,000th NHL point and legendary broadcaster Jiggs McDonald. No word from the Islanders on a guest yet. But you never know, and we should have time to take a few calls.
We could easily chew up the rest of the month on the Rick DiPietro discussion (and might need to!). I appreciate that more than 75% of the responses seemed to at least hear me out and I certainly understand all sides to the argument.
The standout nay-saying was the perception by more than a handful of fans of the team's marketing of DiPietro. "His hype is greater than his play at this point," wrote one reader. Another said he was tired of the team "thrusting DiPietro on him like he was the second coming of Terry Sawchuk and Billy Smith."
Honestly, I don't know about that. Rick signs autographs at the mall, has run a goalie camp for kids at Iceworks and shares one-fifth of the cover of this year's media guide. Hype machine? Folks, it's hockey in New York. Hype is a relative term.
As for the notion that I defended DiPietro because I wanted to be in the good graces of the Islanders, that's a fair throwdown, but wrong. Actually, I'm finding the silence liberating.
As for the idea that DiPietro and I are close, you do have me there. Yes, it is true - Ricky and I roll. He doesn't love it when I bring my three little kids along when we go to Nobu, but we usually throw the boys in a town car back to RVC before Deeps, me and Strahan meet up with MC and Hilary at GoldBar.
The conversation continues in Comments. Tomorrow: a Lighthouse update.