Brian Compton and Mike Carver welcome the former TV voice of the Islanders, Howie Rose, to the show to discuss his career in the Isles' booth. The guys look back at some of Howie's favorite moments and discuss his thoughts on the new play-by-play man, Brendan Burke. Later, Brian and Mike dive head first into the ongoing arena rumors.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Today was day two of training camp for the New York Islanders, and it happened to be an open session for fans. They jammed Northwell Health Ice Center, the new state of the art training and practice facility for the team. But there was one player noticeably absent to the throngs in attendance.
Arthur Staple of Newsday reported that Johnny Boychuk was not at practice due to an upper-body injury and was going to see a doctor for further evaluation. In that same tweet, he also mentioned Cal Clutterbuck leaving early with a lower-body injury, which obviously at this stage of camp, is not at all alarming. The Boychuk news certainly is, however.
Much was made last season of the decline in Boychuk's play, especially during the second half of the season and through the playoffs versus the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. He looked slow to the puck and not his usual aggressive self, and many, including myself, wondered if his shoulder, which he hurt on New Year's Eve in Buffalo and cost him five weeks, was still an issue. I remember a game in February against the New Jersey Devils where it seemed he aggravated the injury, only to return to the bench later to finish the game.
To his credit, Boychuk did not try to use that as an excuse for his poor play, which he openly admitted at year-end interviews. But the news today and follow up comment from head coach Jack Capuano to Staple seems to indicate this issue has persisted from that point throughout the summer and now lingered into the fall.
Boychuk has never played a full season since becoming a regular back in 2009-10 with the Boston Bruins. He has managed to suit up for 84.8 percent of all games in his career, missing 22 games in his two seasons with the Islanders.
Needless to say, he is as crucial as anyone to the makeup of the defense and will be counted on heavily to provide a bounce back, healthy season for New York to continue to keep pace in what promises to be another highly competitive year in the Metropolitan Division.
With the results of Mikhail Grabovski's physical still ringing in the ears of the organization and fans, let's hope for better news out of this doctor's visit.
Tags: Andy Graziano
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
At a media luncheon hosted by new Islanders owner Jonathan Ledecky over the summer, he made it a point at each table visited to mention how Barclays Center was the Islanders home for the future and how he was working tirelessly hand-in-hand with Brett Yormark to make the experience a winning one for players, their families and last, but never least, the fans.
Then came the rumblings, whether they were leaked intentionally or unintentionally, of the team looking for a permanent home that was not in Brooklyn, a facility they can call their own. Not to rain on anyone's parade, but the feasibility of that is slim, at best. So we are back to improving the conditions of the facility the Islanders currently are in, not dreaming up fantasies of where some would like them to be.
The first season at Barclays Center was rocky at first, but improved with each passing home game. By the time the playoffs rolled around, game operations had improved dramatically, the building was packed with energetic and loud fans and it was starting to feel like marriage counseling had paid off.
Captain John Tavares made it a point over the summer when discussing his NHL17 move to Toronto in two years to mention that the ice also improved, stuttering a little in the playoffs when the temperature rose, as it does in almost all buildings. In fact, he was quick to point out that Toronto, not Brooklyn, was one of the worst ice surfaces he has ever played on.
Friday, Barclays announced some exciting new changes for the upcoming 2016-17 season, personally geared towards enhancing the fan experience. Outside of today's announcement, the players' experience has also been enhanced with a multitude of new transportation options to get them from East Meadow to Brooklyn on game days, among other subtle changes.
An Islanders spokesman told SNY the new travel options will be "anything short of a helicopter." For players' families, a new suite has been designated to make them more comfortable.
Details of today's announcement show the commitment that Yormark promised to make to the Islanders, and while we don't really know the effect Ledecky had on some of these, the safe assumption is that he certainly was involved and will not be a silent owner when it comes to how his team is perceived off the ice, by its own fans or fans of hockey in general.
- The LIRR will operate the same number of trains to and from Islanders games as they did in the playoffs, beginning with Monday's preseason opener versus the Philadelphia Flyers.
- By the home opener, October 16 versus the Anaheim Ducks, Barclays has increased the number of available parking lots by the venue, along with additional signage to help find said lots.
- Stricter enforcement of the 'puck-in-play' rules to avoid obstruction for fans still in their seats. Staff will be trained by the Disney Institute starting next week, with a focus on speed of service.
- Season ticket holders, beginning Monday, will wear a credential provided to them in their packet that makes them easily identifiable to staff and make getting in and out of the arena bowl a faster experience.
- Full season ticket holders will enjoy discounts on top selling beer and fan favorite food and beverages, chosen based on fan feedback. Account managers will contact each person with additional details.
- Islanders legacy program allows escalating benefits as tenure grows as a season ticket holder. Exclusive events, meet-the-team opportunities, unique fan experiences and gifts to proudly reward the loyalty of season ticket holders.
- Sparky the Dragon will appear more often this season and is part of an expanded promotional schedule.
- Beginning on opening night, more Islanders branding throughout the building to fortify the team's presence and the team store has been renamed the 'Swag Shop at Barclays Center', featuring Islanders gear year-round.
- Barclays app will re-launch in October with new interactive features including way-finding, instant replays and enhanced in-seat ordering.
- The Islanders website, in conjunction with the NHL, has a new look and feel.
- To be announced shortly, two new 50,000-watt stations in the Islanders radio network that will ensure regular season and playoff coverage through the tri-state area and be part of the most extensive Islanders media promotion the team has ever received. WRHU 88.7 will continue to simulcast each Islanders game.
So, it seems that Yormark listens after all, provided the gripes are aired in a professional manner. These changes reflect not all of what fans griped about during year one in Brooklyn, but certainly address a large number of them.
As I am sure more changes will be adapted "on-the-fly" during the season, hopefully this puts more of the focus to the product on the ice, rather than the building hosting it, especially for out of town media.
Tags: Andy Graziano
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Last week, sources told SNY that Mikhail Grabovski would be seeing Islanders team doctors in an attempt to get cleared for training camp, which began Thursday morning at the Long Island Marriott with media day.
On Friday, the Islanders announced that Grabovski had failed his physical.
This is extremely depressing news for the Islanders' 32-year-old center who has amassed 296 points in 534 career NHL games.
He is a good possession player and, statistics be damned, made the Islanders forwards better as an overall, consistent unit. Islanders assistant coach/assistant general manager Doug Weight added to Staple that some tests are still continuing but the team 'won't be surprised at the results.'
The Islanders will now have to find a replacement at center. It certainly makes the prospect of Matthew Barzal that much more intriguing, especially if Brock Nelson shifts to the wing to accommodate Ryan Strome at his more natural center position on a line with fellow youngster Anders Lee.
Casey Cizikas is going to be forced to play the Frans Nielsen role and the captain obviously anchors the Islanders' first unit down the middle. It looks very much like a competition for that fourth center spot between Barzal and Alan Quine.
With two years remaining at a $5 million cap hit, LTIR is an option but not as cut and dry as some assume it to be. It's not simply 'free cap' to spend. The cap number would remain on the Islanders' payroll, but they would be allowed to be over the upper limit by a percentage of Grabovski's salary. It's explained very well right here, but to surmise its most important paragraph:
The problem with LTIR is that using it to exceed the cap means a team won't be able to save any of that space to add to the roster later. You're already spending over the amount you're supposed to be, so you can't make room other than by adding more people to LTIR.
This is clearly an unfortunate situation for both Grabovski and the Islanders.
Halak a monster in Toronto
Jaroslav Halak is certainly not making the Islanders goalie situation any easier to solve. He has been superb at the World Cup of Hockey, his first game action since tearing his groin muscle in March at Barclays Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Halak had a nasty undertone to his season-ending interview, and make no mistake, it's hard to not fault him for that. There are only two nets in practice and one available each game, so doing the math is not that difficult. Not to mention, he was having a fine season (2.30. .919) splitting duties with Thomas Greiss.
Instead of letting that negatively affect his offseason, Halak worked extremely hard to be ready and has been brilliant in the tournament -- a step up in competition and intensity from a normal training camp walk-through.
Losing to the Canadiens Wednesday night was nothing to be ashamed of, especially when you stop 42 of 46 shots. Over his three games, a 1.98 GAA and .946 save percentage shows that he might come into the season in the best shape and with the highest focus of perhaps his career.
Rookie camp cuts
Staple also tweeted about four cuts from the Islanders rookie camp that was successfully run by Brent Thompson, culminating with their 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers youngsters Wednesday night in an exhibition game in East Meadow. None were projected to make the Sound Tigers.
Tags: Anders Lee , Brock Nelson , Casey Cizikas , Frans Nielsen , Jaroslav Halak , Mikhail Grabovski , Ryan Strome , Thomas Greiss , Andy Graziano
There has been a metric ton of speculation around the Islanders since the summer, mostly around one central question: Are they any better today than they were at the final buzzer of the five-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Ask them, and they'll tell you they absolutely are.
''[The Lightning series] was frustrating, but you learn from it and you move on,'' Travis Hamonic told reporters at media day on Thursday. ''[To win a playoff series] was good for our team, for our fan base to see that and have an opportunity to win the first one in a long time. It sets our bar and our expectations even higher.''
Whether this club that lost their best two-way forward, Frans Nielsen, one-third of their vaunted fourth line in Matt Martin, and their top line right winger Kyle Okposo, is actually closer to bringing a fifth Stanley Cup to Long Island is up for debate.
We've been over the potential sticking points time and time again. But the Isles are also a determined club, one faced with the looming hockey mortality of some of its core, and that can make for a very dangerous collection of guys.
For players like Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ladd, they're probably on their last contracts of their career, with one more window of opportunity to get themselves another ring. Guys like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee also have some soul-searching to do. While Nelson's final numbers (26 goals) and Lee's renaissance in the season's second half were encouraging, these are the young core players the Isles need to either step up or step off.
All those dynamics, coupled with what is shaping up to be an intense competition in goal between Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, could be the recipe for elevating their game to another level.
''I think everybody's excited to get on the ice together and start practicing and start the season,'' Boychuk said. ''We've made the playoffs two years in a row, and obviously want to get the third year and do better.''
Whether they will remains to be seen. But the Islanders have now officially moved the goalposts on themselves. No longer will a first round triumph feel like winning it all. They're past moral victories and battle levels.
While the hockey world debates whether they're good enough, the Isles believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are. It's almost time for them to go out and prove it.
Tags: Anders Lee , Brock Nelson , Jaroslav Halak , Johnny Boychuk , Ryan Strome , Thomas Greiss , Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni
John Tavares won't be back in Islanders camp until Team Canada's run through the World Cup of Hockey is over, but at least one Islander thinks that presents others an opportunity.
Ryan Strome, who recently signed a two-year deal, told Newsday's Art Staple that some players could seize a chance to emerge as a leader in the absence of the Isles captain.
"Honestly it'll be a good opportunity for guys to step up," said Strome. "So many times guys are kind of looking over their shoulders and see what Johnny's doing. For the first couple weeks, maybe see guys take the initiative, step up and take charge a bit. Johnny's our leader, no question, but maybe it'll be good for some guys, myself included. He'll come in here flying too, so we better be ready to go."
That's both a great quote and an excellent point by Strome. This is Tavares' team, and it always will be, and it's human nature to simply take that for granted. There is no limit on how many good locker room guys you want, and I like that Strome sees this as an opportunity for him and/or others to take a bit more responsibility over the club.
I wrote a lot about this over the summer, but it's clear from what Garth did in the offseason that he's intent on beefing up the room, and giving JT some experienced support. All of these guys get along so well together, but they know that windows of contention are finite, and they have to find that gear that gets them over the hump and into a Conference Final. Sometimes, that's simply by having a player who is happy to have his personality blend into the background step forward and take a more active role. In that way, maybe the next nine days will let a few Islanders find something new out about themselves, unlocking something in the process.
Tags: John Tavares , Ryan Strome
Three Islanders players are moving on to the semi-finals at the World Cup of Hockey.
John Tavares set up a highlight reel goal in Team Canada's 4-2 victory that helped eliminate the US. With their second win of tournament play, Canada has clinched a spot in the final four.
Also on their way to the semi-finals is Team Europe, led by goaltender Jaro Halak. Halak has posted two wins (one shutout) and has surrendered just two goals in Team Europe's first two contests. Thomas Greiss has yet to dress.
Nikolay Kulemin, who plays for Team Russia, will be back in action on Thursday against Team Finland, as Russia tries to advance to the semis as well.
The tournament has been fun so far, especially if you're enjoying Canada make everyone else look like children. JT did his part on Tuesday, when he made Matt Niskanen resemble a cardboard cutout. I mean, that's just flat out ridiculous.
Obviously, for the Isles, the most interesting development is the Halak situation, and what this means for the team when they're all reunited at training camp. Some seem to think that Greiss still has the inside track on playing time, but I don't know. Jaro has looked awfully good, and unless you're going to find a taker for his contract, it might not be worth the risk to hand the job to Greiss with the risk of Halak growing discontent riding the pine. And quite frankly, if he can still play at the high level he's been flashing at the World Cup, why wouldn't the Isles want a return on their monetary investment?
If nothing else, the tournament has added some serious intrigue for the coming season.
Tags: Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares , Nikolay Kulemin , Thomas Greiss
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
With training camp right around the corner, beginning this Friday at Northwell Health Ice Center in Uniondale and everyone now under contract for the 2016-17 NHL season, it's a good time to sit back and ponder what 'uncharted territory' means to the organization and specifically, general manager Garth Snow.
Never, in Snow's tenure, have the Islanders been a salary cap ceiling team. Instead, they've always operated under a much lower internal salary cap set by previous owner Charles Wang which kept them well below what other teams were spending on the product they put onto the ice. Those teams, predictably, always ended up higher in the standings too, as New York committed to a true 'bottom-up' rebuild approach. Today, as we look upon the salary structure after Ryan Strome put pen to paper, those days appear to be over.
To try and build a 23-man roster when camp didn't even open yet is, mostly, an exercise in futility. But if try you do not, succeed you cannot (sorry for the Yoda reference, it just seemed to fit). Below is who could make the final roster in advance of the October 13 opener in Manhattan (cap numbers courtesy of capfriendly.com).
The forwards make up $42,687,500 of the $73,000,000 cap ceiling (58%). John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Nikolay Kulemin, Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Jason Chimera, P.A Parenteau, Shane Prince and Matthew Barzal. For the purpose of the salary cap, I am adding Mikhail Grabovski (explained further below).
The defense makes up $21,012,143 (29%). Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield.
Goaltending fills the final $6,675,000 (9%) of New York's operating payroll. Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, J.F Berube.
That brings Snow and the Islanders to a salary cap total of $70,374,643 with 23 roster players (13 F, 7 D, 3 G), leaving them with $2,625,357 before they hit their head on the ceiling of the NHL's upper limit of spending.
But wait, there's more! There are two major caveats to the above projection that could make the picture look a little different.
I mentioned I was counting Mikhail Grabovski because, right now, I have to. Grabovski will meet with team doctors this week in an attempt to get cleared for training camp, a clearance that is more than likely, according to sources, going to be very difficult to obtain. Grabovski has been working out off the ice, but has not skated and is said to still be suffering some post-concussion symptoms. If he is not cleared and goes on LTIR, which can't happen until after training camp right before the start of the season, his cap hit will REMAIN on the Islanders books and records. Rather than recreate the wheel, it's explained best right here, courtesy of 'Slappers and Stats'.
Short answer? Don't think of the LTIR designation as 'free cap'. Remember, nothing in this world is ever free.
The second caveat is the goaltending glut that New York has right now. There is no conceivable way to go through an entire season with all of them on one-way contracts and on the 23-man. That caused a lot of strife last season, especially with the veteran Halak, who is playing, and playing well, right now at the World Cup of Hockey. There are only two nets in practice also and goaltenders, strange and sometimes mythical creatures to begin with, hate sharing a net.
Consensus is that New York is best suited with the tandem of Halak and Greiss, leaving Berube and his $675,000 salary out of the picture, taking the Islanders, possibly, into the realm of $3.3 million of available cap. In that scenario, it becomes much easier to move Alan Quine and Adam Pelech back into the picture.
When all is said and done, the Islanders are as close to the top of the league salary structure as they have ever been. But are they better for it? Much has been made of the departures of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera should take care of that, partially at least.
Can Casey Cizikas live up to his contract and replace Nielsen? Do Strome, Nelson and Lee bounce back and help stabilize the offense by adding much needed consistency? Does Parenteau recapture the magic he had with captain Tavares back in 2011? Is Thomas Greiss able to replicate his best season as a pro? Is Ryan Pulock a legitimate NHL defenseman, from a defensive standpoint?
I don't have a crystal ball and sold my magic 8-ball on E-Bay, but as complex and confusing as some things might appear to be on the surface, it all comes down to some simple questions that right now cannot be answered.
But they will be…and the answers will determine if the Islanders are better…Or just more expensive.
Last training camp, it was the big club or bust back to Juniors for Michael Dal Colle. This year, things have a very different feel.
"It's a little different because it's my first year pro," the 2014 first round pick told Michael Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post. "I'm looking forward to a good camp and working hard."
Dal Colle, 20, is now old enough to play a full season in the AHL, so he can be assigned to Bridgeport if he doesn't make the big club out of camp. Last year that wasn't the case, and he only had a brief stint at the end of the Sound Tigers' season: six games between the regular season and playoffs.
"I see improvement from him every season," Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson said of Dal Colle. "The experience he had in the American League, he seems to be stronger on the puck [...] He's put some weight on. He's only going to continue to get better."
Because of all the buzz around Matt Barzal, I feel like Dal Colle is the forgotten man of this system. But think back to last fall and the clamoring from the corners of the fan base to give Dal Colle a nine-game look. This is the same guy who lit Juniors up en route to a Memorial Cup just 18 months ago, and he has a boatload of talent. Yes, Barzal has probably jumped him, but that's partially because of the type of players these guys are, and the void the team is trying to fill after the departure of Frans Nielsen.
Don't sleep on Dal Colle. He's a playmaker, and he has the potential to be a very good player in Brooklyn for a long time. I'm glad to hear he has put on weight, because I think he'll need the extra bulk to make the transition. Once he does, his ceiling is just as high as Barzal's, and he may even eventually find himself on John Tavares' wing at some point. Keep an eye on MDC in Bridgeport this year. He may be closer than many are giving him credit for.
The Islanders and F Ryan Strome have agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal, the team announced Tuesday morning.
Strome scored eight goals and 20 assists in 71 games for the Islanders last season, adding one goal and three assists in eight postseason games.
The Isles selected Strome with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 National Hockey League Draft. In 189 career games with New York, the forward has 32 goals and 64 assists, adding three goals and five assists in 15 career postseason games. During the 2014-2015 season, Strome set career-highs of 17 goals and 33 assists.
No one really doubted this deal would get done, but like Brock Nelson last year, it took some time. Obviously Strome would have liked to have done better, but coming off a sub par sophomore season, a $2.5 million AAV is probably the best he could have hoped for. I'm still very optimistic about Strome, and think he'll have a bounce back campaign, which will eventually mean that this could be a nice value for the Islanders. And so officially starts the road back for the former first round pick, as he looks to recapture and surpass the 50-point form of two seasons ago.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
General manager Garth Snow had said all summer how much he confidence he had in Strome and even went as far as to blame himself somewhat for him playing out of position, leading to his 28-point debacle of 2015-16.
This is a heck of a contract for the production that Strome provided last season. He is an extremely talented hockey player, one that the Islanders desperately need to return to his former 50-point form of 2014-15 to balance the forwards. But I might have gone the 'show me' route.
Strome's last deal had an AAV of $1.713 million and a cap hit of $863k. So, he gets a nice raise and two-years of security as he puts the pen to paper today. His focus now can be on training camp, which opens Friday in East Meadow.
As I've said all summer regarding the Casey Cizikas deal, the pressure will be on to produce to the level of the new contract for Strome now also. Pressure is a funny thing. It could push players to new heights, ones they might have themselves thought unattainable. Or they could crumble under the weight.
It's critical to the Islanders 2016-17 success that the former and not the latter materializes.
Tags: Ryan Strome
Howie Rose thinks the Islanders have finally struck gold with their new owners, Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin.
Rose, who this summer stepped away from his job as the television voice of the Islanders, told Brian Compton and Mike Carver on theIslanders Point Blank podcast that the biggest disappointment he has about leaving the post he has held since the fall of 1995 is missing a chance of being part of the Ledecky-Malkin regime.
"The biggest regret I have about walking away now is that they are in such good hands with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin […] They're the first owners in almost forever who did not buy the team with ulterior motives. They're not looking for a real estate deal to piggyback on the back of the hockey club. They want to own a hockey team and run it in a first class manner, and I think finally the fans are rewarded with fully committed ownership and no strings attached, and I'm going to miss that, quite frankly."
Rose also touched on how long he thinks the Isles will be in Brooklyn, what he'll be doing with his winters off, and the new voice of the Islanders, Brendan Burke.
Howie has seen it all. He had a front row seat the final year of John Pickett, and the subsequent sale to John Spano. He was fully immersed in the Milstein-Gluckstern disaster, and he was present for Charles Wang's entire tenure. So to hear him speak so glowingly about Ledecky and Malkin makes me breathe a sigh of relief, because if there has was ever a man who has earned the right to be skeptical about ownership, it's Howie.
It's exciting to think of the Islanders as a first class organization, simply because it's been so long since that's been the case. To know that ownership has one goal of winning a championship, and that and that alone is the driving force in all its decisions, is something so many other fan bases take for granted. But it feels like we've made it through the forest, and that this is the group that can truly deliver on a championship promise.
Of course, the bummer about this entire thing is we're talking about wrapping up Howie's Isles run, which is heartbreaking to many fans, myself included. But Brian and Mike did a heck of a job putting a bow on Howie's tenure on the podcast, and hit a ton of great notes with a fantastic broadcaster. Give it a listen.
Tags: Brian Erni
Travis Hamonic made his annual drive to Long Island this year, and he told Newsday that he's never been happier to do so.
"It feels like home," Hamonic told Art Staple.
In Staple's report, he details the timeline of when Hamonic made his trade request, while passing along massive praise of both Hamonic and the team's locker room from assistant head coach Doug Weight. Delved into is how the situation never affected the d-man's performance on the ice nor his teammates' view of him once news of the request leaked.
"It's a credit to the leadership and the guys in the room," Weight said. "These guys know him well, they supported him well -- you hear all the cliches about the family atmosphere and all that. It really proved to be true for us last year.
"I guess you could take it as a compliment [that people said he didn't seem affected by the situation], but we're hockey players," said Hamonic. "I'm not the only one who's gone through something like that around the league. You just have to keep pushing."
The 2015-16 season was really an incredible year for Hamonic start to finish. He started it by doing something he probably never thought he'd ever do: asking out from the Islanders. It ended with him rescinding his trade request, and in between, he played some of the very best hockey of his career.
The last two years have seen Hamonic take massive strides in becoming a defensive stalwart. He's risen to every challenge thrown at him, all while dealing with a family matter off the ice and still finding time to be a guiding light to children off the ice.
Truthfully, one of my favorite moments of last season was when Travis rescinded his trade request, because this is exactly the kind of player and person that this or any organization needs. Oh, and the team-friendly deal doesn't hurt, either.
I'm really optimistic about Hamonic this year and how he'll respond to being able to skate with a clear mind. Entering his age-26 season, he's working his way into the prime of his career, and really coming into his own as the expectations of this team continue to rise. And hopefully, he'll be doing it all with an 'A' adorned on his chest.
Tags: Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni
Josh Ho-Sang marches to the beat of his own drum, and that includes where he takes his cues on the ice from.
Ho-Sang told Cory Wright on the team's official website that he looks all over the sports world for inspiration for his game, from soccer to basketball.
"Most of the skills that I use are coming from soccer, and watching how those guys implement deception really well […] It's just about body positioning, how you present your shoulders, how you stay square to what you're going to go," said Ho-Sang. "I took a lot of the stuff that I use form Ronaldinho. I like the way he implements skill into his game along with passing. It's figuring out when to drop your shoulder, and when you drop it, drop it like this. I think Ronaldinho is the best at that and guys who are unreal."
Pulling from soccer, which is often played during pregame warm ups by NHLers around the league, might not seem like such a big departure from tradition. But Ho-Sang says it doesn't stop there, particularly pointing to one recent NBA champion.
"Kyrie Irving has a mean crossover," continued Ho-Sang. "He hit the game-winner in the NBA Finals with that exact crossover. Taking that deception, that shoulder drop, it's almost like a misguided presentation.
I think all of us are really fascinated with Ho-Sang and the legend that accompanies him. Personally, I'm rooting like crazy for him. I think he's a really thoughtful guy, who got a really bad rap in Canada for not fitting into the cookie-cutter mold they require from a player up there.
Obviously, his misstep last training camp continues to bug him, and he's talked a lot this summer about how it changed him as a person and a player. I'm really anxious to see how he comes into camp this year, as he is poised to make the jump from Juniors to the AHL.
I think we'll be waiting on Ho-Sang much longer than a guy like Matt Barzal, and even longer than fellow draft classmate Michael Dal Colle. But I think the reward could be a big one should Ho-Sang tap into all that playmaking potential at the upper levels.
Ho-Sang is a guy who has made his linemates better every single place he's played. He may not make it to New York until some point next season at the earliest, but when he does, I wouldn't be surprised if he turns some heads.
Tags: Brian Erni
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak shut out Team USA as Team Europe won the World Cup of Hockey opening game, 3-0, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
He stopped all 35 shots that came his way, including seven on a power play in the final few minutes of the third period.
This is Halak's first shutout in international play since 2010, when he helped Slovakia beat Latvia at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Halak and Europe will next play the Czech Republic on Monday at 3 p.m.
I loved what I saw from Halak. His decision making was great, and his reactions were even better. The one stop that stood out to me was a blocker save early in the third period that was off a second chance. It showed me not only that Jaro's timing is back, but he isn't hesitating and showing any ill signs of the off-season groin surgery at all.
A big win for Team Europe, but even more importantly, a huge jolt of confidence to Islanders fans hoping Halak can round back into the form he flashed much of last season.
Tags: Jaroslav Halak
The World Cup of Hockey kicks off in earnest this afternoon, with Team USA set to take on Team Europe at 3:30 p.m. ET. But when the international teams hit the ice, where do your loyalties lie: with your country or with the Islanders?
I've always struggled with this. I've found it's hard for me to leave my NHL rooting allegiance at the door. It's one of the reasons why I don't think the Olympics with NHL players resonates as well as the amateur days, and I'm curious to see if I feel differently in this new tournament.
I remember when the US and Canada played in the 2002 Gold Medal game, and I was honestly conflicted between whether I'd want the US to win because of Michael Peca's involvement on Team Canada. Sounds kind of crazy, right? But with Mike Richter in goal for the Americans, it was hard for me to throw my support fully behind my countrymen because of my affinity for the Isles.
The most recent Olympics created a similar issue for me, with John Tavares on Team Canada and a plethora of Rangers on Team USA. It's why I probably enjoyed the 2006 Olympics the most, because I got to root for Rick DiPietro and Jason Blake.
So in this first game, do you root for Jaro Halak over the Americans? Are you vested in how Canada does because of JT's involvement? I really don't know the right answer, I'm curious to see if others feel the same, and if they do, will it limit the fervor in fans' rooting interest for the World Cup?
That, or maybe I need to up my patriotic game...
Tags: Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares
Matt Barzal is going about his business like an old pro.
Barzal, a first round selection by the Islanders in the 2015 Draft, is among the early arrivals on Long Island at informal skates, work outs that are normally only populated by veterans. But Barzal told Newsday that it's all part of his plan to get adjusted to the speed of the NHL game.
"I've skated quite a bit this summer, [and the] last two months, I've been going pretty hard," Barzal told Art Staple. "[It's] just nice to get down here a little early, skate with some of the older guys.The pace is a bit higher, just get used to that speed and strength."
Barzal, 19, is widely considered to have an inside track on winning a spot on the roster when training camp, but Barzal isn't letting that get to his head.
"I'm not really coming in feeling I have a spot," he said. "I've got to earn a spot and work harder than I ever have to do that. I'm just really looking forward to it."
I'm so impressed with the way Barzal handles himself. From showing up early to some of the answers he gave to Andy when the two chatted over the summer, it's clear that he's a grounded kid that is laser-focused with just one goal in mind: making the big club out of camp and contributing to this team's success. They're very different players, but the way he carries himself reminds me a lot of John Tavares. He has high expectations, and he seems dead set on holding himself accountable to reaching those heights.
I'm sure there will be growing pains for Barzal upon his arrival in the NHL, whether that comes on Opening Night or sometime midseason. But a good chunk of this game is handling adversity and staying on an even keel, making sure that the talent can ultimately shine through on the ice. Barzal seems to be as wise beyond his years as he is hungry to break camp with the club, and I'm excited to see what he'll do when formal work outs get underway.
Tags: Brian Erni
Jim from Bethpage, New York writes: Brian, I noticed you have a unique style when it comes to covering the team. You don't try to be impartial, instead pointing out how everything makes you feel both as a writer who follows the sport and as an Islanders fan. Personally, I think it's a perfect balance, but I was just curious if that's a conscious decision.
Thanks for the kind words, Jim. You're right, and it definitely is a conscious decision I make when I'm writing.
Here's the thing: I love the Islanders. I've been a fan all my life, and I think there's value in getting that perspective. By nature, I'm a fairly optimistic guy, and I tend to look at sports in a very measured way, so I'm less likely to fly off the handle than Isles Twitter.
And I was a college athlete, and I've managed Division 1, 2, and 3 baseball players, so I think I have good handle on understanding the dynamics of player motivation, from both a coach's and player's perspective. But I also think fans enjoy coverage of their team that has a degree of love (or tough love, depending on the results) in it; that calls a spade a spade, just like you'd get if you were sitting on a barstool next to me.
I live and die with the team, just like many of you do. Big wins fire me up, and tough losses keep me up at night, so I care about the things you care about. That includes who's playing well and who's not, but also where the team plays, what chants are catching on in the stands, and how long concession lines are. Personally, I think that not only allows me to enjoy the team more, but also makes my coverage of the team more complete.
All that said, you're never going to see me go off frothing at the mouth without some semblance of balance. I have a degree in media and communications, and I take the standards and ethics of being a journalist very seriously, and that can color what and how I write. Any time a source tells me something is off the record or on background, I uphold those bonds.
In the instances I talk to players, I try to treat them with the utmost professionalism, just like a beat reporter would. Usually, though, my questions are a little different, as I'm looking for less reaction to what just happened, and more introspection from a player. What makes them tick, why they're working on something, how it will make them better, and the like.
Isles fans are lucky. Even though we have essentially only one beat reporter who covers the team, he's a great one. Art Staple is one of the best in the business, and he does an excellent job of breaking news, running down stories, and putting words to the narrative of a season.
Me? I've always wrestled with "working" in sports. When it becomes too much of a job, you lose that passion as a fan.
It's just natural. You cover different teams, you get to know the people underneath the gear. It becomes your workplace, and you simply have to view the games in different terms. I just never wanted to completely make that sacrifice, which is why writing on Point Blank, and being encouraged over the years by some really great mentors and friends (like Matt Cerrone and Andrew Vazzano) to pursue and develop this kind of writing voice, is the best of both worlds. As the years go on, I hope that continues to shine through my words.
Tags: Brian Erni
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
On Friday, the Islanders begin preparations begin for the upcoming 2016-17 season as they open their annual rookie camp at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow on Long Island.
Arriving for physicals with the first on-ice session scheduled for tomorrow morning, the youngsters hope to make a solid impression on the coaching staff and start the process of advancing through the ranks to someday obtain a spot on the 23-man night opening roster.
With the World Cup of Hockey officially set to face off Saturday with the first round of tournament round-robin games, some familiar young faces will once again adorn the blue and orange.
Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang will once again draw long looks but both seem destined for Bridgeport to begin the campaign. You can bet a lot of watchful eyes will be on the hopeful continued maturation of Ho-Sang, who was sent back to juniors last year very early after oversleeping on the first day of main camp.
Matthew Barzal, widely thought to have the best chance at a roster spot, will be on the ice after missing the mid-summer walk through with a minor hip injury.
Some notable absentees feature 2016 first round draft choice Keifer Bellows and 2015 sixth round pick Andong Song, the first China-born player to ever be drafted by an NHL club. Ilya Sorokin, who some project to be the Islanders goaltender of the future, is back in the KHL and, with their season well underway, was an expected omission.
The official rookie camp roster, courtesy of Arthur Staple of Newsday:
Jaro Halak beat out Thomas Greiss for the starting goaltending job. No, not with the Islanders -- at least not yet. Halak was tabbed Team Europe's head netminder for the World Cup of Hockey, which kicks off in earnest on Saturday when the tournament round opens.
"It would be silly to play any type of games around anything," Team Europe head coach Ralph Krueger told Brian Compton. "The way Jaro has come into this camp, into his games, the professionalism … we're of course pleased to see him have that kind of a game [on Wednesday]."
Halak, whose 34-save performance against Team Sweden that Krueger alluded to, has looked fantastic in the tournament's preliminary games. Just a few months removed from groin surgery, Halak is moving seamlessly from side to side, and seems to have no troubles along the ice.
Of course, looming over his shoulder, both currently in Toronto and eventually in New York, is Greiss, whose breakout season gave the Isles the luxury of entering this season with two No. 1-caliber goaltenders on their roster. And with this embarrassment of riches comes debate and competition -- one Halak seems to have put himself on the inside track of, at least for the moment.
"I think it's always good to have two goalies who can play, who can carry the team if one of us is not playing so well," Halak told NHL.com. "We both want to play. Ask any goalie. He wants to be the guy. I want to be the guy. At the same time, it's always what's best for the team. I'm not making these decisions. All I can do is show the coaches I'm ready when I get a chance, and when I'm called upon do my best and give our team a chance to win. That's all a goalie can ask for."
Of course, this doesn't mean much when it comes to the looming competition in Brooklyn. Team Europe doesn't have a salary cap, waivers and a long-term future to think about, all issues that make the Isles' situation a bit more complex. Halak's $4.5 million cap hit for 2016-16 (compared to Greiss' $1.5 million) makes him a possible trade candidate, especially if he shows teams around the league that he's healthy and capable of carrying a full-time workload in the WHOC. It's hard to move a player off an injury, especially when he has a hefty price tag next to his name, and the Isles would be thrilled to see Halak build up some value over the next few weeks.
The presence of J.F. Berube also creates another moving part. The Isles love the 24-year old goaltender, and think he may be the type who can grow into the goaltender of the future title. As a result, they've contemplated repeating the three-headed goaltending situation they worked with in the late winter last season, one that was fairly unpopular with all three men. And with 21-year old Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin a few years away, who is probably one of, if not the best, Islanders prospects, just how sure is Berube's future in Brooklyn?
These questions and more are ones Garth Snow and the Islanders brain trust have the coming weeks to evaluate before locking in their roster for Opening Night. But for right now, with Halak rounding right back into form, the situation just got a lot more interesting.
Tags: Jaroslav Halak , Thomas Greiss , Brian Erni
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The New York Islanders went through some dramatic roster changes this summer and only time will tell what effect they have on the results of the 2016-17 season when activities in preparation for puck drop begin this week at Northwell Health Ice Center.
First up is rookie camp, with the youngster's first day on the ice coming Friday, September 16 in East Meadow. There has not been an official camp roster announced at this time, with Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock the only five names so far made public.
With the KHL season now underway (it began August 22), do not expect Ilya Sorokin to be making an appearance as the wait continues for the 21-year-old who could be the Islanders goaltender of the future. He did attend the Islanders summer rookie camp and got his first look at the United States.
The rookies will conclude the camp on Wednesday, September 21 with a morning skate followed by a rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers at 6pm ET. Tickets are available for a donation to the Islanders children's foundation with general admission seating.
On Friday, September 23, training camp will officially get underway and offer fans their first glimpse of Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and a refreshed view of P.A Parenteau, back for a second stint.
While the consensus is that Ladd and Chimera will adequately replace long tenured, but now departed Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen is another story. Nielsen's strong two-way game will not be replicated by Parenteau, who will be counted on to click again with captain John Tavares and provide offensive punch and power play success.
Instead, the responsibility of replacing Nielsen will likely fall to Casey Cizikas, who signed a contract extension over the summer that was a boon for the player's bank account but a widely seen risk by Islanders general manager Garth Snow. Coming off a career high 29 points, Cizikas should see his minutes per game increase by two and it will be interesting to see how he responds to not only tougher defensive assignments but increased scrutiny and pressure to live up to his $3.35 million cap hit.
With captain Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss away at the World Cup of Hockey, Stephen Gionta is being brought into camp on a tryout contract. What that means is that he gets no guarantee of an NHL, or even AHL, contract and receives only daily per-diem that is given to every player. What the 32-year-old can make of this opportunity remains to be seen, but he is thought to be a long shot at best to crack the opening night 23-man roster.
Ryan Strome remains the last unsigned player, and with the rule still in place that all who wish to play the regular season need to be signed and in camp, his agent has 10 days to work something out with Snow. Sources tell SNY that a deal should be worked out in time, with term being the last hurdle to getting a signature.
Tags: Casey Cizikas , Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares , Nikolay Kulemin , Ryan Strome , Stephen Gionta , Thomas Greiss
I see the pleas. "No, not more arena talk," they read, admittedly mostly from media types, my colleague Andy Graziano among them. How are Islanders fans supposed to put up with this, Randi Marshall asked in Newsday. All fair, but if Isles fans just put up with a little more of this, we may end up with a home that we've always dreamed of.
I get how tedious this all is. Believe me, I understand better than you think. I was a teenager with the a far too intricate understanding of Nassau County politics and Town of Hempstead zoning regulations. I can remember when the Lighthouse Project wasn't a twinkle in Charles Wang's eye. Heck, I remember when Charles Wang wasn't even a twinkle in Islanders fans' eye.
I was there the night the Isles unveiled their new, state-of-the-art (at the time) scoreboard (the old one was so antiquated, dilapidated and unsafe that the team actually refused to play preseason games there in the fall of 1998), and it qualified as a genuine attraction for the evening, making the atmosphere inside the Coliseum feel like a playoff game. I swear, I'm not lying. I was there when wrapping the inner concourse walls with ads actually qualified as an arena upgrade. I was sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight for my honeymoon to take off and desperately following the exit polls of the 8/1/11 referendum. I've lived through all the nonsense with you, and I understand it feels like there is no end in sight.
But the new ownership group feels like they have an obligation to look one last time, like a homeowner that has moved out of their starter house and into newer, nicer digs, but still wouldn't mind finding something comparable in their old neighborhood. Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin know they have a finite window to get their team an area of their own. One they would control. One that would bring the Islanders back closer to home. One that would give us back tailgating and non-obstructed views. So why not take one last shot?
When the Islanders announced their "iron clad," 25-year lease with Barclays Center, I turned to my wife and told her I was relieved.
"At least I know that, one day, I can take my children to see the New York Islanders play," I said.
That's still going to be the case. The Islanders' future is sound. But in order to save themselves from being boxed into an imperfect solution through the 2040-41 season, they're going to go through the paces one final time. Ownership feels like they owe it to themselves, their players, and their fans. And that's a good thing. So sit back, take everything with a grain of salt, and hold out hope.
And if one day we're all back playing street hockey, red Solo cup in hand, blaring music from our cars speakers before heading inside for an Islanders home opener, we'll know it was worth all the headaches and face palms along the way.
Tags: Brian Erni
P.A. Parenteau came into his own on John Tavares' wing, but the 33-year-old veteran isn't assuming he'll automatically be inserted back on the top line now that he has returned to New York.
Parenteau told SiriusXM's NHL Game Day that, while he'd be excited to play alongside Tavares again, he's ready to fit into any role head coach Jack Capuano asks of him.
"Well, obviously I had a good chemistry with Johnny when I played here, but I don't take anything for granted. I'm going to play where the coaches want me to play," he said. "Obviously, I would love to play with Johnny, but they have some other pieces now. It's a way different team than when I was here. They're pretty deep up front, they have a great d corps, the goalies played really well. I just want to be a part of this team. They're going in the right direction, and hopefully I can be a big part of it this year."
I think everyone just assumes Parenteau will be reunited with JT, but even if he isn't at the onset, an opportunity will certainly pop up eventually, as Capuano loves to mix and match, especially on that top line.
I do think it's worth noting that P.A. has been much better on the defensive side of late. Last season in Toronto, he posted a career-high 54.6 Corsi For and 53 Fenwick For Percentages, which are very encouraging signs. So even if Parenteau is put on a line where the Isles expect more defense from him, he's capable of handling it -- something he may not quite have been prepared for in his first tenure with the Isles.
I really think this could be one of the most underrated signings of the summer. In his advanced age, Parenteau has become a more complete player, and he should be able to help the Isles replace the production they lost up front better than some anticipate.
Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni
The Islanders have had discussions with Stephen Gionta about bringing him in for a training camp tryout, reports Arthur Staple of Newsday, who says both sides are confident a deal will get done.
The two sides are talking about a PTO.
Gionta, 32, has played parts of the last six seasons with the New Jersey Devils. In 270 games, he has posted 15 goals, 50 points, and a 47.1 Corsi For Percentage.
Why not? Gionta is fairly fungible player, and this would essentially be similar to when the Islanders brought in Steve Bernier last season. But in a year when the Isles think a youngster like Matt Barzal might be able to make the leap, I do think it would behoove the team to have a little insurance up front.
I can already anticipate some fans' consternation about Gionta blocking a younger player, but I don't think that's a problem. The Isles are ready to give a prospect a chance to run with a top-12 opportunity, and bringing in Gionta for depth certainly isn't going to change that.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Here comes the social media backlash on a player most likely ticketed for the Sound Tigers.
Let's not forget, the Islanders and GM Garth Snow still have an AHL team to fill out and took some losses to that depth this past summer. Gionta has little chance of making the Islanders' opening night 23-man roster with roadblocks galore in front of him, namely Barzal.
Remember, Gionta will be 33 years old by Opening Night, and has played a full NHL season twice over the past four years, one being the 2012-13 lockout shortened schedule. He's strictly a fourth-line player, and standing only 5'7, Gionta is not a threat to Barzal's opportunity. Nor is he any replacement for Ryan Strome, still unsigned with 13 days to go until training camp begins.
He's simply a role player who could be useful to the continued development of some of the young Sound Tigers, like Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang.
Tags: Stephen Gionta , Andy Graziano , Brian Erni
Steven Stamkos got oh, so close to free agency this summer, and the experience left an impression on him. Enough so to give John Tavares some tongue-in-cheek advice.
"I just said to him, 'Make sure you watch what you do on Twitter,'" a laughing Stamkos told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. Stamkos re-signed with the Lightning just before free agency opened on July 1.
"That was my only advice 'Don't stir the pot accidently. Be careful.'"
Tavares and Stamkos are teammates on Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey, which is based in Tavares' hometown of Toronto.
"I grew up in Toronto. I grew up a Leafs fan," said Tavares. "You know what it's like. People are nonstop looking at every possible scenario and what can happen. It just comes with the territory and being from there [...] It's something you can't control. I just try to go about my business. I've always been a low-key kind of guy, just trying to get better and help my team on Long Island."
Tavares hasn't been shy about his intentions. He has repeatedly gone on record this summer saying he doesn't want to leave the Islanders, and Jon Ledecky has said he is intent on signing him to a long-term deal the minute they can start negotiating next summer. But, as you can imagine, Toronto just can't give up the ghost, and with the World Cup of Hockey based out of the Air Canada Centre, it's a logical story to pop up.
Stamkos flirted much more with leaving than anyone involved with the Isles would be comfortable with Tavares doing. Fortunately, I don't think we have to worry about that. If you look at the way Garth Snow has arranged the cap, it gives the Isles plenty of wiggle room once JT's current deal expires. So there has been a conscious effort for years to make sure they're budgeted for Tavares. With Stamkos, the Lightning got themselves in a bit of a cap crunch, and I have to think that made leaving a viable option.
Still, both guys seem to see the value in staying with one team, and helping that franchise earn a title. That's how you become a legend in this game, and I think both guys will end up being lifers with their respective organizations.
Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni
Andrew Ladd had plenty of suitors once he hit free agency, but it was the Islanders who jumped to the front of the pack.
The Islanders were one of 10 teams that called Ladd leading up to July 1, the forward told Cory Wright, but because of his familiarity with Islanders assistant head coach Doug Weight, New York stood out.
"Knowing Dougie from Carolina [where the two were part of the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup winner], that relationship with him and knowing what a genuine good guy he is, it was nice to have him here showing me around," said Ladd. "He made me comfortable and made my wife comfortable. I trust his opinion on where things are going here."
When asked about how his style would adapt to the Islanders' system, Ladd said he doesn't expect he'll have to change much.
"I'm not going to change much. I play a pretty simple, north-south game, and I try to be consistent, play hard every night, and chip in offensively when I can," said Ladd. "We'll see as things go along where things fall and I'm really excited to be a part of this."
Remember the days when the Islanders beating out a third of the league for a player would have read like some kind of fan fiction? Not anymore. Nowadays, the Islanders are a legitimate free agent destination, and that's the biggest takeaway from this catch up with their newest forward.
I really think Isles fans are going to take to Ladd very quickly. He's the type of player that this fan base usually loves, and if he can get off to a faststart offensively, he'll endear himself in short order. I know some have pointed to a little bit of a decline in his game, but stationed on John Tavares' wing, I think he's poised to have quite the season.
Tags: Brian Erni
The LIRR will double its service to Islanders games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn this season.
The increased service will include a fourth post-game train, bound for Ronkonkoma, and will mirror the service that was run during the 2016 playoffs.
"More and more Islanders fans have found the LIRR to be the quickest and most convenient way to and from Barclays Center," MTA LIRR president Patrick A. Nowakowski said. "We anticipate continued growth in ridership to Brooklyn as the Islanders begin their second season there."
As long as the Isles are in Brooklyn, making the LIRR easy to navigate is of paramount importance. Adding a Ronkonkoma train is huge step forward to that.
Suffolk County residents are the hardest for Brooklyn to win over, and I speak from experience. It's definitely a hike to get there, and going from Ronkonkoma is a huge issue. So much so that I drive to a Nassau station and take the train from there when I go to Barclays Center. If you can trim down that wait at Jamaica time, particularly on the way back, it'll be a huge help.
Tags: Brian Erni
A portion of the hockey world, including the Islanders' head coach and captain, have been displaced for a grand international experiment. Jack Capuano, John Tavares, Thomas Greiss, Jaro Halak, and Nikolay Kulemin are off to Canada to participate in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey, and naturally, some fans have questioned if the NHL should really be delving into this undertaking.
The reality of the World Cup of Hockey is that it tears some of the most valuable players and staff around the league from their organizations to divert it to an international exhibition. But if we don't have to put the game on a two-week hold in two years, I'll gladly sing its praises.
I look at the World Cup of Hockey a lot like I view the World Baseball Classic: as a gigantic fan of the game, it's hard to pass up the temptation to see meaningful hockey games a month earlier than I normally would. Of course, there are issues. Players have to alter their offseason programs to get ready for real competition before they normally would. There's the extra wear-and-tear on some of the game's best talent. And of course, the ultimate boogey man of these competitions: the potential for injury is ever present.
But to me, I'm willing to deal with those realities if it means ending the experiment of NHL players in the Olympics.
I don't know who enjoys watching professional players participate in the Olympics. The allure of the original Dream Team - the basketball squad that made Americans giddy over world domination - is so far in the rearview mirror that there are people who can legally drink that were born three years after that behemoth had won a Gold medal in '92.
The league should give the Olympics back to amateurs, or at least to non-NHL pros, like prospects playing in the AHL. Think about one of this country's greatest triumphs: the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. It was a club defined by their unassuming status, and celebrated because it toppled a Goliath in the form of an All Star Soviet Union team. Of course, geopolitical ramifications added to the drama, but even in a far calmer climate, there's no way a U.S. gold medal could ever mean as much in today's structure.
What's the most memorable American hockey moment in the Olympics of the last 30 years? T.J. Oshie's shootout frenzy? Is that really it? For a team that lost by five goals in the Bronze medal game? Can the Games really provide an iconic moment if it's just a reshuffling of the All Star Game? Not in my eyes. So why do it, especially since it puts the entire league on a two-week hold? There's no point, and I think the league is coming to that realization.
Now, the fact that the league, which is still currently mulling a decision, is deciding on the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 2022 games in Beijing, China at the same time, complicates matters. The NHL desperately wants to grow the game of hockey in China, as Gary Bettman admitted last fall.
"The question is would the fact that the Winter Olympics in Beijing introduce that country to hockey and give us an opportunity to make a real impression in China, where hockey is really in an embryonic state?" said the Commissioner. "That's a discussion we have to have to determine whether or not there is an opportunity to grow the game in China by using the Winter Games with NHL players as a catalyst. That's the question. I don't know the answer."
But by the Commissioner's own admission, the NHL has participated in Olympics hosted on the Asian continent before, and there wasn't an awakening of the Games in Japan after Nagano in 1998. More likely, the answer is to grow the game through grass-roots efforts, and eventually have an Asian team qualify for the World Cup of Hockey. That's a model used by Major League Baseball that has been very successful.
So if the league is going to supplant the usual training camp model for the World Cup of Hockey every four years, they need to blow off the Olympics. I just don't think there's room in the game for both. Hopefully, the league will agree.
Tags: Brian Erni
As the weary rested on Labor Day, Newsday's Jim Baumbach worked hard, bringing to light one of the most mysterious items in New York Islanders country: the Barclays Center opt-out clause.
For the last year, the Isles' opt-out was merely an ambiguous notion -- something we knew existed, but didn't know much about. All we had heard was that after four years, either party could tear up the lease and end the original 25-year marriage before it even exited the honeymoon phase. Now, we know more, but what does it all mean? And does it kill the summer buzz that the Isles could find a new site for their own area that would be closer to their original home?
The biggest takeaway is that the Isles can opt out after season three at Barclays Center, with written notice being delivered as early as Jan. 30, 2018. That is possible, as the report says, only after "good-faith negotiations" take place. What legally would qualify as "good-faith" is something for someone with a Juris Doctor to decide, but the only way that would come into play is if one side desperately didn't want out of the deal, and that doesn't seem likely.
Despite the fact that both parties seem favorably-positioned to capitalize on this lease (the Isles hauling in $53.2 million per year of guaranteed revenue, and the arena taking home essentially all money over and above that number), neither side is particularly enthralled with this arrangement. The Isles know that, if they develop into the Stanley Cup contender they think they will be, they're leaving money on the table. And Barclays Center, which is in competition against four other buildings in the Metropolitan area for attractions, isn't enamored with the idea of doling out a big sum to the Isles annually for the next 24 years.
So do these new revelations limit the Isles' ability to bolt for Queens or Belmont? Not in my eyes. If the two sides choose to part ways, it's almost certainly to be mutual. The Isles will have a new site locked up and green-lit, and Barclays Center will be happy to go on not worrying about tying up 41 dates a year with hockey games. In that scenario, the "good-faith" clause simply wouldn't come into play.
Now, there are potential complications. It's not a slam-dunk that the Isles will be able to procure a new site to build on, and each area they're looking at come with its own set of hurdles. The Willets Point Iron Triangle has been marked for redevelopment for years, and the ongoing litigation around the neighborhood "chop shops" would need to come to a resolution.
Belmont, of course, has been up for bid for years with no decision. These questions would need to be answered in a hurry if the Isles were going to get the funding, zoning and all other potential tripping points in their rear-view mirror.
For now, we simply have more details, and I don't believe they're anything to kill the dream of a Long Island return.
Tags: Brian Erni
The New York Islanders can opt out of its current deal with Barclays Center after three seasons, according to a summary of the pact between the two sides, Newsday reported on Monday.
The Islanders, who played their first season at Barclays Center last season after previously spending its entire history at Nassau Coliseum, have reportedly been considering other arenas in Queens and Long Island to call home.
Islanders owner Jon Ledecky said in August that the Islanders and Barclays Center are working together to better the fan experience.
"Barclays Center management has been very receptive in helping up to improve the fan experience," Ledecky said. "So I think it's interesting to read press accounts [of the search for a new arena], but Barclays Center is our home."
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Today is Labor Day in the United States, a day to honor the hard working contributions that Americans have made to the country and their families. So, it's only fitting that ESPN's annual coaching hot seat column makes its rounds today, and, once again, includes New York Islanders bench boss, Jack Capuano.
Capuano should be used to this by now, as he has made this one particular list for the third season in a row. At the end of the day, I don't feel he really cares all that much. Hardworking, honest and true to his players, albeit at times to a fault, the Cranston, Rhode Island native, now at age 50, leads the Islanders for his seventh season behind the bench as they prepare for the 2016-17 season with training camp opening on Thursday, September 22.
Is Capuano perfect? Hardly. There have been mistakes made along the way, both in terms of personnel and decisions made behind the bench. But what he has done has earned the trust of management and players alike, along with improving his own skill set each season. To speak to the players in the locker room about their head coach and you get a unified, solidified response about how much they love playing for him. Talk to general manager Garth Snow and new owner Jon Ledecky and they will publicly support their on-ice leader of men.
Matthew Coller from Hockey Prospectus, who wrote the column for ESPN, gives some reasoning into why Capuano made the list. Let's break them down.
'Has to be,' suggesting this is Coller's opinion more than a fact. Actually, a well-written line, because neither he nor I would have any true insight into the mind of Ledecky and what he is actually thinking outside of what he proclaims publicly. But the numbers speak for themselves to the improvement the team has made under Capuano's tenure, 62,79,93 (prorated for the lockout), 79, 101 and 100 points since he took over in 2010-11. Playoff appearances in three of the past four seasons and winning a round for the first time in what seems like a century this past year.
Some will say the team won 'in spite' of him, and that's what I call 'malarky.' And besides, who do you lay responsibility on for the roster makeup, especially in Capuano's earlier years? Having one of the best offensive players in the world, captain John Tavares, is great, but if the general manager can't find the right players for him to play with, it's an uphill battle. Hockey has never been a one-man sport.
Again, this statement seems to be pointing more at Garth Snow than Capuano. Yes, Okposo and Nielsen left. So did Matt Martin. The Islanders did bring in Andrew Ladd - and P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera, too. Ladd will be better defensively than Okposo, in my opinion, by a long shot and could provide similar offense paired with Tavares. Chimera might be a downgrade off the ice over Martin but a clear improvement on. Parenteau will not replace Nielsen's superlative overall game and that falls on…….Capuano?
In the Metropolitan Division, you have the Stanley Cup champions and always formidable Washington Capitals. Then you can pretty much, for now at least, muddle the other five. You're telling me that the Flyers, Blue Jackets, Devils, Rangers and Hurricanes are light years ahead of the Islanders at this point? Remember, it's not so much the Eastern Conference. Finish top three in the Metro and you're in.
I'm not here to proclaim Capuano should be winning the Jack Adams anytime soon. I hear the complaints and comments and you know what? Some are valid. And some aren't. But the system he has put in place works. And the players buy into it.
At the end of the day, it's the general manager's job to provide the head coach with the right player make-up to succeed. It's the head coach's job to get the most out of those players in a successful system. And it's always, always, the player's responsibility to earn their millions and do their job on the ice. They are the last line. They are the ultimate answer to wins and losses.
But hey, that's just my opinion.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Starting Sunday, hockey is unofficially back as training camps will begin opening to prepare for the World Cup of Hockey, which will be held September 17 to October 1 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The four players representing the Islanders are captain John Tavares (Canada), goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss (Europe) and winger Nikolay Kulemin (Russia).
Ex-Islander Frans Nielsen, now with the Detroit Red Wings, will also play for team Europe.
A few final teams will open camp Monday and by that time, all four Islanders representatives will be donning different jerseys and missing the opening of NHL training camp. Isles camp is scheduled for Thursday, September 22 in East Meadow, New York.
Here is what you need to know about the tournament as the league has set up a dedicated website.
- The World Cup will be played using NHL rules and officiated by NHL referees and linesmen. Other competition matters -- such as the anti-doping policy governing the tournament, the framework and procedure for supplementary discipline, the medical protocols, media and broadcasting policies and access, etc. -- will be the responsibility of the NHL and NHLPA in consultation with third parties, including the IIHF, where appropriate (via NHL.com)
- The league has said they expect to sell out every game (which, according to reports, they have not yet at this time) and they have acquired over 25 million dollars in sponsorship revenue. There will be advertisements on jerseys.
- Live coverage of all tournament games will be provided by Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada and ESPN in the United States. (This includes pre-tournament exhibition games)
- The eight teams are split into two Groups, Group A and Group B, for the Preliminary Round (Sept. 17-22), when each team will play its three Group opponents in a round-robin format.
- Group A: Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team USA, Team Europe (a roster of players from birthplaces other than the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden).
- Group B: Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team North America (a roster of top players from Canada and the United States who are 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016).
You can follow the action per the below schedule:
Thursday, September 8
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Russia - VTB Arena; Moscow
12:30pm - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team Sweden vs. Team Finland - Hartwall Arena; Helsinki
Noon ET/7 p.m. local - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team Europe vs. Team North America - Videotron Centre; Quebec City
8 p.m. ET - ESPN2, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Friday, September 9
Team Canada vs. Team USA - Nationwide Arena; Columbus
7 p.m. ET - ESPNU, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, September 10
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden - Scandinavium; Gothenburg
Noon ET/6 p.m. local - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team Russia vs. Team Czech Republic - O2 Arena; Prague
10:30 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m. local - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team USA vs. Team Canada - Canadian Tire Centre; Ottawa
7 p.m. ET - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Sunday, September 11
Team Europe vs. Team North America - Bell Centre; Montreal
6 p.m. ET - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, September 13
Team Finland vs. Team USA - Verizon Center; Washington, DC
7 p.m. ET - ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Wednesday, September 14
Team Czech Republic vs. Team North America - CONSOL Energy Center; Pittsburgh
3:30 p.m. ET - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team Canada vs. Team Russia - CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh
7:30 p.m. ET - ESPN2, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Team Sweden vs. Team Europe - Verizon Center; Washington, DC
7 p.m. ET - ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2
Saturday, Sept. 17
Team USA vs. Team Europe, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Canada, 8 p.m., ESPNEWS
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Sweden vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m., ESPN
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Monday, Sept. 19
Team Europe vs. Team Czech Republic, 3 p.m., ESPN
Team Russia vs. Team North America, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m., ESPN
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m., ESPN
Team Europe vs. Team Canada, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m., ESPN
Team USA vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Semifinals (single elimination; A1 vs. B2, B1 vs. A2)
Saturday, Sept. 24
Semifinal 1, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, Sept. 25
Semifinal 2, 1 p.m., ESPN
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Final Game 1, 8 p.m.,ESPN
Thursday, Sept. 29
Final Game 2, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, Oct. 1
Final Game 3, 7 p.m. (if necessary), ESPN2
Tags: Frans Nielsen , Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares , Nikolay Kulemin , Thomas Greiss , Andy Graziano
The reigning Stanley Cup champions happen to reside in the Metropolitan division, so how do the Isles stack up against Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Penguins?
ESPN's Craig Custance took a look at each of the Penguins' divisional foes and what kind of chance they stand on toppling the champs.
For the evaluation, Custance looked at five categories: the presence of a franchise center, a big-minute franchise defenseman, entry-level contributors, three skilled scoring lines, and a mobile top four on defense. He said the Isles check four of the five boxes, the only omission a presence of a d-man that he would insert into the conversation for the Norris Trophy.
"If you're looking for a team outside the normal conversation in the East to surprise, this group might be a candidate," he surmised.
I think it's easy to forget that 1) the Islanders finished just four points behind the Pens in the Metro division last year, and 2) that Pittsburgh spent the majority of the season's first half floundering around the .500 mark. It wasn't until the Pens opened up their system and played the speed game that they hit their stride and rode it all the way to a title. So I'm not surprised to see Custance give the Isles so much respect in relation to the champs.
For New York, it's just about getting over the proverbial hump in the playoffs. The first round victory last year was a huge step forward, but now it's about pushing past that second round and finally getting back to a Conference Final. Once you're there, anything is possible, and the acquisitions Garth Snow has made this summer really point to that need not only for on-ice talent that can get the Isles to that point, but players who have experience putting that mental approach of playing deep into the summer to use.
Are the Isles a Cup contender? It's what we've been asking since July 1. Custance seems to think so, and while I need to see the pieces on the ice together before I'm ready to commit, it certainly wouldn't shock me.
Tags: Brian Erni
The Islanders have announced that their practice rink in East Meadow will be named after the late Al Arbour.
The team held a memorial service in honor of Arbour, who was at the helm for the team's four-straight Stanley Cup championships, at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Monday at the new facility, one year after the date of his passing at the age of 82.
After the service, general manager Garth Snow announced to the media that the site would be renamed "Al Arbour Rink."
"You can tell just how special Al Arbour was, and how much he meant to this organization," said current Islanders captain John Tavares after the proceedings on Monday. "It was a special ceremony."
Arbour amassed a 740-537-223 record over the span of 1500 games as Islanders head coach. He won the 1978-79 Jack Adams Award, and took the franchise to five straight Stanley Cup Finals. He also won three Cups as a player as a member of the 1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks, and the 61-62 and 63-64 Toronto Maple Leafs.
This is a tremendous honor for Al's family, one that is undoubtedly deserved. This franchise has such an incredible legacy, and it's thanks in large part to the professionalism, integrity, and dedication Arbour brought to Long Island back when he was hired prior to the 1973-74 season. Arbour was a giant, not only in hockey, but in life, and I'm glad that the team decided to put his name on this new facility on Long Island. May it will stay there for as long as the building stands.
The Islanders' system still ranks in the upper echelon of NHL, according to ESPN.
Corey Pronman took a look at all 30 teams' systems and ranked the Isles seventh, down two spots from a year ago.
"The Isles have been somewhat patient with their young players in recent seasons, exemplified by the fact that none of their top 10 prospects from last summer graduated," Pronman writes. "The group is led by skilled forwards Mathew Barzal, the No. 16 overall pick from 2015, Anthony Beauvillier (No. 28, 2015) and Kieffer Bellows (No. 19, 2016)."
The Islanders have used their last five first-round selections on forwards.
I like that the Isles have been patient -- some would say overly patient -- with their prospects. The team had enough forward depth the last few years to be able to wait on bringing up Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, and the others. And now, with a spot ready and waiting to be claimed in camp this season by one of the young guys up front, they'll come to Brooklyn more mature, and hopefully more prepared to deal with the expectations that await them.
The way the Isles have picked the last three years will go a long way in determining how much of a hit the club took in free agency this season. If you can get multiple guys from the Dal Colle, Barzal, Ho-Sang, Beauvillier, and Bellows group to pan out, the Isles should be able to move forward not only getting great value from players on entry-level deals, but be in great cap space, too.
Filling in spots from within will become even more important when they start paying their star upwards of the $10 million-plus he's going to eventually earn annually.
If those guys can't do the job and GM Garth Snow has to be more active in free agency, not only are the Isles going to be in a tough cap situation, there will be a ton of pressure on the organization to find a diamond in the rough of those players looking for short-term, low-dollar deals. And that's not always easy to do.
Tags: Brian Erni
The Islanders have named Chris Lamoriello the team's Director of Player Personnel.
Lamoriello, son of former New Jersey Devils general manager and Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello, served as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Devils and General Manager of the Albany Devils from 2001-2015.
He was part of the Devils scouting staff since the start of the 1995-96 season, and has scouted players at all levels of hockey in the United States, Canada and Europe. During his tenure with the Devils, the franchise won two Stanley Cup championships (2000, 2003).
"I'm excited for the opportunity to work for such a storied franchise alongside a great management and ownership group," Lamoriello said in a press release. "The Islanders have a great team and I'm looking forward to helping them continue their climb towards a championship."
Well, if there's a hockey family you want to hire from, the Lamoriellos are certainly an excellent choice.
Make no mistake, Chris certainly is not just getting by on the family name. He played hockey and baseball in college, so he has an instinctive nose for the game, and he has been an integral part in one of the most functional and exemplary organizations in the NHL for the last 14 years.
And, while it probably goes without saying, Director of Player Personnel is a huge job that requires both a creative and shrewd mind. The man in this job helps set the tone for the draft and for other organizational player moves.
During his tenure in Jersey, Lamoriello has proven that he has what it takes to thrive in this role. I love this hire, and wish Chris the best of luck in the coming years!
Tags: Brian Erni
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Training camp is now less than four weeks away for the New York Islanders, as players will report for physicals on Wednesday, September 21 at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow, New York.
This will not be the same team from the top down that we saw last season in Tampa, losing to the Lightning 4-0 on May 8, bowing out of the second round of the playoffs in five games. This summer brought many changes in management and personnel that will shape where the organization is headed after three playoff appearances in the past four years and advancing past the first round in 2015-16 for the first time since 1992-93.
Jon Ledecky/Scott Malkin: The Islanders new management team (85% stake) took over officially on July 1, but has been behind the scenes for the past two years watching the team and how it is run. Ledecky this summer has made it his priority to work with the management team at Barclays Center to address fans' concerns, holding a session with the media in Manhattan and then following up with two town hall type discussions with fans themselves. Beyond all that, rumors began leaking of New York pursuing other 'options' in the New York metro area for a possible new arena. Whether this was just a clever ploy by Ledecky or something more serious remains to be seen. Either way, it was a brilliant way to exert your authority and show right from the start you are taking fans complaints and gripes seriously. Initially, Ledecky doesn't seem like the type to sit around and purely rely on the team performance on the ice to dictate how active he is. He seems very vested and involved on the business side, already with Malkin being more the 'silent partner' type.
Big losses up front: Maybe John Tavares really was bothered when close friend Matt Moulson was traded to Buffalo a couple seasons back when general manager Garth Snow took a chance on Thomas Vanek. But Tavares understands by now it's a business and even though he loses some close friends this off-season, I can't see him being deterred in the least from his ultimate goal of seeing this team through four rounds of playoff hockey.
Kyle Okposo was a great soldier, spending his entire nine-year career with the Islanders before shuffling off to Buffalo this summer. After putting up 184 points in 210 games over the last three seasons, he was limited in some facets of his game, especially on the defensive side of the puck. Maybe that's what Snow saw in the future when he decided to not even hold extension talks with the winger prior to him becoming an unrestricted free agent. Have to admit, he made the right call ultimately with the aforementioned Moulson deal.
Frans Nielsen is probably the hardest Islander to replace, as he 'wanted a change' and took a less gratuitous offer from the Detroit Red Wings to join the proud and outstanding franchise in free agency. Nielsen just started to discover his offensive game, producing 153 points in 239 games the last three seasons and scoring 50% of his career goals (25,14,20) over that same span. He was, clearly, the team's best defensive forward and that is where the loss of his invaluable contributions will be felt the most.
Matt Martin was a warrior on the ice and a teddy bear off it. Always welcoming to all kinds, whether it was the media or fans, he spent countless hours in the community spreading good vibes to almost everyone he encountered. On the ice, it's clear Martin was a one dimensional fourth line winger, and with fighting on the decline across the league, was the easiest of the three to replace in terms of pure production.
New faces: Out with the old and in with the new as the popular saying goes. Andrew Ladd joins and should, riding shotgun with Tavares, replace Okposo's offensive numbers while bringing much more responsible defensive hockey. Add to that his valuable experience of 769 NHL games and two Stanley Cups, and you can clearly see why his contributions were so coveted by Snow. Ladd should be an extremely suitable and positive replacement for Okposo. The expectation is that head coach Jack Capuano will be placing an 'A' on his sweater.
P.A Parenteau, by all accounts, including his own, was longing to return to the Island and reignite the fire that led to offensive numbers he produced while playing with Tavares back in 2010-2012 (120 points in 161 games). Now 33 years of age and coming off a productive season in Toronto (20-21-41 in 77), if he approaches 60 points here yet again, there won't be a disappointed person across the entire organization and fan base. Belief around the league might be Nielsen to Parenteau is a step-down for New York, but this guy can still play.
Jason Chimera has spent the last six and a half seasons with the Washington Capitals and last year, at age 36, produced 40 points, playing 14 minutes a night under Barry Trotz. It was two points from his career high, set in 2013-14, and his 20 goals tied a career high. Chimera has always had remarkable wheels, and that speed and tenacity on the forecheck should replace Martin with little difficulty.
Youngsters: Ryan Pulock will get the extended look this year that fans have been waiting for. Penciled in to begin the season in the top six with the departures of Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait, it's finally time to see what the 21-year-old, Mantioba native has for us all. We know about the booming slap shot and his power play proficiency, but it will be how he plays in his own end that will define his season.
All eyes in camp will be focused on Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang but they are more than likely ticketed for Bridgeport. Everyone should really be watching Matthew Barzal closely. His only options are the big club or back to Seattle of the WHL for a fourth and final season of junior hockey. He almost made the club last year and with hip issues this summer now behind him, stands an even better chance this time around.
Shane Prince will get an opportunity as a third liner, but the play of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome could define how productive and dangerous the offense ultimately is. Lee struggled before heating up, then breaking his leg. Nelson started with a flurry, then tailed off meekly in the second half leading into the playoffs. Strome's entire season was a disaster and it will be interesting to see how mentally strong he is entering camp.
Three goalies?: With Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss away from camp due to World Cup of Hockey commitments, J.F Berube will be the man at its onset. Either way, New York cannot expect to carry and keep happy all three for very long. This is a situation that might not get worked out until teams see just how healthy Halak is, as he figures to be the logical trade candidate. He might not see any minutes in Toronto, so this could drag into the season and become a distraction.
Hockey is coming, fast and furious. The summer is almost over, the leaves will be starting to change color and the crisp, morning air will soon work its way in. Before you know it, some will be sitting at Madison Square Garden on October 13, others waiting for the home opener on Sunday, October 16. How these changes affect the actual product on the ice remains to be seen.
Jon Ledecky is back with more comments about both the coming season and the long-term future of the franchise that are certain to have Islanders fans intrigued.
Ledecky called into the NHL Network and spoke to Steve Mears and Dan Rosen both about the team and his niece, Gold medalist Katie Ledecky, and her experience in Rio.
Mears opened the portion of the questions about the team with an inquiry about how smooth the transition has been for Ledecky and his partner Scott Malkin in taking the reins from former majority owner Charles Wang, and Ledecky said it's been a breeze.
"It's been seamless. We really have had a great relationship with the fans. We were active and went out and did town halls. We were helped, I think, along the way by some really comments by our main star John Tavares, who's expressing an interested in staying with us for his entire career, and that's something obviously we're keen to have happen," said Ledecky. "So right now the wind is at our back. We have a terrific team. We think we've improved our team in the offseason, and we're looking forward to a third straight playoff drive."
Of course, the biggest waves this season have been made about the Isles' future at Barclays Center, and, when the topic of a potential new arena in Queens or Nassau County broached, Ledecky struck a brilliant balance in supporting the team's current building, while leaving the possibility of a new arena open.
"Barclays Center is a first class facility, and it's our home," he said. "Barclays Center management has been very receptive in helping up to improve the fan experience. So I think it's interesting to read press accounts [of the search for a new arena], but Barclays Center is our home.
"And even if one was to surmise that a new arena was being planned, that would take a long time in the New York market," continued Ledecky. "So I think what we're focused on is improving the fan experience, improving transportation to and from the games to the fans that remained loyal from the Long Island market, and making fans in the New York City metro area understand that we have a great team, and making sure that the experience inside Barclays is an A+ experience, both for the fans and for the players."
Ledecky also said that the Isles have worked with Barclays Center to improve the experience inside this year, and there would be an announcement on those changes in the coming weeks.
"To his credit, Brett Yormark and his group at BC have been very actively in the offseason to improve the experience on many different levels," said Ledecky. "And I'm sure at the appropriate time, we'll roll out an announcement about what we've done in the offseason to welcome the fans even more to Barclays."
So what are the takeaways here? First, this says to me that the chatter about the search for a hockey-friendly home is certainly for real (and we've been hearing that very same thing). Ledecky was a master in paying Brooklyn compliments, while still subtly nodding and winking that the Isles will look to get themselves a new home where they are the sole tenants. Would Ledecky give these indications without being confident in his ability to get something done? Probably not, but he's effectively hedged himself so that, no matter how things break, he's covered.
Additionally, I'm curious to see what improvements are in the offing. I was just at Barclays Center Saturday night, and I know one place they can start. Getting something from concessions there (yes, even with a line of all of three people) is akin to being slowly tortured, so that would certainly help. But I also wouldn't be surprised to see more Islanders signage and other game day experience factors to make Brooklyn feel more like home.
All in all, Ledecky seems committed to making Barclays Center work for at least three more seasons. After that, I'd venture to say that all bets are off.
Tags: Brian Erni
The Rangers have signed Jimmy Vesey to a two-year, $925,000 deal with $2.85 million in potential bonuses.
Aug. 19, 10:25am: The Islanders are likely out on Jimmy Vesey, with the Rangers or Blackhawks the likely destination for him, reports Arthur Staple of Newsday.
Staple notes that John Tavares made a strong pitch for Vesey but that it likely wasn't enough.
Previous Reports and Reactions
Aug. 17, 4:15pm: The Islanders front office met with Jimmy Vesey on Tuesday in Boston, according to ESPN's Joe McDonald.
New York is on the shortlist of seven teams he might sign with by the end of the week.
Aug. 16, 3:40pm: The Islanders are in contention for Jimmy Vesey, and are one of several finalists for the forward, according to former Islanders executive and Sports Business Journal writer Chris Botta.
The Islanders have interest in soon-to-be free agent Jimmy Vesey, but it's not clear whether Vesey will entertain an offer from Garth Snow.
Vesey, 23, was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft by Nashville, but instead of signing with the Predators, he finished his college career at Harvard with the intention of eventually testing free agency.
Nashville traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres earlier this summer, and Buffalo's exclusive negotiating rights end Monday at midnight, after which point Vesey will become a free agent.
ESPN's Joe McDonald lists the Islanders as an interested party in a report filed on Monday.
"The New York Islanders will also have a chance to make their pitch," McDonald wrote. "GM Garth Snow has made his presence known at the Foxborough pro league this summer. Again, the chance to play with a superstar in John Tavares could push the needle Brooklyn's way."
In four years at Harvard, Vesey scored 80 goals and tallied 64 assists. Last season, he won the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey's MVP.
Vesey is certainly intriguing, but I think a lot of the interest surrounding his movement in the hockey world has to do with the fact that absolutely nothing is going on around the game right now.
Let's also remember that the Isles have some good forward talent in their system already, and frankly, Vesey may not even be their top prospect if he signed on Tuesday at 12:01. That's not to say they couldn't use another good prospect, but I don't think this is a make-or-break kind of deal. Whoever gets him will certainly be signing a talented player who could contribute at some point in the future, but it won't be the end of the world if Garth can't land him.
The Hobey Baker Award has certainly been won by some future NHL stars, but for every Paul Kariya or Jack Eichel, there's a Jason Krog (the last Hobey Baker winner signed by the Isles) or Kip Miller. So while there's a reason to keep one eye on the Vesey news, keep yourself away from the ledge if Garth can't swipe him away from the Rangers, Devils, or some of the other frontrunners for his services.
Tags: Brian Erni
Did the Islanders do enough to replace Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin's production?
Rob Vollman tackled a burning question for each NHL team for ESPN, and for the Isles, he says it boils down to replacing the scorers they lost in free agency.
"On the surface, it appears the Islanders replaced their lost scoring with the additions of Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, and P.A. Parenteau, who combined for 65 goals and 127 points last season, compared to 52 goals and 135 points by the former Islanders," Vollman writes. "However, the new players' average age is 33 years old, compared to 29 for the departed trio of forwards. A more likely scenario is that some of the Isles' young talent makes a mark."
The key is the progression of the young forwards, particularly a bounceback year from Ryan Strome. If Strome can develop into a legitimate 60-70 point player, something that I think is still very much a realistic possibility for him, then the Isles won't have any worries.
Anders Lee played in hard luck much of the first half of the season, and was better than his overall scoring stats indicate. And even though Brock Nelson had a very uneven year, he still finished with a productive 26-goal season.
Strome, who pulled a disappearing act for the majority of the 15-16 season, is the lynchpin. If he can be the player he was two years ago, he makes that entire forward group deeper, and he knows he has a ton to prove this season. Once he signs an RFA deal, which should get done by camp, he'll have nothing but hockey to focus on, and I think he'll relish the opportunity for redemption.
I'm not worried about the free agent imports. They're veterans who know what needs to be done, and I think they'll be just fine.
For the Isles, it's all about forward momentum for their young core, whether it's the guys who have been here a few years or the prospects (like Matt Barzal) moving up through the system. They will determine just how high the ceiling is for this club.
Tags: Anders Lee , Brock Nelson , Ryan Strome , Brian Erni
The New York Islanders are roughly five weeks away from beginning a transformative and crucial training camp before the puck is dropped on the 2016-17 NHL season.
In addition to working in newcomers Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and now two-time Islander P.A Parenteau, they will be missing Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin in the locker room.
It will also be the time when management and the coaching staff takes a long, hard look at what could be the future of New York's offense. Possessing, arguably, the brightest stock of young talent in the entire league, all eyes will be focused on three players when on-ice workouts begin.
Matthew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang will feel like all of Long Island's eyes are upon them, and truth be told, that might not be much of a stretch.
Barzal almost made the team last season, lasting the longest in training camp before being sent back to Seattle of the WHL to complete his third season of junior hockey. And what a season it ended up being for the 19-year-old from Coquitlam, BC, Canada.
Barzal collected 27 goals and 61 assists for a career-high 88 points in only 58 games before adding another 26 points in 18 playoff contests. Once compared to Conor McDavid, now of the Edmonton Oilers, Barzal has carved his own niche and is ready for yet another challenge to the Islanders' 23-man roster.
SNY had a chance to catch up with the young Islanders star and talk about his goals for the upcoming season as he heads into a crucial development phase of his career...
Andy Graziano, SNY: We know that you sat out the Islanders rookie camp with a minor hip issue, has that affected your offseason training routine? Any idea where the injury occurred and how does it feel now?
Matthew Barzal: "It's feeling real good. I've been back on the ice the past few weeks with some pros. It just kind of happened, it was such a long season last year - I think I played around 95 games with no break and it's such a grind. Things flare up and get sore but no major damage and the news is all positive right now, getting stronger each day"
AG: What is the biggest part of your game that you feel needs improvement as you strive to make the 23 man roster out of training camp?
MB: "I've been working hard all summer on my core and upper body. Last year when I walked into the room as a younger guy, just seeing some of those guys off ice, just massive. Kyle Okposo, Nik Kulemin, Matt Martin and others. I was a pretty thin kid but now I feel like I've added a lot more bulk and am a lot more confident with my physicality."
AG: Describe for the fans how you see your style of play and what they can expect..Who do you most compare yourself to in terms of past or present NHL players?
MB: "I've heard comparisons to Claude Giroux quite a bit. We're not the biggest guys but very quick on the puck, pass first type of players. He's obviously had an unreal career so far so hopefully I can follow in that mold. He's such a smart player and I can definitely see the closest resemblance to his style of play"
AG: Due to current CHL rules regarding young players, your options, while limited, are very clear to you for 2016-17. Either make the Islanders or return to Seattle and finish out your junior career. Does that add any pressure heading into camp and do you feel you have anymore to offer at the WHL level?
MB: "Obviously, the ideal situation is to make the club in New York, I'm really not thinking about Seattle at this point. It's kind of tough that as a 19 year old, you can't go to the AHL, you either make it or go back to junior. But at the end of the day, I'm not satisfied. It will be disappointing but that means I have things to work on. I have a great coach in Seattle, Steve Konowalchuk, who makes me accountable and has really helped me with my game to make it more pro like. Obviously, it wouldn't be my first option to go back to junior, but as of right now, I'm not really thinking about going back at all."
AG: Tell us a little about how you became interested in hockey and how it has led you to where you are, currently. Who have been your biggest influences growing up.
MB: "My dad was a junior A hockey player and just threw me in, like most Canadian dads tend to do. I also loved lacrosse. I honestly loved every sport I played. When I really knew was my first tournament in Quebec, when I won the MVP award, it became the sport I knew I wanted to concentrate on."
AG: What do you see as the biggest differences that will need to be adjusted to between the WHL and NHL as you move forward?
MB: "You see what's going on with Jimmy Vesey. It's crazy. He has a little more experience playing with team USA this summer overseas with some pros but I played 7 pre-season games last year, so I know what it's like as well. He's obviously a real good player and I actually heard the Islanders are talking to him, so that's pretty cool. That could be a real good fit. The differences in the leagues is always size and speed of the game. I know it's a pretty generic answer, but at the end of the day, it's true. Guys also are so damn smart. Every D man plays a great gap, plays a great stick. They read players so well. It's a huge transition. You can't teach that."
AG: Do you feel you actually play your best hockey when under the brightest playoff lights, when the competition really ramps up and the checking gets tighter? You have now collected 40 points in 33 WHL playoff games and 26 points in 24 career international games with Canada, pretty impressive numbers.
MB: "I love being on the big stage, whether its with Team Canada or Seattle or New York. I love the adrenaline. That's what it's all about. If you can't get excited for that, then what kind of hockey player are you, really? That excites me, being able to go out there and show what I can do but I absolutely love pressure and being under the brightest lights. Doesn't intimidate me at all."
AG: How well do you know the other young Islanders prospects, such as Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier, even though they play, or played, in other leagues? Have you guys spoken about the challenges that lie ahead?
MB: "Obviously, we get together and talk at camp. But the last couple of years, we have gotten to know each other better and they're all great guys. Anthony Beauvillier and I are very close friends, we both speak French so we get along great [laughs]. Michael Dal Colle is a super guy, we've hung out quite a bit. Joshua is definitely a character but honestly, he's a great person.The prospect pool is so deep but at the same time, everyone gets along so well and that goes a long way in helping us all with our development."
AG: What are your thoughts of the Islanders offseason moves this summer. Losing three mainstay home grown guys in Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin and replacing them with Andrew Ladd, PA Parenteau and Jason Chimera?
MB: "I got to be pretty good friends with Matt Martin, stayed with him the first few nights last summer and he's a fantastic person and tough to lose but they did a really good job, got some pretty good guys. Ladd, Parenteau and Chimera are proven guys and have had solid careers. I've seen it at junior, but never seen it at the NHL level where guys get moved and change teams. It's honestly real fun to be part of, your team being involved in the speculation and rumors, being on the radar. It's a cool first time experience for me, I'm looking forward to getting in and meeting my new teammates. When I was 16, I got a taste when one of my closest friends and teammates got traded. It's kind of surreal at such a young age to have to go through that, but junior hockey in Canada is a business just like the NHL."
AG: What are you major interests outside hockey? Any favorite teams in other sports?
MB: "I honestly follow and love most sports. Football, golf, soccer, even baseball a little more this year. I'm actually a huge basketball fan, like crazy, love the NBA. Big LeBron fan. I couldn't get myself to get on the Golden State bandwagon. I like the villians, hated but prove everyone wrong. Steph Curry, he's so darn good, but everything kind of got put into place for them. They have four all-stars on their team in the starting five now. I can't get myself to root for those guys."
Tags: Andy Graziano
John Tavares is entering his fourth season as Islanders captain, but he's eager to learn a thing or two from the team's biggest free agent import.
In a Q&A with Fox Sports' Luke Fox, Tavares said that he thinks the addition of Andrew Ladd will provide a huge boost to the locker room, and he will depend on him for some counsel and support.
"I'm going to rely on his leadership," Tavares said of Ladd. "It's great to have a guy to bounce things off of, someone to give you advice. The more, the better. That's only going to help our team and help myself, being able to lean on guys like that. People think the captain knows everything. They don't. They need guys they can lean on and help you when you're going through certain things in your game or trying to get a pulse and manage certain issues in the locker room. You need a different perspective."
Tavares also discussed the commute to Brooklyn, the playing surface at Barclays Center, and what he's been up to in the offseason.
This is exactly what I was talking about last week. Tavares could greatly benefit from having Ladd to lean on, both on the ice and in the locker room, and I think it will ultimately boost JT's game further, if that's even possible.
Having a veteran who has seen and done it all can be such a benefit, specifically in the NHL, where the playoffs are a beast unto themselves. And based on how personally Tavares takes every loss, I'm sure it will be comforting to him to have another strong voice in the locker room to help keep everyone focused so he can spend a little more time making adjustments to his game.
The role of captain is not an easy job, and Tavares has handled it very well thus far. I think Ladd's presence will only help him evolve as a leader and a player, and that's a scary thought for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Tags: John Tavares
John Tavares has no desire to leave the New York Islanders.
Tavares told Newsday on Monday that he does not intend to leave the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.
"I don't really have any reason to leave and I think we have a great makeup and a team that can do something special this year," Tavares told Newsday's Art Staple. "I've always expressed my love for playing for Long Island. It's where I started; it's all I know in the NHL. The opportunity they've given me, I would love to see it all the way through and win a Stanley Cup."
Tavares can become a free agent after the 2017-18 season. He can sign an extension with the club as early as July 1, 2017.
See, Islanders fans? This is straight from the horse's mouth. He doesn't want to go, and Garth Snow and Jon Ledecky won't let him.
Tavares is the Islanders. He's a bonafide superstar, who embodies everything you'd want out of a franchise player and captain. The Isles want him to retire here and hang his jersey in the rafters, hopefully after he wins a Stanley Cup or two. And what's even more important is Tavares shares that vision. He's a deeply loyal person who is passionate about the organization, and wants to forge his own path to greatness. This is the guy, folks. He loves the Islanders as much as Islanders fans love him.
Of course, a lot can change over the span of a year, but come next July, I think you'll see just how committed he is to the blue-and-orange.
Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni
The Islanders ranked fifth in overall fan experience in the New York market, according to a new JD Power study.
The JD Power Fan Experience Study measured customer satisfaction of the major pro sports teams in four major markets across seven factors (in order of importance): seating area and game experience; security and ushers; leaving the game; arriving at the game; food and beverage; ticket purchase; and souvenirs and merchandise. Satisfaction is measured on a 1,000-point scale.
The Islanders ranked fifth in New York with an overall fan experience score of 778. The Brooklyn Nets, who share Barclays Center with the Islanders, were second (795) in the market. Broken down by category, the Nets ranked higher across the board.
Last season, the Islanders moved to Barclays Center after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum. Upon moving into the arena, Charles Wang ceded control of business operations to Barclays Center.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Islanders' position in the New York area is not good, but no handicap was afforded either, given it was the first year in Brooklyn and a first-time experience for almost all involved. This is why Jon Ledecky made pressuring Barclays one of his priorities immediately after assuming majority control with Scott Malkin. Barclays is certainly under more pressure now than ever in order to improve the game experience for a passionate fan base.
The fact the Islanders ranked worse than the Nets, who have been a much worse team of late, speaks to the clear fact that Barclays was built with only one sport in mind: basketball. It never envisioned having another tenant. Short sighted? Perhaps, but now Barclays face an uphill battle to keep its second tenant. By his early actions, Ledecky is not content with how things went in year one, and is not at all comfortable keeping the status quo.
That is what Islanders fans have been clamoring for from its owner after all, isn't it? An owner who cares about them and their experience spending their hard-earned money to watch his team play. That is what they seem to now have. Once the smoke has cleared, and that could still be four years from now, we will finally be able to judge how sincere and effective Ledecky's play was.
MSG Networks announced Thursday that Brendan Burke will succeed Howie Rose as the Islanders' primary television play-by-play man.
Burke, 32, grew up in New Jersey, and most recently served as the vice of the AHL's Utica Comets.
Burke "has filled in calling radio play-by-play at the NHL level for the St. Louis Blues, and he has called college football and basketball games for Fox Sports' cable outlets," Newsday's Neil Best said. He received the AHL's James H. Ellery Memorial Award for the 2014-15 season, presented annually in recognition of outstanding media coverage of the AHL.
Rose had served as the team's play-by-play voice since the 1995-96 season.
Congratulations to Brendan, who has some mighty big shoes to fill. Although not too familiar with much of Burke's work before news broke that he had gotten the gig, after listening to some of his calls, he seems like a fantastic choice. Burke had been identified as a rising star of the broadcast world the past few years, and he definitely stood out as one of the best in the AHL. I'm glad the Isles went for someone young who can hopefully grow with the team and be here for a long, long time.
Best of luck, Brendan. I hope you'll call many memorable moments during your tenure!
Tags: Brian Erni
Lauren from Bohemia writes: The Islanders are under new ownership for the first time in almost two decades, and while it feels like a fresh start, what can fans realistically expect to change? Obviously, Jon Ledecky has talked a big game so far, and that's exciting, but what tangible differences will we see, especially those that matter to fans?
I think you've already seen one in the signing of Andrew Ladd. Ladd's deal is both lockout and buyout proof. Basically, that means Ladd has a very small per-year salary, with the bulk of his money due in signing bonuses. Now, at first blush, you might think that's team-friendly, but it's really not. (I want to thank Eric Hornick for smartening me up a little on the intricacies of a deal like this).
The cap hit is not impacted, so it's not like the Isles get extra salary cap room out of it. And it also leaves no way for New York to get around paying Ladd a lot of money all the way until he's 37. But the Islanders prioritized Ladd's skill and leadership, and they felt like he was a must-sign for them, so they signed him anyway. Truthfully, I don't think that ever gets done in the Charles Wang era. So if Ladd has a major impact on this team, and the organization believes he will, you probably have the change in ownership, at least in part, to thank.
Elsewhere, I'd expect that a large chunk of what's going to make a difference to fans will be felt inside the arena. Ledecky's initial outreach to fans has largely been about their experience at Barclays Center, and the team is holding focus groups to try to get a sense of a direction it wants to go in. I think that, for as long as the Isles are at Barclays Center, it needs to feel like home. Think it doesn't make a difference? Ask Mets fans how they felt going to Citi Field in 2009 vs. now. Adding signage, moving the old Home Run apple up front, installing a Mets Hall of Fame ... it all made a huge difference in the feel of the ballpark. Barclays Center would be wise to do the same for the Isles because -- with all due respect to the Nets -- the Islanders are the only legitimate sports attraction in the arena.
Oh, and obviously, if the Isles ever play in Nassau County again, you'll have ownership to thank as well.
Tags: Brian Erni
The Islanders will look very different when they hit the ice for training camp about one month from now, but are they better?
Over at ESPN Insider, Matthew Coller at Hockey Prospectus took a look at the Isles' offseason moves and wondered whether New York is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Coller argues that the Isles are going to need to get above average goaltending to compete with the top of the conference, and he's skeptical whether Thomas Greiss can turn in a repeat performance in 2016-17. He also thinks the Isles may need either Matt Barzal or Michael Dal Colle to contribute in a big way to help replace Frans Nielsen, and that Ryan Strome needs to have a breakout year.
Finally, he took an in-depth look at the Andrew Ladd signing and compares it to Kyle Okposo's production to ultimately arrive at a sobering conclusion.
"Even if Ladd is an improvement over Okposo, it will be only by a small margin," Coller writes. "The Islanders will still have to be better in every other area to compete for the Stanley Cup."
I think these are all fair critiques by Coller, and I agree. The Isles can't simply rely on outside help to make strides toward a Cup. They need to be better and grow from within, and that starts with the younger forwards (Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Strome) exhibiting more stability in their performance, and a reliance on Greiss to prove that his breakout year wasn't just a blip on the radar. But I also think there's a fair reason to be optimistic.
I love advanced statistics, and I think they're a great barometer of a player's true on-ice performance, and shed far more light than some of the arcane stats (like plus-minus). But I do think there's still a human element to the game, and I can't look past the contributions some of the offseason acquisitions will bring in terms of leadership. Let's take a look at one of sports' most successful recent franchises: the Golden State Warriors. Who does Steph Curry credit with helping to hone his MVP form? Jarrett Jack, of all people. So you never know when the right veteran comes in at the right time and helps not only the team's superstar, but everyone else, elevate their game.
I'm not saying Ladd or Jason Chimera is a lock to do that. I'm simply saying that you never quite know what you have until the group skates together, gets some game action, and is faced with some adversity. The Isles absolutely need to be better in almost every facet to be feared come April, but I think there's at least a reason to think they can.
John from Saratoga asks: The Isles lost two assistant captains this offseason in Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. Do you think that will hurt the room? And what two players do you think wear the 'A' next season?
That's a great interesting question, John. As far as the locker room goes, I think you saw just how important Garth Snow thought bringing in strong leaders to replace his outgoing assistant captains were when he made his free agent moves. Not only did he make bringing in Andrew Ladd his top priority, but the Islanders were very aggressive going after Jason Chimera. Both of those players are known for their exemplary leadership skills, and both have a ton of playoff experience. So while it's never quite clear how a locker room is going to gel until the guys actually get to know one another, I think that Garth really prioritized that area, which was a bit of a need for this team.
The locker room has been an interesting topic of debate among those in the know. Some guys who have been in there have said they lacked a vocal, "ra-ra" type outside of Johnny Boychuk. We know John Tavares holds himself and his team to a very high standard, and I think he's the perfect captain for this team. Some have said, though, that he needs some support; another veteran voice that has been to the places John hasn't yet to give that can give the room another perspective.
Since most of the Isles' core came up together, they didn't quite have that outside perspective among the forwards to help them through their playoff runs. I really think that was one of the reasons why Ladd was such a priority. He has his name on the Stanley Cup twice. He can be that number two guy in the room that can help the forwards adjust their game and conditioning as they get deeper into the playoffs, and tell them what to anticipate. The defensive corps has that in Boychuk (and, to an extent only because he's not as vocal, Nick Leddy), and I think the forward group really could probably greatly benefit from having that, too.
As far as who wears the A's next season, I think the leading candidates are probably: Travis Hamonic, Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck, Boychuk and Chimera, in that order. Travis has been an assistant captain before, is one of the key emotional leaders on this team, and probably clinched it with the way he stayed so devoted to the team, despite his taxing personal situation. I'd be shocked if Ladd doesn't get an 'A' also, though sometimes that's a tricky thing giving it to a brand new player to the room. Still, I'd anticipate that Ladd will have one, and Clutterbuck will wear one when Hamonic or Ladd isn't on the ice on any given night.
Tags: Cal Clutterbuck , John Tavares , Johnny Boychuk , Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni
Aaron (@aaronfeigin) from California asks: Do you think drafting Josh Bailey back in 2008 was a botch job by the organization, or do you think the team set his ceiling too high because of where they drafted him?
Since I know all of you love it when I talk about Bailey, I figured this was a perfect question to tackle.
Bailey unquestionably had one of the worst seasons of his career last year. After two years of Corsi For Percentages over 52.6 and three straight seasons of Fenwick For Percentages over 51.8, Bailey's advanced stats plummeted despite posting 32 points. But is it fair to say Garth Snow swung and missed when he drafted him? I don't think so. The guy is a serviceable NHL forward, and looking at that first round, there isn't a lot to speak of after the top two picks (save for Erik Karlsson and Jordan Eberle). Does Snow probably wish he could go back and grab one of those guys? Of course, but hindsight is 20-20.
I think you touched on a good point though, Aaron. Trading down twice and eventually picking Bailey probably made some fans think the Isles had a read on Bailey that no one else did. They did like his character, and that's been well-founded since you won't find a nicer guy in the league, one who is dedicated to doing everything he can to help this team win. And we've seen flashes of the playmaking ability that had everyone drooling. But remember the 2008 draft was at the infancy stages of the rebuild, when the Islanders were trying to stockpile as many picks as possible. Those conditional second- and third-rounders that they received in those trades felt like gold to a franchise that was figuratively nowhere. So it was as much about getting assets than it was about getting their guy in Bailey.
And in fairness to Bailey, he has the sixth-most goals and seventh-most points of the players in that draft class, and he's played in the fourth-most games. He was thrown right into the fire at 19 years old, and while he's never going to be the 30-goal scorer most fans want him to be, he adds value to this team. I'm not above criticizing the guy for having some bad games, but I've been in the stands when Bailey scored a goal and the very next shift, someone is yelling for him to "get off the ice." So there's being critical and then there is ignorance. I think some fans don't so much walk that line with Bailey as much as they run it over with their SUVs.
Ultimately, I'd say yes to the second part of your question. I think Islanders fans set their expectations way too high on Bailey even though he turned into an effective, if unspectacular, NHLer. And that's probably a good lesson moving forward with our new up-and-coming forward prospects: Let these guys be who they are, and you'll be a lot happier in the long run.
Tags: Josh Bailey , Brian Erni
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
It's August in the National Hockey League, the month where news goes to die and players begin to ramp up their offseason workouts in an effort to be ready for training camp, which is now just six weeks away.
There is absolutely no news to report from an Islanders player perspective as general manager Garth Snow continues to keep his eyes on the trade market after a summer that saw three longtime Islanders leave and three new faces arrive.
When camp does begin next month, it will be without captain John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin and goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, who will be at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, which will be their version of the preseason in preparation for the 2016-17 regular season, which begins in 70 days at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
But I'll tell you who hasn't been quiet over the last month or so heading into the tail end of summer. Barclays Center has been at the forefront of much discussion since Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin took over majority ownership on July 1. Malkin told a panel of reporters at a gathering in Manhattan in last month that he is constantly speaking with the management of the Islanders new home, about to enter its second year, about improvements for the club and its loyal fan base.
Then came the explosive news that Ledecky was exploring other options for a permanent home for his new team, including exploring sites in Belmont and Queens. One thing you cannot put on the Barclays Center management is that they don't listen or care about the concerns being voiced, some more loudly than others.
They addressed some during the season last year heading into the playoffs, but everyone freely admits there is more work to be done. To that end, they hosted a focus group on Wednesday evening at Northwell Health Ice Center in Long Island, the new practice facility for the team, and continued to hear complaints in an effort to improve the overall experience.
The below is a recap courtesy of Michael Liebler (@mcliebler), who was present at the discussion and was kind enough to pass along the details in an exclusive to SNY.:
The group consisted of about 15 season ticket holders. I was invited by my Isles rep and the group was hosted by the director of business strategy and analytics for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. I received a follow-up call from my rep to discuss Wednesday's event and he further elaborated on the topics, so both the Islanders and Barclays Center are involved.
After filling out surveys, we discussed several topics, including the concession stands, the ushers/security, transportation to Barclays, sight lines, seats, and cost. Although the focus group was entirely season ticket holders, the same concerns and criticisms as any other fan were addressed.
Seat location and ticket prices
There were some complaints about the views, not just the obstructed seats but also the higher-row upper level seats where fans' heads get in the way. There was no solution suggested by the rep for this matter. Everyone criticized the ticket prices, which even for season ticket holders is high compared to the Coliseum. Barclays is aware that Stubhub is underselling the face value for seats and I was told that they will look into figuring out more discounts.
Season Ticket Sharing Market
An interesting project the Isles are working on is a season ticket sharing market. While it was said that other teams are already doing this, the Isles will create a marketplace so that fans will get to interact with other fans who are looking to share season tickets.
New cards for STHs
Season ticket holders have had problems with scanning their cards at the entry gates and fans with printed tickets get in quicker. My rep told me that this year, STHs will get a card for each seat and cards will have seat locations printed on the front. Also STHs will get a lanyard to hold the cards around their neck so the usher can easily see them. Furthermore, cards will have a scan code instead of a swipe strip since there were too many problems with swiping at entry.
Everyone expressed concerns with over-crowded LIRR trains and not enough trains being utilized on game days to go to Barclays, specifically the Babylon line. Barclays is talking to LIRR; however one fan mentioned they heard the problem was that the lack of trains is caused by the Isles not giving LIRR enough money. Although my rep wasn't able to clarify this, he did say that money is an issue with LIRR. This is an issue both Isles and Barclays Center are trying to resolve.
Criticism of security/ushers included not having as much of a security presence as there was at the Coliseum, usher rotation takes away from the fans getting to know the ushers, and ushers not being hockey fans. I did make the comment that although the ushers are not fans, they have been making an effort to get into hockey and have asked me questions about the game. We were told that ushers will undergo further training before the start of the season.
While the variety of food wasn't really a concern, what concerned everyone was the fact that the process of getting food at the intermissions was too slow. Fans who get food at the break will miss a good portion of the game. The Barclays rep also explained that the concession staff will be further trained and they are looking to add more menu items.
It was strongly expressed that one likely problem with attendance is the lack of games on Saturday. I was told the team will look into getting more Saturday games for the 2017-18 season.
More Focus Groups
This was not the first focus group and it will not likely be the last. My rep told me this was likely the last focus group before the season begins, but they will look to conduct more. The focus group was recorded and will be reviewed further by Barclays personnel.
Thanks to Michael for providing SNY with the insight into the specific topics discussed Wednesday at the focus group. As you can see, Barclays, whether by design or the fact they are feeling a bit of pressure with Malkin exploring other options, do care about the experience Islanders fans have at their facility. Let's see if it bears any fruit.