In preparation for today's game, I sat down (exchanged emails) with Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey, our Islanders SBNation brethren. They've done some quite funny pieces so please do check them out. I answered some questions for them as well. lets get to it:
1. Looks like you had someone get up in Ryan Miller's grille and he went all crybaby on you guys. Isn't that just the greatest? Boy, do I ever hate Buffalo. Remember when they put out those "NY State Champs 2007" t-shirts? Peak of the franchise, in my opinion. What's your least favorite thing about the Sabres? (You can also just go on about how great Johnny Tavares is, I understand)
Yeah, the clip of Nabokov gliding the length of the ice to Miller's crease is classic. But they don't get my hair up. Other than obvious (I would think) absolute disdain for the dirtbags who dress as Patrick Kaleta and Steve Ott each night, the Sabres fill me with ennui. I still see them as the team that, if someone had to take Pat LaFontaine from us, at least had the decency to send us Turgeon, Hogue and Krupp in return.
But yes, John Tavares is okay. He's 22 years old and is 30th all-time on the franchise points leaderboard and will be 25th by, I think, next week. This is a franchise that has had its share of prolific stars, too.
2. Let's talk about Real American Hero goalies, like Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas, and Rick DiPietro. Actually, let's not. Let's instead talk about how the Islanders' affiliate, the mythical beast "Bridgeport Sound Tigers," had a You Can Play night last weekend. That was a pretty cool thing, I thought. Did you get a chance to attend? Is it cool to know that something like that can happen in your organization?
You know, I have to say this about DiPietro: Laugh, mock, cry, chortle, Wang it up as you like (we certainly do), but the guy signed a deal anyone would sign, *then* went on the kind of epic string of injuries that nightmares are made of. Even his *surgeries* needed surgeries. Goethe wrote "Faust" about him, I'm sure of it.
But yes, the You Can Play thing sounded great. I didn't go, as I live a thousand miles away. But it made a lot of fans proud (and yes, it's sort of ironic that the first night DiPietro was on the Bridgeport roster was a "You Can Play" night). This ownership has never been shy about doing its own thing and whatever Wang believes in, so I hope it's a consideration to try it at the NHL level too. I have no information on that possibility, however. And judging by the comments the Islanders Facebook page gets on even benign posts, maybe that would only draw out people that remind me how horrible humans can be.
3. It looks like the Islanders are making their way down the tubes for another season. At this point are you hoping for the team to turn it around and anything can happen? Or are you checking in on draft-age prospects more?
Well, honestly something near NHL ".500" would be progress, and is achievable. Their depth is starting to move up through the pipeline, and their possession numbers reflect a team capable of hanging around the playoff bubble. They're taking an extreme, Canucks-like approach by loading the Tavares line up in the O-zone as much as possible, and now they have some other forwards who can play all three zones. However, they have the farthest thing from Canucks goaltending, and I suspect the coaching staff doesn't have a sophisticated approach for the other three lines.
Given that I never had playoff hopes for 2013, I of course would love Seth Jones or whatever hyped teenager Pierre McGuire is salivating over at the moment. And for the last four-plus years, Isles fans have always eyed the draft -- especially since they know Mike Milbury isn't around anymore to torch a 20-year-old prospect and deal him for parts because he had the nerve to not arrive NHL-ready. On that note though -- and I guess this is blogging taboo -- I really hate the draft. I hate following prospects, I hate the histrionic arguments that erupt over projections of 17- and 18-year-olds, and as a lifelong NHL fan I've never found watching lower-tier hockey that enjoyable. So I'm a "wake me up when they've made it" guy. (I guess I do like the draft phrase, "already plays with men" though. That one gets me every time.)
Anyway, rather than free fall again, it's probably important for the Isles to make some baby steps and then identify what else they need outside of "hope our prospects turn out." To me that includes a coach that is able to instill a possession game rather than what looks to me like, "Work hahd, play smaht, then chip, chip, chip, and change for Johnny."
Thanks again to Dominik for being a good sport about this. Of course, if you've been covering the Islanders for as long as he has, you sort of have to by now.