Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Islanders Musings

Things are fairly quiet in Islanders Country. Or, at least it seems that way. They say winning cures all ills; we Islanders fans don't know much about that. But there's still some stuff to discuss.

 - A few weeks ago, I wrote the following about the Islanders... 

"The Isles are a somewhat respectable 5-7-1 since the All-Star Break, and they have a better chance than you might think at finishing the second half with a .500 record; of course, should this actually happen, you'll never see it mentioned once in any newspaper or on any talk show." 

And it looks like that's exactly how this second half is playing out. The Isles have improved to 9-8-3 since the end of January, and while a lot of people have noticed the Islanders' improved play of late, quite a few have not. The Toronto media loves to talk about how great they are, but they showed their ignorance when they asked Scott Gordon about the Islanders tanking down the stretch. What the Islanders are doing is not tanking. If you want to see tanking, look at the final weeks of the 2006-07 NBA season, where teams were falling all over each other to lose games. I'm talking, not playing their best players, inserting scrubs at crunch time, that kind of thing. Of course, among the most egregious of these tankers were the Boston Celtics, and their reward was an NBA championship the following season. Of course, they lost out on the draft pick they so coveted, but that's okay.

 - The demands of a real life prevented me from attending Point Blank Night II, hosted by the incomparable Chris Botta. I'm not mad because I missed out on the free food, but I am a bit upset that I missed some sort of announcement on the Islanders' third jerseys. We're all pretty certain these will become the Islanders' default jerseys at some point, and the sooner, the better. Even if it means my current home jersey - which I customized with #19 and no name specifically so it wouldn't become outdated - will be obsolete within six months. Those are the breaks, I guess. There's also quite the debate on Point Blank about what the Islanders' goal song should be. And let me just say this - if it's some classic rock song that came out 40 years ago, like The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", I might consider becoming a Rangers fan. Look, this is a young team that's going to play an exciting style of hockey. The goal song should reflect that. As a fairly young person, I want to hear something unique and cutting-edge when the Islanders score, not the same old crap every other team does. For the record, I love classic rock, but come on already. Just about every classic rock song worth keeping around has been played to the point that it's a cliche. I don't want my team's goal song to be a cliche.

 - Islanders fans who are clamoring for more Islanders action are going to be pleased with the New York Islanders 10 Greatest Games DVD set. I bought this set for myself last week and was very impressed. The games are solid and are pretty unclipped, which is a good thing. I'm watching the Easter Epic as we speak, we're in the first overtime, and I can't recall an instance where any gameplay was edited out. Each game has an introduction by Billy Jaffe; these introductions sort of spoil the endings, but odds are pretty good you know what happens in just about all of these games. Some of the older games look a bit dated, but you're going to have that with games that are 25 or more years old, especially with modern upconverting technology. You'll be able to deal with the shoddy quality of some of these games, but you might be a bit disappointed with the commentary tracks. Since this is an NHL Productions release, we don't get to hear the likes of Jiggs McDonald; instead, we get the national feeds of these games. So if you're not a die-hard Bob Cole fan, you might want to either skip this set or employ the use of the mute button. Speaking of announcers, Gary Thorne is not present on this DVD despite his commentary being used in the commercial. That's a letdown. Anyway, little things like the packaging are nailed, and it's nice to see our team presented in such a flattering light. It's about time. Needless to say, we'll be making some sort of drinking game so that you can fully enjoy these games over the summer months.

 - If you really think about it, this Islanders season has been completely remarkable. The Islanders are essentially using the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' lineup - and winning. Meanwhile, the Sound Tigers, almost all of whom have played for the Islanders at some point this year, have the most points in the Eastern Conference. Looking at the Sound Tigers' stats for this year, I can count seventeen players off the top of my head that have played for the Islanders this year. Sure, guys like Mike Sillinger and Jeff Tambellini really don't count, but still. That's just insane.

It goes to show you how important it is to be on the same page throughout your entire organization. Both the Sound Tigers and the Islanders play the exact same system. Compare that to the Dallas Stars, who don't even have an AHL affiliate. I know the Stars are a bad example because they're a good team, but they're also not exactly known for breaking young stars into the NHL. It truly helps to have a minor-league affiliate that is not only playing the same style of play, but is also close by. Players can easily be called up to the big club without boarding an airplane. When compared with the Islanders' former minor-league locations in Chicago, Denver, Utah, and even Capital District, this set-up with Bridgeport is perfect. And the coming years should show even more evidence of this win-win relationship.

I'm actually taking a trip to Bridgeport in a couple of weeks to see the Sound Tigers play, and I can't wait. As excited as I am to see Jon Sim again, I'm really looking forward to seeing more of these young guys that I've only heard about. Selfishly, I hope guys like Jesse Joensuu are still in Bridgeport, but I understand if they aren't. After all, a number of current Islanders are reportedly headed back to Bridgeport once the season ends for the Calder Cup run. This group includes Kyle Okposo. It's a great idea to get these guys professional playoff experience; it can only help them down the line.

So many people have trashed Garth Snow for so many things, but he's done a great job with the Islanders as an organization. Hopefully, the draft thing works itself out, but even if it doesn't, it looks like the Islanders are on the right track. Again, it's about time.

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