After about a month's layoff I'm back. Coincidentally enough so is the hockey season. I would've kept up the blog over the last month or so, but I became so bogged down in the dog days of summer/the beginning of fall/the start of training camp/everything else that updates just didn't happen. Also, until the beginning of training camp, nothing really happened on many of the message boards. Oh sure, there were a few posts here and there, a few predictions about the up coming season, and a few stories shared by the masses on the internet; but there wasn't really too much substance. This spot is driven by the content provided to me by others. So, my fellow fans, if I am to have content, then you all need to be talking.
In any case, the Islanders season has begun. Now that hockey has arrived I have content again. Which is good.
Now, I love to make predictions, but I realize that I am just no good at it. I stick by my "boom" and "bust" predictions, but I am going to try and limit looking into my crystal ball to addressing the web comments that I find. For instance Kilden60 from IslanderMania wrote:
My swirling crystal ball see the same thing. The only difference is that instead of the first 10 games, I foresee almost the entire season. I say this for a few reasons. First, as I heard on the Devils radio broadcast tonight the Islanders used 40 different players last season. The team was struck by the injury bug. It was bad. This season will see much of the same. The system that Scott Gordon has implemented is one that is high speed and high energy and there are a number of players that will not be able to play 82 games in this system. I am referring to the 9 players on the team that are 30 or older. Of them, only Streit, Martinek, and Sim look to me as if they will be in every game (barring a puck to the face, dirty hit, etc.). Of the reast, Andy Sutton and Mike Sillinger are already down, and while Doug Weight and Bill Guerin look pretty spry now, those 37 year olds may very well need a break at one or more points during the season.
The real reason why there will be much line shuffling is because you can only have so many players on the roster at any given time. The team gave some long hard looks at a few young guys that likely were not expected to show up as well as they did during training camp. I tend to agree with the speculation that has been floated around by Chris Botta and B.D. Gallof, among others, that the team's roster was set sometime between mid July or early August. When the kids showed up in camp there were only so many spots to go around, and when and if Mike Sillinger can go again there will be one less roster spot. While the team has manifested a desire to play the young guys, no veteran will lose his job to a rookie. Period.
The only answer then is to shuffle the kids through the lines that are populated by younguns. This can be both beneficial and detrimental to the team. It is beneficial because it gives a number of the young players currently at Bridgeport a taste of the NHL life. This will give them a chance to see if they can stick with the big club and if they can even proper there. After all, there were not high expectations for players like Trevor Smith, Kurtis McLean, or Brett Skinner, but they managed to stick around until the end of camp, and Skinner was supposed to be on the open night roster. These three guys, along with players like Mike Iggulden will be the first called up in the event of injuries and, if this season has the same injuries as last season, may even get the chance to play for the Isles at the same time. The line shuffling, of course, can also be very detrimental to the team because it does not allow the lines to settle. The cohesion that would usually be allowed to form between players likely would not be there. At least, no in the same way. The experience is arguably more important to the players at this point, and with this roster, but that cohesion would really up the team's entertainment value a ton. At least, that's what the crystal ball says.
Scott Gordon seems to still be a relatively unknown commodity for most Islanders fans. However, he does seem to focus on preparation and hockey I.Q. as much as having heart and pure skill. I for one remain a little bit skeptical about him. I have no doubt that he will give it his all, but I would not be surprised to see friction between him and one or two players by the end of the season. I found it interesting that he opted to start Nate Thompson over Blake Comeau. I know it likely means nothing, but there was already a question of Comeau's relationship with Gordon, and how much the coach really valued Blake's contributions to the team. While I know that if anyone could come of the waiver wire and start a game in Gordon's new system it would be a former P-Bruin like Thompson, but Comeau was one of the young players that seemed assured of a spot on the roster. This could be something, it could be nothing. I know some people have suggested Comeau has not been giving it his all, or has succumbed to the sophomore slump, but when the decision was made to start Thompson, he had had one practice with the team, and the team hadn't even played game #1 of the season. In any case, if anything is emblematic of the aforementioned roster shuffling it would be this.
Until next time, keep the chatter up.