Friday, August 31, 2007

Fastest Summer Ever

Can't believe in two weeks we'll be in Moncton. Seems like the sad flight home from Game 5 in Buffalo was about six weeks ago. As fast as it's gone, I really look forward to the time when the NYI have a summer like the Ducks, 'Canes and Lightningsesess have had:

1. win Cup, celebrate like every day's an ep of "Entourage," don't sleep for a week

2. sit at NHL Awards ceremony with giant grin while teams that didn't win Cup get individual awards

3. pick 30th overall at the draft and talk about how this day is truly the lifeblood of your organization, all the while really wondering what's the best establishment to go in the host city where you'll get the most pseudo-sincere congratulatory drinks sent to your table by your rivals

4. take care of free agency on July 1, knowing you're playing with house money. (Unless someone raids one of your Group IIs...then you can bring back the "draft is the lifeblood" speech).

5. See #1 throughout July, then get back on the arc and treadmill in August, using the official NHL DVD of your Cup victory as your soundtrack

Gosh, I can't wait. Anyway...

Moncton should be very interesting. Like most teams in this era, on the surface there doesn't appear to be a lot of competition for jobs, but from day one I think we'll get a good idea of what Ted plans to do with his lines. One of the many things I like about Ted's straightforward coaching style is that he doesn't play games. Chances are he'll start putting realistic combinations together as early as the first practice on Friday.

The other highlight for me for the first week of camp: watching Greg Logan fly commercial all over Eastern Canada. Ethics apparently preclude him from chartering with the team -- as if we expect him to be all positive if the NYI get smoked in a preseason game. So this means Greg will have to find his own way from Moncton, New Brunswick to North Bay, Ontario to St. John's, Newfoundland and back to Moncton over a 72-hour period.

My dad always told me it's better when you can be part of a team.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How the D stacks up

Locks: Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, Radek Martinek, Marc-Andre Bergeron.

If Bryan Berard proves he's healthy, count on him making the team. The team has a need for a dman with his speed and playmaking ability.

That means Bruno Gervais, Freddy Meyer and Chris Campoli could be in for a battle royale for two spots. It's worth noting Gervais is the only one of the three on a two-way contract, although I doubt that will figure in Ted Nolan's decision.

Don't count out Aaron Johnson. Howard Dolgon -- former PR exec who did so well he bought the Syracuse Crunch -- raves about the kid's ability and character.

During camp, you'll hear plenty of chatter about how the Islanders have too many bodies on the blue line and how a trade must be in the offing. Fact is, in the NHL you can never have enough. When you consider my guy Marti has been banged up the last two seasons and Sutton has a rep for throwing himself in front of every opponent and every shot, a little depth could go a long way.

Count on many early season sellouts

When tix to the first half of the regular season go on sale exclusively at the Coliseum at 11:00 am on Saturday, Sept. 8, there's going to be a great crowd there. It could be the biggest and most passionate since 2001, when there was a lot of buzz when Charles gave the go-ahead to start investing in talent and Peca, Yashin and Aucoin were acquired, followed later by Ozzy through the waiver draft.

Sept. 8 should be a lot of fun at the Coliseum because I can't remember when the team had so many potential sellout games so early in the season.

The home opener on 10/8 will be jam-packed as Billy Guerin makes his debut as Islanders captain, Ms. Brinkley drops the puck and the new-look Islanders and Sabres battle.

Two days later is Kids Opening Day, which will be as good as it gets for families taking in a major league game. Last year was the start, but most people didn't realize how great an event it was going to be. The secret is out, so expect a sellout for the Columbus Day matinee against Ovechkin and the Caps.

The Islanders host the Rangers on Oct. 10 in the third home game of the season, so the Islanders could get the hat trick of three capacity crowds to start the season.

The franchise is hosting a trio of "Appreciation" nights that should be a lot of fun and add some buzz to already good games. There will be a collector series of caps each night. I've seen the samples and they look fantatstic.

Firefighter Appreciation Night is Saturday, Oct. 20 when Brent Sutter returns to the Coliseum with his Devils. In honor of our heroic firefighters, the Islanders will be giving away a special red Islanders cap with the date on the back. Cap #2 is for Law Enforcement Appreciation Night (navy blue caps) on Saturday, Oct. 27 against Carolina and #3 is for Military Appreciation Night on Saturday (yep, a green military-style hat) for Saturday, Nov. 10 against the Devils.

And then there's Al Arbour Night, #1,500 on Saturday, Nov. 3 against Sidney and the Penguins. I can't remember the last time I got so many calls during the summer looking for help buying tickets months later. Get there early on Sept. 8 (or buy a ticket plan) to have any hopes of snagging seats for that one.

Farewell, Yash

I was in London when the team announced they were amicably parting ways with Alexei Yashin. Later that night I called Alexei and here’s the gist of what I told him:

Thank you for being a big part of our team’s renaissance after so many years of not feeling like we even had a chance.

Thank you for never once – ONCE! – turning down an interview request, even when those requests came from critics. (Okay, there was the one issue with Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun, but Donnie Screwball is over-the-top).

Thank you for making such an indelible impression on EVERY fan who ever stopped to say hello to you in the mall or even interrupted your dinner at Morton’s.

Thank you for being so kind on a personal level to my family.

Thanks, Yash.

Berard: It's official...finally

I was going to get into the whole thing about what this blog IS going to be and what it is NOT going to be. Then I figured I should just get started.


The buzz about Bryan Berard coming back to the NYI as a training camp invitee started a few weeks ago. First time I saw it was on Islandermania, the message board. Then Jim Matheson had a note in the Edmonton Journal about it being a possibility, followed by Berard's agent Tom Laidlaw "confirming" it to the Canadian Press. So you're probably wondering why we seemed so slow to send out a press release and post the news on our website. Fair enough. I'll tell you why. It simply was not a done deal.

Even when a player agrees to go to camp as a tryout, official documents need to be filled out. It wasn't until Thursday morning that Garth received a signed doc from Bryan.

Now you may be thinking this is ludicrous, paranoid, silly. His agent even told Sportsnet it was happening. Just announce it already. Here's why we didn't: until the papers were signed by both sides, Bryan could have changed his mind, signed a deal somewhere else. Or in other words, see: Nylander, Michael.