Sunday, July 27, 2008

Up next: Sullivan, Gordon, Crawford, Quenneville

With three of the more established coaches having completed their first round of interviews, it’s time for a pair of lower-profile candidates to make their first impressions. Former Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan will interview for the Islanders head coach position on Monday and current Providence Bruins coach Scott Gordon will meet with Garth Snow on Wednesday.

John Tortorella had a long session on Long Island today, on the heels of detailed interviews by Snow of Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley. While Sullivan and Gordon are not as well-known as the first week’s trio, this is a wide-open race. Also expected to interview later this week are Marc Crawford and Gerard Gallant. The Islanders and Joel Quenneville should have a date locked up in the next few days. Larry Brooks had a sweet piece today on why Bryan Trottier should be strongly considered, but Bryan is not a candidate at this time and instead will remain in his role as executive director of player development.

My sense is that a week from tomorrow, two or three finalists will be lined up for a second and final round of meetings. You could have a final decision as early as Thursday, August 7, but the process could extend into the following week. To this former PR flak, an August 12 press conference looks good: Yankees in Minnesota, Mets in Washington, Favre’s destination already known. I would think a new Islanders coach would fill most of Newsday’s backpage the following day – big-name hire or not.


For those fans who still don’t believe their favorite sports teams listen to them, I present the latest evidence: Johan Santana pitched – and was encouraged by his manager to pitch – a complete game this afternoon. The Mets’ bullpen was worn out from last night, yes, but if you don’t think the media and fan outcry for Santana to go the distance didn’t result in him going out for the ninth inning today, you’re not giving yourself enough credit.


While no one's ready to brand it The Hockey Newsday, there are signs that Long Island's newspaper is starting to understand again that the NHL is loved by a lot of people in our fair region.

Or it could have something to do with the owners of the New York Rangers purchasing the newspaper.

Either way, no one's complaining. It's like when ESPN became partners with the Arena Football League and all of a sudden Dragons highlights started popping up on "Sportscenter." You don't ask questions.

The watershed moment of Newsday's recent uptick of hockey coverage wasn't the draft or even Greg Logan, Katie Strang and Steve Zipay staffing the Islanders' and Rangers' unofficial-not-mandatory-but-you-better-get-your-ass-to summer prospect camps. No, it was when Zip found his way to the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh to write a story on Marc Staal for Thursday's paper.

Don't get me wrong. It's not like Zipay lives in Logan or Alan Hahn country, off exit 60-something on the L.I.E. Still, the idea of Long Island's newspaper having room for a hockey story on July 24...well, it just makes the heart sing.

If it takes the Dolans buying Newsday for the quantity of hockey coverage to be returned to major league status, so be it. And as for any concerns that only space for the Rangers will increase, or that the Blueshirts will be the dominant team over the Islanders in the paper, I wouldn't lose sleep over it. Everyone figures to benefit, especially the fans of both teams.

Now if we can only get Logan to be a maniacal blogger.


I have a different reaction than those who think the mix of Rick DiPietro and John Tortorella would be a disaster - albeit a wickedly entertaining disaster. I think the biggest reason Torts came to Long Island today with sincere interest in this gig is that, for all the Islanders may lack in the present, he knows in DiPietro he'd be starting with a first-level goaltender who's tough enough to play big in big games and tough enough to take his Parcellsian psyche jobs.

DiPietro and Tortorella know each other and like each other. There is mutual respect. I still wouldn't put my money on Tortorella getting the job - and I remain unsold that he's the best man for it - but it sure as hell is fun just thinking about the possibilities.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The search is on

John Tortorella. Joel Quenneville.

It may be late July, but it’s not like there aren’t plenty of excellent head coaching candidates available.

Bob Hartley. Paul Maurice. Gerard Gallant.

Some have a connection to Garth Snow, most don’t.

Marc Crawford. Greg Gilbert.

There are candidates with Cups as coaches, one with Cups as an Islanders player.

Scott Gordon. Mike Sullivan.

And then there are the candidates who haven’t been rumored yet. Of course, as usual Greg Logan is all over it.

All of the above have or will be invited to Long Island for interviews to become the next head coach of the Islanders. While some details still need to be worked out, it looks like most, if not all of them are coming in – and there could still be one or two more.


These would be my requirements:

A teacher. (They will all say they teach. Some of them will be full of it).

A man who is eminently trustworthy and a team player.

A coach who just wants to coach.

Someone who won’t be thinking about where his next NHL job is going to be. Someone who won’t view the Islanders as if they’re a mid-major like Vanderbilt on the way to Tennessee.

A strong communicator with the fans via the press – accommodating, accessible and articulate without being a phoney media kiss-ass.

A man who will commit to Long Island – not just mouth BS about how much he loves it here.

(RANT ALERT: I mean, really, what’s not to love and why wouldn’t they love it? These guys usually have cash, the security of a contract, a beautiful home and a long summer vacation to hang at the beach, fish or golf at Bethpage and Shinnecock. I get ill when fans go ga-ga when an Islanders player or coach says they love Long Island. We all love Long Island. Imagine how much more you and I would love it if we made the average NHL salary and had the summer off).


You have to dial up John Tortorella. He may be the best head coach available. My hunch, however, is that Tortorella knows his next move is a big one. He has the luxury of taking his time. Like Pat Riley and Bill Parcells, Tortorella will likely wait for the right job for him, and I would be surprised if it’s the Islanders of 2008-09. If I’m wrong, would it be a blast and make the Islanders that much more entertaining and intriguing? Oh yeah.


Although the Islanders have changed coaches a few times this decade, this will be their first thorough coaching search since the summer of 2001. One morning seven years ago I was surfing the net and reading about the Bruins leaving their assistant coach Peter Laviolette at the altar, instead hiring Robbie Ftorek. I look up from my laptop and there’s Mike Milbury in my office with a well-dressed young man. “Chris, have you met Peter Laviolette”? I knew then that Pete would beat out the finalists at that time, Bryan Murray and Ted Nolan.

This search will be fascinating, shaking up what’s usually a quiet time around the league. Not only is the list of candidates impressive and filled with plenty of big names, but it could be revealing for another reason.

You could have up to a dozen men interviewing for the Islanders head coach position. With the exception of Gerard Gallant, all of them are outsiders. This means a lot of people may learn about Garth’s management style and the inner workings of the Islanders front office. This means – in this rumor and innuendo-filled business, more catty than the cattiest of workplaces, where stories end up in newspapers and on the web – you’ll probably hear a lot in the aftermath from the guys who didn’t get the job. Off-the-record and spineless, of course.

There will be plenty of notes in Sunday columns like this: “One of the candidates who didn’t get the Islanders job says…”

Naturally, a lot of it will be horse-hockey. But it is something Garth and the Islanders should keep in mind. Until you get to 2 or 3 finalists, I would keep it close to the vest. Everything said in that room in the next two weeks has the potential to get out.


In my view, the leader by a nose before the process begins is Bob Hartley. He has a solid relationship with Garth Snow. More importantly, I’ve heard from several fairly-impeccable sources that he really wants the job, likes what the Islanders are doing and is 100% committed to signing up for the program.

In my view, the man best suited for the opportunity is Paul Maurice. I’m aware Maurice may not be the most exhilarating choice, but the Islanders do not need exhilarating. They've done that. They do not need a big name or a showman. They just need the best coach for them.

Maurice may not have the best track record of the candidates, but I believe he brings the best of everything this challenge requires (see above). Coaches tend to not last long, but you have to go into the process looking for your Ruff or Trotz. And of all the candidates, Maurice is the one I can see thriving on Long Island for ten years, working well with Garth - and Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and the rest - for ten years.

This endorsement was NOT paid for by the People for Paul Maurice. I don’t even know any of Paul's people.


Who is doing the hiring? Garth Snow.

Will Charles Wang meet the 2 or 3 finalists? You bet your ass.

And if I were the sole owner of a hockey team – whether it was a cash cow or bleeding between 20 and 30 mill a year while politicians act like politicians – know this.

I would want to meet the top candidates, too.

Keeping my pledge to those so kind to ask that I pop in from time to time, I will unload my thoughts once or week or so until (hopefully) I know what I’m doing in September. When I initially decided to end this on July 7, I thought it would be a quiet time. Silly me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My brief final entry

Hi. Let’s wrap this up the way I came in. Me rambling, shooting from the hip, borderline incoherent…

Going out on a limb: every scribe will have the Islanders in the 10-15 range in their ’08-09 Eastern Conference predictions, somewhere among Atlanta, Florida and Toronto. And, of course, the Islanders will be very much alive in the playoff hunt in March.

One of the wild things about UFA week: by Day 3, teams are giving $3.5 million deals to players that weren’t even on the boards in the GM’s office – you know, the one with their “vision” – on Day 1. There’s a reason those boards are dry-erase.

Newsday had an impressive feature Sunday with a reporter on the front lines as Nassau police are on DWI patrol. Yet in the NHL there are still plenty of people who have a major problem with imbedding a reporter in that all-important pregame meeting for a regular season tilt.


It’s on the Islanders to continue to bring along Sean Bergenheim. He may only max out somewhere between a third and second liner, but I’m confident he can be a very effective player on a very good team. Let it be the Islanders.

Former Islanders who the mere mention of their names brings a smile: Bob Bassen and Steve Konroyd – the first two players to make me feel comfortable around the team, Trots, Kelly Hrudey, Jeff Hackett, Dennis Vaske, everyone on the ’92-93 team, Kaspar, Flats. That gutless puke Travis Green – a real good kid who became a real good man, smiling Mariusz Czerkawski – such a sweet man, he tried to hook me up in a Montreal bar. The “Sarge” Sergei Nemchinov, Roberto Luongo, Zdeno Chara – who once when visiting the office saw the staff doing a season ticketholder mailing and pulled up a chair and stuffed envelopes, Kenny Jonsson, Scatch, Mark Parrish and Jason Blake – the most impressively self-made player I ever saw. Wacky/driven as all hell but I love that guy.

One of the things I’ve missed is waking up Sunday morning, logging on to the New York Post and saying my prayer of hope that the Islanders are not roasted in Slap Shots by Larry Brooks. Funny thing about Larry: people take shots at him, but everybody reads him. Slap Shots is one of the few must-reads we have in the game. Brooks covered the dynastic Islanders, was an executive with the Devils and is the biggest hockey voice in New York, but has yet to be acknowledged by the Writers Association for the Ferguson Award at the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would hope this doesn't mean the honor is not about skill, impact and passion for the game but rather about something petty.

Has Snow tried to talk his friend Kenny Jonsson into coming back to Long Island? Garth was a goalie and knows how great KJ is, so of course he has...a few times. Kenny is most likely finishing his career in Sweden.

To my friends in the NY mainstream media resisting the horrible notion of ever joining this century and blogging, I urge you to re-consider. Look at some of the great work out there by Rich Hammond on the Kings, Mike Russo on the Wild, Sam Weinman's often loopy stuff on the Rangers and George Richards on the Panthers. Now, I assume these gents don’t put in all this work for free, but it would be nice to see more coverage circa the year 2008 from the local writers. Don’t worry: just because you blog doesn’t mean you will lose your Mainstream Media association card!

Yes, the Islanders need to win, and win big, to bring the fans back in huge numbers 41 regular season games a year. It would help tremendously, however, if the franchise is able to solve the dilemma of ho-hum corporate support on Long Island. Senior VP Chris Dey appears to be on a mission to boost local business support with the Islanders Business Club and other initiatives. This season should be a good test to see if the corporate market stands up before the Lighthouse comes to town.

As I said on XM, the reason why the Rangers still might work next season is because of their base of youngsters – Dubinsky, Dawes, Callahan, Prucha (I’ll take him if Tom doesn’t want to play him), Girardi, Staal. Like the Islanders’ kids, none of them (except perhaps Staal) are sure-fire A-listers. But they bring something every night. Better than that, they are a great watch. No reason why the Islanders can’t match that soon.

The expectations for Kyle Okposo make me queasy for such a great kid like KO. Without a doubt, he’s a player who could play a big part on a championship team. But some of the excitement seems a little over-juiced. Keep the bar at a fair level for the kid – maybe 25-35-60 in two or three years. Kyle had 9 goals in 35 games with Bridgeport, 2 goals in 9 games with the Islanders. Enjoy the kid. He’s going to be fun to watch develop.


So there is no misunderstanding, my puzzlement over the installation of a defensive system only after the Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention is this: with the team shorthanded throughout the second half, why didn’t they start thinking about minimizing scoring chances-against when the Islanders were still in the playoff race?

There was no surprise in Uniondale when the Penguins signed Ruslan Fedotenko. Pitt expressed interest in Tank before they went in another direction right before the deadline.

In the Comments section, I got a question about who the real Rick DiPietro is. On the ice, I’ll leave it to an NHL goalie coach who says Rick is easily one of the three most talented goaltenders in the game and he will have his moment when the D in front of him is top-10 NHL. Okay, I’ll make one suggestion on the ice. When the Islanders are on the PK, allow Rick to get in the opponent’s heads by playing the puck. When they’re not, tell him to just stop it. Off the ice, sure we averaged one moment a season when we cursed each other’s name. But when it was all over for me in May, Rick sent me a text after he got out of surgery that was as classy as any of the notes I received. SOB still has me rooting for him.

To answer the question from the Comments on the Ted post: no, I’m not aware of Garth Snow getting a contract extension. If he did, I'd like to think he'd buy me more than just Chipotle when we worked together.

As for the Q about what it was like to walk past Dale Hunter in the Coliseum hallway after he mugged Pierre Turgeon, this is what went through my mind: “I’d like to sucker-punch him, but Hatcher would probably kill me.” And “Man, that jackass looks just like Robin Williams.”

I was flooded with emails yesterday asking why I brought up the lack of resolution on the Ted Nolan issue. That’s easy. The Islanders have not won a playoff series since the spring I got married. That was in nineteen hundred ninety-three. I saw something that bothered me and could lead to those 15 years becoming 20 if it’s not rectified one way or the other.

It wasn’t like I unloaded insider secrets, went all Scott McClellan on my old team. There wasn’t a thing I wrote that wasn’t already public info, that wasn’t already covered by Greg Logan and that Greg will continue to be all over. It’s remarkable to me that some 24/7 fans thought I outed stuff everyone didn’t already know. It really does seem like the Islanders had an intriguing draft, signed Streit and Weight and – just like that – for some, all was forgotten. I don’t think so.

The private stuff I have kept to myself. To those of you who have read this blog going back to its inception when I was a team official: did you really expect me to go out just thanking a bunch of people? Maybe I’m stopping the blog a few days too late.


Well, actually I would like to thank some people. I’ve spent the last four glorious weeks in Major League Baseball as a PR consultant around the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, with a few more weeks to go. Call it Dream Job 2. A big thank you to my teammates Dan Queen, Sarah Leer, Sylvia Alvarez, fellow insultant Josh Rosenfeld (legendary former PR man of the Magic-Worthy-Kareem Lakers), Matt Monagan and our skipper, Matt Bourne. It has been a riot, a thrill and a privilege to be a part of it, and I cannot thank them enough.

Thank you to all the Point Blank readers. My “limited engagement” ends today. I’m not going on that family trip, but the next few weeks will have me working 18 hours a day on the many incredible All-Star events (unfortunately, I do not have a block of Bon Jovi tickets). Especially for all the class they have shown me, I owe MLB my best.

So many of you have been kind enough to ask me to keep this blog alive. A few suggested I keep it, even if it means just dropping a line once or twice a month. Thank you for the recommendation. I just might do that.

Either way, the Comments area remains open. I’ll be reading and will try to address whatever and whenever I can.

See you around.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Code Ted

The draft is over. UFA work is also done, proving the Islanders might finally be serious about building from within (maybe they were just waiting for me to leave).

That’s it until the opening of camp, right?

It shouldn’t be.

Somehow lost in the shuffle – maybe everyone is just living in denial – is the matter of the Islanders and their head coach, Ted Nolan. When we last left off, the season ended miserably, fingers were being pointed in all directions, and the whole thing got so awkward that at my last Islanders Open House in April, these were the only questions on every fan’s mind:

Why are the Islanders letting Ted enter the final season of his contract without an extension?

Is Ted on board with the team’s plan to build around young players?

Do Ted and Garth like each other?

I’m sorry, but has anything changed with this subject in the last two months? Seems in the haze of Bailey and Petrov, Streit and Weight, everyone forgot about it. That is, until it came up in an interview I did on Friday night on XM Radio. I touched on the break in trust between Ted and the Islanders, and I will expound on it here.

If the Islanders are truly committed to getting it right, then they have one more big decision to make this summer.

Is Ted Nolan their coach for the long haul? Is Ted the Islanders’ Barry Trotz, their Lindy Ruff – the man who will stay positive and consistent in his approach to developing the kids every stumble and step of the way? Do they feel they can count on Ted like – gasp – the Rangers rely on Tom Renney?


Right now, there isn’t much of a relationship between Ted and Islanders management. Despite Ted’s success as a coach in junior, I don’t believe the Islanders are confident he really buys into the youth movement.

The other tall hurdle is the immense damage from last season. From March 1 on, when the ship was sinking, awkward moments came daily. You didn't have to be the PR director of the team to see the stains.

There was Ted’s repeated use of the phrase, “You work with what you got,” referring to his own lineup. I saw an Islanders interim head coach named Bill Stewart say that once and he hasn’t sniffed the National Hockey League since. I was amazed Ted said it, and was equally amazed he got away with it.

There was Ted ignoring policy and telling Greg Logan he was entering the last year of his contract and there were no discussions about an extension.

There was the weekend I was visiting family over Easter and got a slew of calls with the same exasperated message: “Ted just said he’s playing Joey Mac because Garth told him to.” The coach could have said, “Garth and I talked about it and decided we wanted to see what Joey’s got.” But he went out of his way not to be diplomatic. Why? And what kind of message does that send to Joey McDonald?

There were damaging lapses in relationships with key players. There was a real stunner no one seemed to pick up on: after the Islanders struggled for weeks and were eliminated from the postseason, only then did the team implement a defensive system to minimize scoring chances. An act of defiance? I hope not. It may have cost the Islanders the first overall pick.

After each Open House this offseason, I’ve heard from too many Islanders fans who approached the always-accessible Ted with questions about his team, only to have their jaws drop when Ted gave some version of “Depends on what they decide to do,” “It’s up to them” and worse.

They, they, they. Not we. Shame on everyone.

The Islanders were the only team willing to give Ted another shot in the NHL. They were proud of it, and Ted would go out of his way in his first season to show his appreciation. Why did it come to this between Ted Nolan and the Islanders?


Ted Nolan is not 100% at fault here. Not even close. For the breakdown to get to this point, there is plenty of blame to go around.

I don’t care about the committee rules. If the GM thinks at least one of the four coaches should be a former defenseman to mentor Campoli, Gervais and the kids - those are my thoughts, I should make clear - the GM should insist on it. When Garth is asked by “Mike and the Mad Dog” if Ted starting Dubielewicz raised an eyebrow, he needs to resist his inner New England wise-ass and not say, “One eyebrow or two”? If you’re going to talk about how you’re a committee, you need to act like a team. I also don’t want to make this about Ted’s handling of Jeff Tambellini. That’s an insult to both of them. If Jeff can play in this league, he’ll prove it on his own.

Beyond all the garbage, there is the essential issue of whether the Islanders believe Ted wants to coach this team in a rebuild, is the best man to coach this team and is a coach Garth Snow can see himself working with side-by-side for the next decade. Darcy Regier has it with Ruff, David Poile with Trotz. Garth will be the GM of this team for at least ten years. He needs to have a coach he trusts implicitly. Long Island could use a mainstay behind the home team bench.

The Islanders have two options: work through the issues and commit completely to Ted Nolan, or shake hands and say goodbye. More than themselves or even their fan base, they owe that to Ted.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A lot to give up for Brian Campbell for two months and now Boyle

Darren Dreger of TSN is reporting that Dan Boyle is going to be traded to San Jose for Matt Carle, a first round pick, a prospect and a future draft pick. If that is the case - the Gammons-like Dreger usually nails this crap - then...

1. It proves why Chicago was smart for digging deep to sign Brian Campbell as a UFA

2. The Islanders were wise not to break up the plan and pay the price in personnel to get Boyle

The Islanders really like Boyle. They did more than kick tires, they pursued a deal. But - before it got to whether Boyle would have approved a trade to LI - it's obvious the Islanders weren't willing to go too far in the deal with Tampa Bay.

Besides Carle, the big piece is the first round pick. Even the president of the Islanders Booster Club would concede it's more likely the Islanders' first round pick will come before San Jose's.

Seems to me any trade talks between Doug Wilson and Garth Snow died right there.

The Islanders need to hold on to their first round picks for at least the next year or two. Last thing they need is a Tom Kurvers/Toronto situation. That's when the Maple Leafs traded a future No. 1 to New Jersey for Kurvball and everyone in TO had heart problems as the Leafs blew and it almost ended up being the first overall pick - Ontario kid named Eric Lindros.

My hunch is if Snow was ever going to include his first round pick as part of a deal, it would have to be top-10 protected.

Boyle would have been an incredible add for the Islanders for the right price. Lining it up with what the Sharks paid, the Islanders would have had to give up their 2009 first-rounder, Chris Campoli (maybe not Carle, but close and also a better contract), a kid like Robin Figren and a fourth.

Pass. The Islanders are simply not yet in a position to make a deal like that.

Comments back on; bring on the final Qs

Just when things got interesting, I had to shut down the Comments for a while because a real wacky one made its way through.

With only a few days left before I take a break and decide what I'm going to do next, I welcome your feedback, critiques and questions.

I'll have a few more things to say between now and Monday.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

MEDIA ALERT: XM Radio's "Power Play" at 5:25 pm

Presumably because they couldn't track down Milbury, Olczyk, Jonesey or Jaffe on 4th of July weekend, the good folks at XM Radio have invited me to go on "Power Play" at 5:25 pm today.

I'll be speaking with Mike Ross and Mick Kern about the NYI. Finally, my dream chance to carve Garth up.

I'm telling you, this could be dangerous. It's one thing to try and be the semi-under-control former Islanders "executive" while writing this blog, but radio? We'll see.

Can you curse on XM?

Gettin' Iggy with it: a (CT) Post Exclusive

This is one of those wacky things that happen at the Islanders. It happened a few times when I was there, and I find it a source of minor amusement now.

Apparently, the team has signed a former San Jose prospect named Mike Iggulden. My hunch is the Islanders wanted yesterday to be about Doug Weight, which is classy and understandable, and figured they'd save the announcement of Iggy's addition for another day.

The problem with this, however, is once a contract is filed with the NHL or NHLPA, the player's name starts popping up on league and union websites. Resourceful folk, like the beautiful maniacs on Islandermania, find this stuff and start talking about whether Iggulden is going to play for the big club or the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

That's okay. Nothing wrong with the die-hards digging hard and coming up with a scoop.

But this is where it gets kinda topsy-turvy. The Islanders have not announced the Iggulden signing. The Sound Tigers have not announced the Iggulden signing. But there it is, in the Connnecticut Post, Bridgeport staff openly discussing, um, the Iggulden signing. You do have to give credit to Sound Tigers beat writer Mike Fornabaio, who I know from painfully first-hand experience out-works just about every hockey reporter on the planet. Still, this is a little bizarro.

Is it a big deal? I guess probably not. But I will say this: there is something to be said for organeyezational discipline, of which I admittedly am no master.

As of this morning, no Iggy story on the Islanders website. No story on the Sound Tigers website. No announcement for Logan, who lives for this stuff, and the rest of the media, who, alas, do not.

One thing's for sure. If this sort of thing happened on Lou Lamoriello's watch, he'd freak.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Weight is over

I thought it might go past the July 4 weekend, but the Islanders got the deal done a few minutes ago. Point Blank has learned that the Islanders have signed veteran center Doug Weight to a one-year deal.

As I wrote 48 hours ago, this is a no-lose deal for the Islanders. Early on, Weight will not be taking away anyone's icetime. Should one of the kids earn it down the line, that's what I would call a good problem to have.

Doug's arrival on the Island is a welcome one. He is a class act, and you can never have enough of them in your room. Especially class acts who can still skate.

In Weight and Mark Streit, I'd say the Islanders have had two solid days to start UFA week. They are a better team than they were before noon on Tuesday, and they haven't done anything to screw up the plan and hinder the development of their prospects.

What a drag

Jim Kelley has a must-read column on Sportsnet that looks at yesterday and wonders what happened to the battle for "cost certainty" and the hilarious "drag on salaries" that cost the NHL and its fans a year of hockey.

Although I don't agree with many of Jim's player evaluations - Wade Redden may have some issues, but he's a better defenseman simply falling out of bed than Brooks Orpik - his point is strong.

Remember the talk during the lockout of a $40 mill max cap? Now that's just the floor.

The revenue generation in other sports is at a level where the NBA, NFL and MLB can look you in the eye and say semi-sincerely that their fans won't pay the price for player salary escalation.

The NHL is my favorite league, but you know who's ultimately paying the cost for Manic Tuesday. Can't wait to see what Hainsey and Orpik get today.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Let's sleep on it

How about two former agents-turned GMs – Mike Gillis in Vancouver and Brian Lawton in Tampa Bay – giving money away like it’s not theirs? Oh yeah, it’s not. If in the next two years the Canucks and Lightning meet in a Cup Final, Mark Gandler will get a GM job.

I really don’t want to go after the Jeff Finger signing. But I will say that if you took the career stat boxes of Finger and Mark Streit and put them side-by-side, you’d think the Islanders made the deal of the decade.

I would have loved to have been there when JD got the news that Vancouver signed 24-year old grinder Dave Backes to a three-year, $7.5 million offer sheet. Gotta give Gillis credit: he’s going into the job not worrying about making friends. Good for him. Financially, not great for hockey. PR-wise, it’s priceless. Can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.

Ok, one more thing on the Finger signing. Here’s what happens when a deal like this goes down: in Toronto, the pro scouts are patting themselves on the back for unearthing an underappreciated gem. In Colorado, they’re sitting around saying, “We love Fings, but are you frickin’ kiddin’ me? Ah, never mind. Good for him. SOB’s buying the Molsons when we play there.”

In my new consulting gig, I announced some news today. I can’t wait to see whose paragraph is bigger in the city tabloids – the thing I released or the Streit signing. Results tomorrow.

Sorry for the tease before. Have to believe there won’t be another announcement tonight out of Uniondale. I’m told, in the immortal words of Don Maloney – doing a nice job in Phoenix, by the way – the Islanders have nothing imminent. Besides, Garth has to know if he’s going to sign somebody who can make an impact, there’s no sense making a formal announcement after Newsday goes to press. Right?


Garth is still working

I have an observation I'd like to share. It comes from years of hanging out on the perimeter of the GM's office at the Coliseum during the first week of July.

I'm not saying the Islanders will announce another signing tonight, but I can tell you this:

When the team signs a player to a five-year, $20-million contract and Garth doesn't even have two minutes to do an interview with Islanders-owned ITV, sending out chief pro scout Kenny Morrow instead, it only means one thing.

At 10:15 pm, the store is still very much open.

I refuse to use a silly Streit play-on-words for a headline

Nothing wrong with tempering expectations, as Garth Snow did this weekend. The Islanders needed offense, power play help, a veteran defenseman and some flash and got all of that in one package called Mark Streit.

Let’s get all the quibbling out now: too much money, blah blah, blah…too many years, wah, wah, wah…he’s coming off one big year and he’s no Kenny Morrow in his own end, yadda, yadda, yadda...

This is unrestricted free agency in the National Hockey League on July 1. You see a player you want, a player who fits your team and fills a need, you simply go out and blow everyone else away with your best offer.

That’s what the Islanders did with Streit and this is what happened with every single signing that happened today. The teams that are waiting until tomorrow are going to find that the prices haven’t come down. Wait ‘til August if you want to go bargain-hunting. Richard Park aside, you usually get what you pay for.

I doubt Streit felt it necessary to tour the facilities on Hempstead Turnpike before agreeing to terms and saying, “I am an Islander.” I suspect Garth told him, "We really want you, we're prepared to do everything to get you, you'll play 25 minutes a game and we'll be counting on you."

My friends at the Montreal Canadiens love Mark Streit. They’re proud of the player he’s become the last few years. They knew he would be gone and are wishing him well. Across the board, you will hear raves about his integrity and, most crucially, his ability.

(Inevitable bitchy column out of Montreal about the Islanders over-paying for a one-dimensional guy from Switzerland in 5 seconds, 4 seconds, 3...)

I wrote yesterday that there were plenty of reasons for the Islanders to step up the plan and go after a Brian Campbell. Streit is not Campbell - despite the obvious stat comparison, let's be clear about that - but he's a terrific addition. As a bonus, he's a fun player to watch.

The Islanders work is not done with Streit. You don't just sign a player and stand by and watch him. I don’t care that Streit’s 30, accomplished and seasoned. Now it’s on the Islanders to put him in position to succeed. Now it’s on Ted Nolan and the coaches to get the best out of him. No one wants to hear that he got 60 points last season “because he played in that fast and wide-open Montreal system.” Nonsense.

You went after Mark Streit for his talent and his 60 points. Make it work.