Skip to main content
The Official Site of the New York Islanders

POINT BLANK: Ramblings for the Weekend

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
Make Room for a Kid (or 3)...Chico Rips on the Ice Girls...Why Hunter Rules

By Chris Botta

BRING ON THE YOUTH


It's way too early to tell what the bulk of the Islanders' lineup is going to look like in 2007-08. That's the nature of the business and the sport under the new CBA, with early free agency and the salary cap resulting in loads of player movement. But I will say this: I'd like to see a bigger injection of youth in next year's team.

That's likely to happen. On defense Bruno Gervais, virtually a lock for a varsity sweater, will be 23 around opening night. It took a little while to overcome an ankle injury and win over Ted Nolan, but 23-year old Chris Campoli looks like a keeper. Freddy Meyer is 26 and a far better player than he showed in March (playing with a finger that looked like it came from Auntie Anne's in the Roosevelt Field Mall could have had something to do with that). Marc-Andre Bergeron will be 27 in October and is signed for two more years. MAB, 6-21-23 in 25 games after coming over from Edmonton, should only get better.

In goal, Wade Dubielewicz is a young 28 and has earned a shot as backup after four full seasons in the Islanders system. His energy and joy for the game would be a big plus. At forward, Jeff Tambellini, Sean Bergenheim, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau and perhaps 2006 first round pick Kyle Okposo are just some of the kids worthy of consideration. I love everything about what Ted brought to this organization last season. Like all of the best coaches, he understands experience is an important weapon. Only those inside the room understand the impact veterans like Chris Simon had on this team.

But as you're seeing in the playoffs, just about every club has a few sets of young legs contributing every night. The addition of a little more youth - if those kids prove themselves worthy in training camp -  could be the next step for Ted Nolan's Islanders.

 

INTERPRETATION STATION
What Was Said:
"Someone would have to explain to me the purpose of having scantily clad girls out there on the ice shoveling snow. Is it to entertain the fans or distract the goalies?" - Former Islanders goaltender, now Devils broadcaster Glenn "Chico" Resch, to Newsday on Squeegeegate.

What It Means: Our beloved Chico, who once kissed his goalposts and was one of the great characters in Islanders history, is showing how much he's changed since becoming a broadcaster for the buttoned-down Devils organization. Chico also seems to be admitting that if his Islanders had Ice Girls in bell-bottom jeans in 1975, he would have been distracted. When you consider he was 4-0 this season at the Coliseum with three shutouts and 105 saves on 108 shots, Marty doesn't seem to be bothered!

 

THE HUNTER YOU MAY NOT KNOW
In April 2002, Trent Hunter joined the Islanders for the first round playoff series against Toronto after a great season in Bridgeport. He made his NHL debut in Game 4 and made quite an impression for the rest of the seven-game series. But it was what happened after the Game 7 loss in Toronto that made me a Hunter fan for life.

During the series Trent was needed by the press a lot more than probably even he ever planned. The rookie was the Islanders' best player in Game 5 in Toronto, scoring a goal in the loss. My staff guided him through the press requests, advising him on the basics - what to say and what not to say, when he needed to be available at his locker stall, how to prepare for the interesting bird known as Al Strachan.

After the painful Game 7 loss I learned Hunter was not chartering back with the Islanders to Republic but instead rejoining the Sound Tigers for an AHL playoff game the next day. I was disappointed because I wouldn't get to wish him well and thank him for a great week.

As I was about to get on the team bus, a taxi pulled over and a passenger emerged. It was Hunter. "Hey, I thought I missed you," Trent said. "I'm going back to the Sound Tigers but I really wanted to thank you and the guys for helping me get through this week. You made it a lot easier for me. I hope we get to do it again."

Imagine that? A pro athlete, after a tough Game 7 loss, thanking a staffer. This doesn't happen every day, folks. This is why, when Trent scores a big goal at the Coliseum, I usually tap my toes quietly under the press box table.

 

JUST SAYIN'
It's a theory espoused by many hockey people whose opinions I value, but I've never bought it and I'm still not: the New York Rangers contending for the Stanley Cup is good for the well-being of hockey. What other major professional sports league relies on the success of its major market teams? Have you seen the World Series ratings when Joe Torre's Yankees have been in it?

The latest counter-evidence: Sunday, April 29, Rangers beat Buffalo in a wonderful game in double-OT. In the New York metro area, the Yankees-Red Sox TV audience dwarfed NBC's hockey coverage. That, sadly, is to be expected. But NASCAR - whose ratings have dipped noticeably the last two years - and the Byron Nelson golf tournament without Tiger Woods and with a final pairing of Luke Donald and Scott Verplank also beat the Rangers TV numbers. I repeat: NASCAR and golf beat Rangers-Sabres on TV - in New York!

But I guess Rangers-Anaheim would be a juggernaut for our game. Sure.

This is not a shot at the Rangers and their fans, but a dose of reality. Everyone associated with the NHL, including the New York Islanders, has a lot of work to do.

 

COMMERCIAL BREAK
The Best of Billy Joel

I was raised in Hicksville and had the same chorus teacher as him 15 years later, so for better and worse Billy Joel was the soundtrack of my childhood. (Now all you Billy fanatics, don't be offended by "for worse" because, let's face it, the man's a Hall of Famer, but he put out his share of mediocre stuff over the years). Nevertheless, here's my list of the ten most under-appreciated Billy Joel songs. I define under--appreciated as unlikely to be on any of his umpteen Greatest Hits collections and rarely played in his concerts. So no, "My Life" didn't make it.

10. "Everybody Has a Dream" - The Stranger (thought it stunk when it was released, but now see it as an undiscovered gem)

9. "All for Leyna" - Glass Houses

8. "You're My Home" - Piano Man

7. "Shameless" - Storm Front

6. "All About Soul" - River of Dreams

5. "This Night" - An Innocent Man (Billy has the audacity to rip off another piano player named Beethoven, but makes it work)

4. "I've Loved These Days" - Turnstiles (my older brother's HHS class of 1980 prom song)

3. "Vienna" - The Stranger

2. "And So It Goes" - Storm Front

1. "Until the Night" - 52nd Street (saw him do it once at the Coliseum, the place went nuts, and you wonder why he doesn't break it out more often)

 

USEFUL/USELESS INFORMATION (You Decide)
As researched by mon amie DOMINICK SAILLIANT of the Montreal Canadiens PR staff, presenting the man-games lost to injury for the 2006-07 regular season:

1  St. Louis 382
2  Chicago 350
3  Toronto 336
4  Philadelphia 301
5  Dallas 296
6  Columbus 293
7  Colorado 292
8  Edmonton 286
9  Phoenix 274
10 Buffalo 267
11 NY Islanders 254
12 Calgary 251
13 Carolina 249
14 Washington 244
15 Detroit 239
16 NY Rangers 217
17 Pittsburgh 216
18 Florida 196
19 Nashville 196
20 Minnesota 194
21 Vancouver 182
22 Los Angeles 180
23 Boston 162
24 San Jose 159
25 Atlanta 147
26 Montreal 146
27 New Jersey 135
28 Tampa Bay 127
29 Anaheim 102
30 Ottawa 82

 

NHL HOCKEY, 2007
If you needed further proof of how unpredictable our game has become, look no further than the curious case of the well-traveled Brad Isbister. Our friend Izzy signed a two-way contract with Carolina last summer after a tough year with the Bruins. He played a handful of games for the Canes' AHL team in Albany before a trade to the Rangers. Brad rode the Hartford-Broadway shuttle for a while, getting one goal in 19 games for the Blueshirts, playing on Jagr's line one night, sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch the next. In Game 4 against the Sabres at the Garden, his team protecting a one-goal lead with a minute left and a faceoff in the Rangers' end, who did Tom Renney send out? Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery and Brad Isbister. That's hockey.

 

DEED OF THE WEEK
The Gainey Foundation

One of the most touching things I've seen on the job was then-Dallas GM Bob Gainey, who had lost his wife Cathy to cancer a few months earlier, hanging out with his children in the Stars' press room, having dinner with them, just squeezing in some time to be Dad. That was a few years ago. Then tragedy fell on the Gaineys this season with the passing of his daughter, Laura.

Established in honor of Cathy and Laura Gainey, the Gainey Foundation will support community-based charitable organizations, especially those committed to causes that reflect Laura and Cathy's interests in education, arts and the environment. For more information, visit www.gaineyfoundation.com.

 

ONE-TIMERS
The promotion of JACK CAPUANO as head coach of the Sound Tigers is an example of a good thing happening to a good person. Through no fault of his own Jack was in a kind of limbo after last season, but he took an assistant's job in Bridgeport last summer. Now he's doing exactly what he should be doing, and the Islanders are the better for it...

Thank you, MIKE SILLINGER and BRENDAN WITT, for being such stand-up professionals this season and making the jobs of our staff so much easier...

I think it's time the folks who make the rules around here come up with a definition of "distinct kicking motion." And while they're at it, maybe we can get the Gatorade bottles off the nets and out of the way of all the technology put in place. MARTIN BRODEUR, not just one of the best goaltenders of all time but arguably the smartest, actually has two bottles on his net. And nobody says a thing about it...

Forgive me if I come off naïve. I'm used to being around hockey players suiting up for games despite broken bones, ligament damage and everything else. I'm used to being around athletes who would do anything to play a game. Is it at all possible CARL PAVANO has just run into some seriously bad luck and is truly, seriously injured?

Did you happen to catch Vancouver's theme this season? WE'RE ALL CANUCKS. That's freaky...

Luckily for those who didn't put on ESPN's obsessive coverage, NBC devoted half their NHL intermissions last Saturday to updates from the National Football League draft. Brilliant! This just in, Hullie: Brady Quinn, still not taken...

To paraphrase my neighbor Joe: that guy CHRIS PHILLIPS can play on my team any day.

I guess because it really helped Tom Poti, that could be the only explanation for the dopey booing of MAREK MALIK by the Garden faithful. Malik is rangy, talented, 1-for-1 in shootouts, works hard and by all accounts is a heckuva nice guy. But when the 6-6 Malik makes a mistake with the puck, even the corporate folk who show up midway through the first period notice it. The absurdity brings to mind something Poti said at the post-game radio show at Doolins in October: "I've felt more comfortable as an Islander in my first month than I did in my three years as a Ranger"...

The best of everything goes out to NICOLE D'ADDARIO, who's leaving her post as our team's Community Relations coordinator for one with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Nicole will be missed, but it's so nice to see her staying in the field of good works.

 

THREE STARS

1. RICHARD PARK - One of those players whom it's a privilege to watch at work, day after day. The consummate pro's pro.

2. KENNY JONSSON - I miss the big lug and hope he has found continued happiness with his family back home in Sweden.

3. JOHN MUCKLER & BRYAN MURRAY - If the Sens make the Cup Final, expect the trend-driven NHL to see a hiring spree of sixtysomething GMs and coaches. Mr. Murray has always been a gracious man and he's overdue, so best of luck to him. Al Arbour's pal Muck? He's a piece of work.

 

In lieu of a major contract signing or a better idea from his staff, VP of Communications Chris Botta is threatening to write this column approximately every other Friday during the offseason

View More