Today, we start at the bottom AND the top. The Atlantic Division New York Islanders finished dead last in the NHL in the 2008/09 regular season but were awarded the top pick of 2009 in the draft lottery. GM Garth Snow went with the top prospect available and the much touted John Tavares was drafted number one, joining the rebuild on the Island...perhaps in more ways than one.
With the Lighthouse project approaching a critical public-hearing date (more on that later) and also gaining support in the community, perhaps Tavares will help build the house the youngsters started.
Or perhaps the fact the Isles will play a pre-season game in Kansas City, the town much discussed as a potential new home for the Islanders (Lighthouse again), guarantees the Islanders are going to be getting more attention this season. And their play should follow suit. Isles faithful have much to look forward to and perhaps some to fret.
WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THE SEASON ENDED? Although not a comprehensive list of activities, here are some of the highlights of off-season changes and events:
- Isles drafted twice in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Taking number one overall, John Tavares. They also traded up from 26 to 16 and then to 12 to select their future Power Play specialist, defenseman Calvin de Haan. They then drafted a giant of a netminder with their 2nd round pick (31st overall) in Mikko Koskinen (6'7"). For a complete list click here and scroll to the New York Islanders.
- The NYI management did a good job getting the picks they wanted during the draft and adding more youthful prospects with promise in the continuing rebuilding effort. Tavares alone generates enough press to ensure the Isles will have more of an audience this season. And management was smart when having him sign a two-way, entry level, 3 year contract. He will need to compete and perform to make the final cut, like all other prospects. Think he'll make the team? He's already listed on the Islanders' website in the starting roster (here)
- The Isles signed multiple depth players from within other teams' depth charts. Keeping costs low by mining for gold nuggets, they signed :
- Mark Flood (prev. w/ CAR), Greg Mauldin (prev. w/ OTT), Matt Moulson (prev. w/ LAK), Greg Moore (prev. w/ NYR) all on July 6th.
- Also added Jeremy Reich (prev. w/ BOS), Brett Westgarth (prev. w/ SJS), Scott Munroe (prev. w/ PHI), Dwayne Roloson (prev. w./ EDM)
- The Isles traded Ben Walter to NJD for a hometown prospect, Tony Romano who grew up in the area and had idolized the Islanders since childhood. Think he's excited?
- Few departures (G-Yann Danis, signed w/ NJD on July 10th) from the Isles organization due to free agency and only a couple of players who have yet to resign and may enter arbitration (Blake Comeau and Nate Thompson).
- The addition of veteran Dwayne Roloson gives the Isles a sense of security in net considering the injury-prone Rick DiPietro. Last season, they became reliant on superb performances by depth goalies...now, they have a backup.
- UPDATE: Yesterday, the Isles announced they had also signed Philadelphia's Martin Biron to a one year contract. Now, having three legitimate starters on the roster perhaps belies a slow injury rehab for Rick DiPietro. Will Roloson and Biron alternate starting slots or will they compete for the job? Will DiPietro even be ready to go at the start of the season? Time will tell.
- GM Snow is on the hunt for another enforcer for this team. There are now a lot of high-value, young players carrying the weight of this team and a new Sheriff might help keep the team healthy throughout the season. Colton Orr (NYR) was in their sights, but too pricey (4 years, 4 MM in Toronto). The hunt continues...
The Islanders held their mini-camp for prospects from July 10th to the 15th. Some notes of interest from the camp:
- John Tavares hit the ice for the first time as an Islander. Yes, 90% of the fans who showed up were wearing TAVARES sweaters.
- The hunt for protection for the younguns probably made for an interesting mini-camp for attendee, Joel Rechlicz. Opportunity knocks, er, heads?
- Josh Bailey was at camp, practically the veteran leader having spent the majority of last season on the team. Bailey is an important part of the future of this team and such opportunities are a good part of the building/learning process.
- If 09 draft choice Calvin de Haan were to get a call-up in the middle of the season (unlikely), he could play alongside and learn from Mark Streit. Scary.
- University of Minnesota defenseman Aaron Ness turned some heads
- 6'7" Goalie Mikko Koskinen could have used the top of the goal as a stool when standing in his skates in front of the net
- Shuhei Kuji had some impressive speed. Invited to attend by GM Garth Snow, Kuji plays for Wasata University in Japan and for the Japanese National Team.
BETWEEN NOW AND THEN...From now until the start of the 09-10 season:
The LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT
More important to the success of the New York Islanders than the performance of their prospects and draft picks is the performance of management and interested parties in convincing the Town of Hempstead they should take action to keep the Islanders playing on the Long Island. If the proposed future home of the Isles, the Lighthouse, is not turned into a reality soon, most project a departure of the storied franchise even though their lease would not be up at the current home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Last season, media reports bounced around about a deal that would bring the Islanders to Kansas City where they have an arena, the Sprint Center, missing a hockey team.
All the more interesting, then, they should play a pre-season game in Kansas City this September 22nd in the Lighthouse Classic.
And all the more important a successful outcome of the upcoming town-hall is to the Isles staying on the Isle. The Town of Hempstead announced Tuesday, August 4, 2009 as the latest date for a public hearing for the Lighthouse project. "This meeting is of ultimate importance to the project" and local fans are urged to attend and show their support. NY Governor David Paterson will be in attendance to throw his support behind the project.
PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE NOTES
The Islanders released their pre-season schedule showing only one home game on September, 23rd against the New Jersey Devils. They begin their pre-season on September 14th when they play the Vancouver Canucks as a part of Kraft Hockeyville 2009.
From the Islanders website:
The Islanders will also play two games at their training camp facility, the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatoon. On Saturday, September 19th they will face off against the Calgary Flames and the following evening, Sunday, September 20th, take on the Edmonton Oilers. At the close of Training Camp the Islanders will head to Kansas City, where they will play the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, September, 22nd at 6 p.m. local time at the Sprint Center.Opening Night of the Regular Season will be played against the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the official debut of the New New York Islanders.
FOR THE FANS
NYI Ice Girl Tryouts gets a mention because the OGA Team was able to attend an early season game last year at the Coliseum and were unanimously impressed with the skills exhibited by the Islanders' Ice Girls. In fact, we came to the conclusion they are the best dressed of Ice Girls around the NHL and kudos to their official wardrobe manager. Supporting evidence can be found here. So, for the public's sake,
Auditions for the 2009-2010 Ice Girls will take place August 15th at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset. Info HereAlso, it was announced on Tuesday that Islanders President Chris Dey told the radio announcers team of Chris King and Steve Mears their contracts would not be renewed for the upcoming season. The radio duties will be given to a simulcast from Madison Square Garden Network announcers Billy Jaffe and Howie Rose. A shrewd move in terms of payroll/finances but a sour blow to those fans who like to watch the broadcast on TV and listen to the game on the radio. However, the word on Comments Street has it the signals for the radio broadcast were weak and sounded good to no one. So, perhaps it is a wash in the end except for the loss of some nostalgia.
All in all, it should be a wild ride this year on the Island. Since my OGA partners are rabid Rangers fans, I can't wait for the season to start and the chirping to begin. Any updates or breaking news for the Islanders will be available on forthcoming updates with the Frozen Pill's Off-Season Updates.
More to come later...
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