Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.
The NEW YORK ISLANDERS as Measured Against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)
Last Season VS the PQC: On Goal Analysis called the New York Islanders at 'Tee Time' (OUT of the playoffs) at Game 10 on November 1st, 2008. In fact, the Isles were the first team to be called OUT by OGA as measured against our PQC and the rest of their season proved us right. However, they did give us a bit of a scare when they began winning multiple games towards the end of the season, putting the John Tavares sweepstakes at risk. At the 60-game mark, the Islanders were dwelling about 3.5 points below the Curve but by Game 70, they had risen to a +1 above the baseline!
We at OGA took notice and wondered if the Isles wouldn't be our first 'Shot of the Post' on our calls. But the whole was too deep and team too battered and the 'Tee Time' call stood. The scare was short-lived and The Islanders finished the season a full 4 points below the Curve (for the second time during the 08-09 season).
Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: The 2008-09 season was cruel in terms of team performance for the Isles' average play as measured against the PQC. In the post-lockout era, the team had played either right at or just below the Curve but never rising comfortably above it for the first half of each season since 2005. But by the midpoint of almost each campaign, they began a steady decline in play bringing their team average down. Only the 06-07 team chartered a course even close to the PQC.
Last season's efforts destroyed their average as their PQC rating dropped to an average of 3.875. So, for the last place finishers, there really is only one way to go. Up. And this year's squad is coming out of the 'rebuilding phase' and steadily achieving their own identity. Players who, last season, were rookies or sophomores are now simply part of the young core of players who will make up the team's future and they believe they have much to build upon.
So how did the Isle improve their chances for this coming season?
- While not on the ice, the Islanders made big news in the game of staying on the Island. Owner Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Project have made significant strides in the push to replace aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a new, mixed use sporting complex. For the Town of Hempstead, it means much needed development and an infusion of cash. For the Isles Faithful, it means there is still no island in the middle of Kansas City. And let's keep it that way. The Project next address zoning issues in another important meeting with the Town on September 22nd and fans are asked to continue to lend their support and voices. Get more info at www.lighthouseli.com
- The Islanders also did something related to improving their chances of making the playoffs this season - won the draft lottery and used the pick to snag the OGA-named, Long Island Ice-T, John Tavares. The much sought after Tavares was proud to be drafted by the Islanders (remember when some wondered if he would pull a Lindros?) and he is even more proud to help carry some of the Weight, er, weight of lifting up the franchise. Expectations are high, the pressure is on but one man does not a team make. And he wasn't the only first round draft pick the Islanders had.
- Defenseman Calvin de Haan was selected just 11 picks after Tavares when Garth Snow and Co. worked some magic to move up in the draft (moving twice from pick 26th to land at 12) for their second pick. While the Long Island Ice-T has garnished tons of press and blatherings during the off-season, de Haan has quietly worked on what he needs to do to make the team this coming season. And things are looking pretty good for him in camp so far. He scored his first goal against Edmonton in the Islander's second pre-season game (de Haan's first) and is impressing many in camp with his demeanor as well as play-making abilities. Will he make the cut at the end of camp? Stranger things have happened (see 15-year contracts...)
- Management shocked the NHL when they brought in two more starting-caliber goalies to back up their number one starting goalie who may not be able to start this season. Rick DiPietro played five games last season before succumbing again to injury. Is he ready to start this October? Nobody knows...but Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron were also signed during the off-season so Ricky D does not have to push his recovery schedule. But secretly, Rangers fans are hoping they decide to play each goalie in each game. Each goalie would play one period. It would be like those child-actors who get cast in a TV sitcom but, because they are one of a set of twins/triplets, etc., their siblings get to work, too, alternating episodes. And then we, the viewers, are left wondering, 'now, which goalie was that? they look so much alike...!'
THE FANTASY DOSE
Most fantasy players will look elsewhere for their top picks and proven fantasy scorers rather than scour the lines of the Islanders these days. But the Frozen Pill believes there are many gems to be found here. Call them the sneaky picks, if you will. While Tavares, as a rookie projected to make the team, made it high in many fantasy preseason rankings of players, there are a few other skaters of note who could make an impact for your fantasy team in deeper leagues. The other GMs will think you are 'brave' when they see you have added a couple of the Isles' players to your roster. Later in the season, they will think you were smart.
The Sure Thing: Mark Streit (D). The assist-factory (40 last season) is guaranteed to see tons of ice on the power play. So when the Isles do score, he'll probably figure into it. And with Kyle Okposo and John Tavares on special teams, they will score more than most would expect and more than last season.
TrustyRusty: Doug Weight (C). Unfortunately, Weight is more Rusty than Trusty these days. If he's healthy, he is on the ice with the Islanders' best players and even at only 53 games played last season, he was third in points (38) on the team. Also unfortunately, this reflects on the team play more than the near-40 groin. Yet even more miserably, he has already strained said groin this pre-season. Depending on his recovery, he can still be a viable free agent pick-up. Just keep in mind he may be more of a 'rental' player on your fantasy team this season. Too bad no league awards points for veteran leadership and class, though, because Weight's got it there. (for the sake of full disclosure, the Frozen Pill already dropped Weight from one of the fantasy teams for this coming season after the auto-draft. Doug did come in handy last season-when healthy-and brought some positive results)
Up and Coming: Kyle Okposo (RW). The 21-year old led the team in goals last season and will likely be playing on a line with John Tavares as well as plenty of power play time. He's young, he's good and now, I am sad to report, run-over. In last night's pre-season Flame-out in Calgary, Dion Phaneuf made his best attempt at putting an elbow (which is indeed connected to the shoulder) through Okposo's head and the youngster was carted out on a stretcher with a mild concussion. Fantasy players should follow updates on his recovery as this could obviously affect strategies on the Long Island. (more disclosure: yes, the Frozen Pill does have Okposo on his fantasy team this season...and all last season. No, I will not drop him unless injury news turns dire)
Honorable Mention Up and Coming - Blake Comeau (RW)-keep an eye on Blake.
Under the Radar: Josh Bailey (C). He made the transition last season to full time work at the NHL level...about a half-season early, too. Quite capable of competing at this level, Josh showed signs of offensive prowess and even some good defensive play. He is an all-around player and the former 1st round pick has hockey smarts and maturity, too. He's going to get better and he's going to get ice time. But if Weight is wonky this season, expect Bailey's minutes to go up and expect points to follow suit.
Honorable Mention Under the Radar: Frans Nielsen (C). 33 points (9/24) in 59 games. He looked great in some of the games last season but the Isles are getting thick down the center of the ice. Moved to wing? Elevated to a top line after injuries? It remains to be seen where he'll fit in but if picks up where he left off last season, he'll fit in just fine.
The Watchful Eye: Sean Bergenheim (LW). He finished with 24 points (15/9)and -2 in 59 games last season. There's a good chance he will end up on the top scoring line and with plenty of power play time, too. In any circumstance, he will be a top-6 forward for the Islanders this season.
Honorable Mention The Watchful Eye: Calvin de Haan (D). If he makes the cut after camp or is an early season call-up, watch Calvin's play and see if he doesn't end up working the blue line with Streit on the power play. Someone else in your league may already have Streit so de Haan could be a great pick up.
The Crease: Rick-Rolled-Biron. Three starting goalies on a team means you look to other teams for your starting goalie. Period. But in keeper-leagues, take DiPietro. The 15-year courtship has had it's bumps so far, but they're never going to give him up.
Mad Scientist: John Tavares (LW). Why, you ask, is the Long Island Ice-T not the 'Sure Thing' pick from the Islanders for the Pill's Fantasy Dose? Well, we need to see him play his first NHL regular season game before we label him such. But the 'Mad Scientist' pick is always applicable for taking such gambles...and can be more fun, too. He's going to get quite an education on hockey at the NHL level, you can be assured. But the Pill prognosticates a lot of fun along the way...and definitely some points.
And, as with many of the Islander's players, we haven't seen their best performances yet. But these players will catch some fantasy-attention when it does happen - and you may benefit having one of these 'other Islanders' (in addition to Tavares or Streit) in your lineup. You will earn respect from the other fantasy GMs for your prowess and sneaky free agent pick-ups and perhaps some points nobody else is getting when things really begin to click on the Isle. You're welcome.
THE DAILY TIP IN REPORT (DTIR)
Will the New York Islanders be in contention for the playoffs this season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.
Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.
And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.
Tomorrow, the OGA Sights are trained towards Times Square where Big Tex has secretly moved into one of the tunnels under MSG...ready to bring you New York's Hockey Rangers!
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