Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Enough is enough...

Sean Avery is a pig. End of post.

Well it could be anyway. Pig pretty much sums up the guy but we’ve all known that for a long time. Avery has had far too many ‘moments’ to declare him anything else. Sloppy seconds? This latest nugget is just another item on a resume of idiotic and distasteful accomplishments.

So why then did he get suspended by the league this time? Did he really cross some line of acceptability with his comments yesterday about Elisha Cuthbert that he hasn’t crossed before? Don’t get me wrong, I think what he said was disgusting, demeaning, degrading, misogynistic, and all the other adjectives that I have heard used to describe it, but is it beyond what we have heard or seen from him before? Could someone look at this and say ‘That’s not the Sean Avery I know’ besides a very close relative or maybe a pet? I don’t think so.

I think the real reason he got suspended was because the league wanted to avoid the bloodbath that would have ensued had Avery played against the Flames last night. The lead up to the game was already super-charged with anticipation just based on what Avery said about Jarome Iginla and all he called him was ‘boring’. Can you just imagine the result of having Avery play this game, in Calgary no less, after his comments towards Ms. Cuthbert and, indirectly, Dion Phaneuf? Phaneuf, nor Iginla for that matter, are the type to let this sort of thing slide. This is a ‘protecting the honor of a lady’ deal. Its pistols at dawn!

Nope, the league could not allow this to happen. They were afraid of how ugly it could get and rightly so. By suspending Avery they were able to do what they no doubt realize should have happened a long time ago while at the same time avoiding a very ugly incident.
The Dallas Stars were quick to jump on the band-wagon after the league made it’s ruling and several players (most notably Marty Turco) voiced there displeasure about the carnival that is Sean Avery. It had been reported for quite some time that Avery was a cancer on that team but the Stars publicly supported their teammate, that is, until yesterday.

They, like the league, figured this was as good a time as any to get off the Avery-go-round. The Stars publicly denounced Avery's actions and took the first steps in cutting ties with the jerk. Whether or not they follow through with that remains to be seen but I, for one, certainly hope we've heard the last of him in the NHL. That might be a lot to wish for but hey, it's nearly Christmas.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hi, my name is Ryan O-Burn-Me-Alive-At-The-Stake...

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus; he dresses all in red, plays defence, and wears number 3.

Well it’s not quite Christmas but don’t tell Ryan O’Byrne that. He’s definitely in the gift-giving mood. With the Islanders on a delayed penalty, Ryan O’ (short for Oh my sweet *****) played the puck back for Price while being pressured in the defensive zone. Price couldn’t quite reach it because he was on the bench!

Boos rained down on O’Byrne as the game was now tied with only a few minutes to play in regulation. The Habs couldn’t do anything on the ensuing power-play and it was off to overtime where the Islanders came very close to winning it there. They would have, except that, well, Price was actually in the net so his chances were clearly better than they were on the tying goal.

For some reason O’Byrne didn’t see any more ice for the rest of the game.

With some solid goaltending from Joey McDonald and two great shots by Richard Park (who in my opinion deserves Selke consideration) and Bill Guerin, the Islanders won in the shoot out.

Oh how sweet it is.

This time it was the Habs who gave the game away late and the Isles, who have been on a bit of a roll lately, were only too happy to accept. 'Tis the season.

Fa la la la la, la la, la la


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The hits just keep on coming...

The Islanders, after riding a three game win streak, were brought back to earth last night with a 5-2 loss to the Devils. They face the Sabres and Canadiens next with a chance for redemption on Monday night in Montreal after that heart-breaking loss to the Habs a couple of weeks ago. The Habs are still struggling a little so the motivation for the Islanders is to not be the springboard to confidence for the Canadiens because if they don't play a solid game the Canadiens have the skill to make it ugly.

Speaking of the Canadiens, it appears they are very much still in the hunt for Mats Sundin. No surprise really. Montreal has shown a very strong interest from the get go and I didn't think that acquiring Lang when Sundin wouldn't commit made any difference. When he comes back, he's still going to dominate like very few can. The fact that Montreal have not been playing great as of late only intensifies the desire to get him. Bob Gainey will have to do some wheeling and dealing to make room, salary cap wise, for Sundin but you can bet he'll do it.

Sobering Report

I saw reporter Bob McKeown, from CBC television's The Fifth Estate talking on The Score about an upcoming report that deals with concussions. McKeown, former a Canadian Football League player, talks about a report compiled for insurance companies in the US that basically says that former NFL players can only qualify for insurance up to age 52 because of such a low life expectancy. One of the biggest contributing factors to this low number according to the report is brain trauma due to concussions suffered over the course of a playing career.

The report should be mandatory reading for NHL players who continue to deliver dangerous head shots. The latest was to Islander Frans Nielsen by New Jersey Devil defenceman Mike Mottau. It was a brutal elbow that left the young forward laid out on the ice. He also suffered a leg injury on the play. It was every bit as bad as the hit Thomas Pock put on Ryan Shannon of the Senators yet instead of trying to send a strong message to reiterate that head shots are not wanted in the game, the NHL suspends Mottau for two games. It's a joke.

Bob McKenzie of has an excellent article on the subject here. Give it a read.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Whoa, that was awesome...

Took my five year old son Clark (yes, named after Gillies) to Mile One Centre here in St. John's to see the Bridgeport Sound Tigers take on the Binghamton Senators Wednesday night. It was his first hockey game. I had meant to bring him to a Fog Devils game before the QMHL team left town but just never made it down. I guess that's the kind of dedication that caused the team to pull up stakes to begin with.

Before we left the house my wife told me she was afraid he could get hurt but I told her not to worry. I could tell that she appreciated my anticipation for the impending father/son experience. She as much as said so with her parting words at the door “Don’t let him get hit by a puck!”.

At any rate we were pumped - me, because I was getting to catch the high flying farm team of the New York Islanders in action; him, because he was hoping for a foam finger.

The game started really well for me with the scoreboard showing the Tigers taking an early 2-0 lead. It started really well for Clark because the scoreboard showed us on the big screen.

After the first it was 2-1 Tigers. We went in search of foam fingers to no avail. Ice cream would have to do.

The Senators scored early in the second to tie it up at two a piece but the Tigers pulled ahead for good shortly thereafter eventually winning 6-2. All in all it was a pretty good game. The Tigers carried most of the play and clearly held the skill advantage. McLean and Comeau stood out for the Tigers with the former grabbing player of the game honors for Bridgeport. Blake Comeau, especially, was impressive from a skill perspective making several beautiful passes. He was a threat every time he had the puck. He looked like he had a little more to give in the effort category though and I thought he could have completely dominated if the intensity had been there.

Clark had a great time – eating popcorn, drinking juice, dancing to the music during play stoppages, and occasionally watching the game. He enjoyed the hits against the glass the most punctuating them with “Whoa, that was awesome!”. He also liked directing my attention towards the big screen to see who they were showing next. I, however, being the vigilant father and with my wife’s words planted squarely in the back of my mind, tried to keep at least one eye on the puck.

Sure enough, half way through the third, a cross-ice pass from Blake Comeau got tipped. Sure enough, it went flying into the stands and sure enough it went straight at Clark. Let me tell you, I’m no goalie; those things are hard to pick up when they’re hurtling through the air. But Dipietro would have been proud. With cat-like reflexes I reached out and snagged the puck. Catastrophe averted. Little boy (and marriage) saved.

As I looked at him with the look-what-I’ve-done-for-you-aren’t-I-a-great-father expression on my face he looked back, tilted his head and said “You know you have to give that back.”

Eventually I convinced him that he was allowed to keep the puck. It was no foam finger but he was pretty pleased anyway.

No good deed goes unpunished however. When we got home he raced in the door and called out “Mom, Dad caught a puck!”

Oh boy.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick hits...

Been a while since the last post so I wanted to throw out some quick-hit thoughts.

-The Islanders had another third period breakdown against the Penguins Saturday night. What else is there to say? Everyone knows they are a couple of years away from where they want to be but they have to find a way to bare down and prevent these comebacks in the third.

-Watched the Oilers vs the Blue Jackets the other night. It was a very entertaining game but the best part of it was watching Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky. When he's on, he is one of the most electrifying players in the league from a pure skill perspective. Unfortunately he struggles with consistency a little but with 15 points in 15 games he's having a pretty good season so far.

-Montreal has looked lousy since their 6 day break. Carey Price has been below average and Alex Kovalev was no where to be seen in their 6-3 loss to the Leafs. It's always hard to figure out when Kovalev takes a night off. This one was even more puzzling given the fact that the Hockey Hall of Fame honored one of his heroes, Igor Larionov, before the game. You would expect him to be pretty pumped but instead he was flat.

-Speaking of the Leafs and Canadiens, the hit from behind on Mike Van Ryn by Tom Kostopoulas was scary and completely unnecessary. Kostopoulos offered a lame apology and inferred that the Leaf defenceman was partially to blame because he made an attempt to change direction at the last second. This might have been a possible excuse if the Canadien forward had not used his arms to follow through on his check and drive Van Ryn into the boards. He made absolutely no effort to let up. It only takes an instant to recognize when a player is in a vulnerable position. You might not be able to stop but you could definitely take your foot off the gas a little and you could certainly not drive a guy's head into the boards. Kostopoulos was suspended three games for the hit which, yet again, shows how seriously the NHL takes this type of dangerous behaviour by it's players - not much. Three games is laughable and in no way acts as a deterrent against such hits in the future. One funny thing though was that reporters scrummed around, of all people, Ryan Hollweg of the Leafs to get his take on it all. Ryan Hollweg? I actually didn't get to hear what he said but I can only imagine the gems of wisdom someone like Hollweg could offer. Maybe he was critiquing the hit; comparing it to one of the many he's perpetrated. At any rate it made for a pretty funny scene - the only thing funny in all this.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Another wild ride...

I was still trying to digest Saturday's collapse against the Canadiens when I turned on Sportscenter to see the highlights of the Islanders game against Columbus. Lo and behold but it nearly happened again.

The Blue Jackets erased a three goal deficit in the third period, but this time the game went to overtime where one of the strangest things I've ever seen in hockey occured. Chris Campoli scored the winner, not once but twice. It was definitely the play of the year so far. Campoli scored what should have been the winner in overtime but the puck went through the net and play continued. The puck came back to Campoli a few seconds later and he scored again - this one counting.

To say the Islanders looked relieved is an enormous understatement. Finally they had two points to show for a pretty solid effort. Like Bill Guerin said after the game, they deserved it.

Say what you like about this Islanders team, they're not dull.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hard to take...

Well it wasn't a blow-out like I thought it might be. The Canadiens have been playing very well and the Islanders have been on a losing streak. I thought that there was a chance that these circumstances could collide and the result could be ugly. I was wrong.

For some reason though, I don't take a whole lot of comfort in that.

It's not that I wish that the result had been lopsided - that would be weird. I don't think though, that a blow-out would have hurt like that game did on Saturday. I mean they were playing great. They scored some really nice goals. Nielsen's goal was awesome! They were up by three in the third for crying out loud!

Then it all fell apart like a kid's magic act. We're left to applaud the effort but no one was fooled. Least of all the Habs. They kept coming - confidently, persistently, and they got the result. They got a little lucky for sure. Higgins' goal, where he got left all alone in front, resulted from a couple of strange bounces that had all the Islander defenders looking at the puck and not at the man in the slot, and the winning goal went in off a defenceman's (Pock I believe) skate but it was sickening nonetheless.

It's another hard loss to take for a young team trying to find it's way but on the bright side Scott Gordon (aka the GATE keeper - see previous post), will have no problem finding positives and avoiding the 'captivity of negativity'. They really played well in the first two periods and no doubt Gordon will focus on that. Sooner or later though you figure he's just going to lose it from sheer frustration if they keep losing close games like this.

Of course this is all made worse by the fact that it was the Habs that came back to win. There is nothing worse than a Habs fan in all of sports - especially when their team is good.

Saturday was made worse by the announcement that Rick Dipietro will be out 4-6 weeks after having surgery on his knee. DP's leadership will be missed just as much as his minutes, if not more.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Avoiding the captivity of negativity...

If you're a fan of Prison Break on Fox you'll recognize the title of this post as the mantra of the mysterious GATE corporation. It may as well be the mantra of Islanders coach Scott Gordon as he tries to look for positives in what is quickly becoming a long season.

It was another tough loss to the Flyers last night.

Gordon continued to push the positive, of course, but boy he's got his work cut out for him in that regard.

With Rick Dipietro out nursing the mystery injury, the Islanders got it to overtime but went down a man when Frans Nielsen got called for holding - a very marginal call I thought from what I saw on the replay. Jeff Carter ended the game with an awesome shot from in close and that was that. Gordon is stressing that it was basically a well played tie but a loss is a loss to the psyche of this young team. There I go again, letting myself become captive.

Unfortunately the positive for much of the year will be close losses and the occasional win. The really negative will be the occasional blow-out and with the Islanders playing the Habs this weekend, I'm bracing myself for some major negativity.

Thursday Night Hockey

As I noted in my biography I have played hockey for most of my life. For the past 18 or so years (I think anyway, I can't really remember) that has included Thursday Night Hockey - THNL. The THNL is simply a scrap league where we have two teams - Black and White - that play against each other every week for bragging rights and a beer. However, make no mistake, this is competitive. Most of the players have played at fairly high levels of competitive hockey and so every game is played hard and the skill level is pretty good. Since we took out the contact four or five years ago the competitiveness has rarely gotten ugly - rarely.

Anyway, I thought I would add a section here to make mention of the THNL and it's progress throughout the year.

This year I find myself on White. The biggest problem I have with this having spent the last four years on Black is that I no longer get to wear my black Islanders practice jersey. The only white one I own is an old jersey with the THNL crest. At this stage it's closer to yellow than white. Definitely no style points there. Too bad the Islanders' third sweater is blue and not white or that might have been a nice reason to buy one.

Last night's contest was pretty even on the scoreboard with Black scoring two goals in the last minute or so to win 7-6. It is worth mentioning however that several of the goals that Black scored were by players 'on the suck' which, if you don't know, means they were hanging around center ice waiting for break out passes. Sour grapes? Who cares.


Monday, October 27, 2008

When the Weight comes down...

Didn't get to see the game against Carolina but by all accounts it was highly entertaining. It's not very often a team generates 60 shots and still loses but that what the Isles did Saturday. Add in the last second penalty shot for Doug Weight that would have sent it to overtime and the huge hit he put on Brandon Sutter (Brent's son) and I'm sorry I missed it.

I'm a little troubled by the hit on Sutter though. By all accounts it was a 'clean' hit in that it wasn't against the rules but a shoulder to the head is something that deserves a penalty. The NHL doesn't see it that way of course but sooner or later they will. It's just a matter how many careers are ended prematurely before that happens. The league keeps talking about headshots but won't penalize a shoulder to the head for fear that will lead to less contact. I think that's a load of crap. It won't lead to less hitting but it will lead to less incidents where players, who have a victim lined up, take the easier way out and put their shoulder into someones head rather than the potentially jarring option of laying it into someone's chest. Weight, who is not known as a hitter, saw an opportunity but rather than stand the kid up with a shoulder to the solar plexis or a nice hip-check, took the easy way out and delivered the head shot.

I may sound like like I'm contradicting myself a little here when you look back at what I said made this an entertaining game but don't get me wrong, I love to watch big hits just as much as the next guy. What I prefer to see afterwards though, is the player able to get back up and continue playing - a little sore perhaps, but with his faculties intact. Sutter was knocked out cold and no doubt has a concussion. Does anyone remember Brent Lindros? It would be a shame if this was the beginning of the end for Brandon Sutter's career in the NHL.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Ryan's Fancy...

While speaking to the mother of an eight year old boy in my daughter's class the other day I learned that her son, Ryan Fahey (an Islanders fan), had recently had the opportunity to do something that even now, at 40, would have had me giddy with delight.

Ryan was invited to participate in the Chevrolet/Hockey Canada sponsored 'Safe and Fun Hockey' camp. There, not only did Ryan get to spend time on the ice with arguably the best defenceman of all time, Bobby Orr and one of the most decorated female hockey players ever, Cassie Campbell, but he also got to hang with the greatest pure goal scorer of all time and my boyhood hero, Mike Bossy! I'm getting cold shivers just typing that!

Ryan, the cool customer he is though, took it all in stride. It's older Islander fans like me and his father Sean who can't wipe the grins off our faces.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Slow start...

With five games in the books and a 2-3 start there's lots of room for improvement. Hopefully DP can stay healthy and steal some wins.

The Isles have Dallas on Thursday who are also off to a slow start. This could be a good opportunity to get to .500.

James Duthie of is in fine form in his recent article which pokes fun at the Montreal Canadiens and their penchant for ceremony. Funny stuff but he's right about one thing; the Habs this year are looking very good. With their chances of going deep into the playoffs looking pretty good, the arrival of Mats Sundin seems more likely all the time. No doubt he's evaluating as he's contemplating.....


Friday, October 10, 2008

The regular season begins.... really

Great to see the NHL season really start last night. I still can't help but regard the European experiment as some sort of traveling ice-capades or pre-season mini tournament. At any rate it's good to turn on Sportscenter and see some hockey highlights once again. It was really interesting to see the new-look Leafs defeat the Cup champion Red Wings 3-2.

Newfoundlander Dan Cleary make an uncharacteristic give-away that led to a Leafs' goal. His hard work nearly tied it up but in the end the Leafs held on.

Another Newfoundlander, Michael Ryder recorded his 100th goal in his first regular season game with the Boston Bruins. Looks like the easy going Ryder just needed a change of scenery (ie anywhere besides Montreal) and the familiar face of old coach Claude Julien.

The Islanders will get their first taste of the regular season tonight against the Devils and with four games in six nights they have an opportunity to make some quick progress. I'm predicting a 2-1-1 record for the first four games as I think these young, energetic Isles will surprise.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Weight is over...

Sorry, couldn't resist the title. Finally some game action tonight against the Bruins in Moncton. I wish the Isles were coming to St. John's again like they did last year so I could see this new 'overspeed' style in person but what can you do. Maybe when they move their AHL team here (we know you wanna) the Islanders will base their camp here.

It appears, from reports, that Doug Weight is excited about the up-tempo style of play. I really think the Islanders are going to get a lot out of Weight this year. He's the type of guy who just loves to play and this is a style that will allow him to skate and have fun. It can't help but rub off on the young'ins.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Scott Gordon's our man...

After much debate and a lengthy interview process the Islanders have named Scott Gordon as their new head coach. While I still think Paul Maurice would have been an excellent choice I really like this move.

In Gordon the Islanders get a young, up and coming coach who has had great success coaching young players at the AHL level. Undoubtedly he’s learned how to motivate, teach, encourage, cajole, discipline, and even kick-in-the-butt players who are trying to learn how to play the game at the professional level.

I have to say, I’m excited.

I like this move, Garth, because it took some balls. I’m sure there was pressure to get someone established and, given your past relationship with Bob Hartley, there was probably a strong inclination to go with what you know. I really feel he would have been the wrong choice for this young team and I applaud your courage in hiring Scott Gordon.

I’m just glad the mariner logo is gone because I can see the headlines for ‘trusting Gordon’s fishermen’ now. Thank god for small miracles.

Anyway, let’s bring on the camp. I can’t wait.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Almost there

According to, Newsday is reporting that the Islanders have narrowed their search for a new head coach down to three - Paul Maurice, Bob Hartley, and Scott Gordon. As I said in an earlier post I would like to see Maurice get the job. I think he fits better with the re-building mantra of Garth Snow. He's blessed with a very positive attitude, a lot of patience, and from what I can tell, he's a man of character.

I truly hope it isn't Hartley because I don't think he has any of these characteristics in great abundance. I look at his tenure in Atlanta as proof that he's not the coach for a team lacking in superstars.

I would prefer Gordon over Hartley even given the lack of NHL experience on Gordon's part due to the fact that Gordon is coming off a successful season in the minors and is obviously tuned into younger players.

But, as I said, Maurice is the man for me.

You're almost there Garth, don't blow it now.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Go West Young Man

It appears that there are two things you can't rush - a turtle and Mats Sundin. There are reports from Sundin's agent J.P. Barry that the list of suitors for the Swede's services has grown to six and it may now be another couple of weeks before he makes up his mind where to go. With six teams now vying for Sundin's affection I think we can at least say he's decided he will play and not retire.

One of the teams reportedly interested in Sundin is the Rangers, of course, so I feel I have to throw my two cents out there and encourage Mats to head West. The last thing I want is to see number 13 in a Rangers sweater - for two reasons. The first is obvious, I hate the Rangers, but the second reason is I love Mats Sundin. He's been one of my favorite players for years - he's tough, smart, enormously skilled, and unbelievably competitive. He's a fantastic leader and the consumate team player..... but if he plays for the Rangers, well, his name becomes mud. I don't want that to happen!

There's just something wrong with him going to the Habs as well. I'm sure Leaf fans would agree. So, the only decision I'm prepared to live with (assuming you aren't going back to the Leafs which at this point seems very unlikely), Mats, is if you pack your bags and your composite sticks and head to Vancouver. They clearly want you given the money they're offering (10 mil per). So this time, take the money and don't think about anyone but yourself....... except maybe me.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Do they have their man?

In the wake of my previous post, there is news that John Tortorella may be the front runner for the Islanders coaching job. Talk about a complete turn-around in coaching philosophies. Ted Nolan was known for his ability to create relationships with his players; for getting to known them and thereby getting the most out of them.

John Tortorella is the type of guy who gets in everyone's face and lays down the challenge - compete or sit. If he's the guy they go with he will need a lot of patience with this young Islander squad. Not to mention there is always the possibility that the veterans on the team will get turned off with this type of approach. Someone like Doug Weight or even Bill Guerin may not respond well to JT's in-you-face style. We'll have to wait and see.

I've read that JT should be the front runner by virtue of the fact that he's won a Cup but he doesn't have the nucleus here that he had in Tampa Bay - at least not yet. That's where the need for patience comes in and it's never been Tortorella's forte.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

And Away We Go...

While choosing to start a hockey blog in the middle of July may seem a little odd, I felt compelled to vent about the firing of Ted Nolan, so here we go.

It is understandable that a GM would want to hand pick his coach and not have his coach handed to him but let's face it, it happens all the time. Countless times, a GM has come in as a replacement and inherited a coach and while it may not always work out there are lots of times when it does. The GM just has to have the maturity and confidence to recognize when he has a good person behind the bench and not feel that he has to make his mark on the team by putting his guy in place. He has to be able to work with the assumption that they're not always going to get along and agree on everything.

Garth Snow has shown some promise and probably would have made a great assistant GM. He could have gained some very valuable experience under someone who has been there - even Neil Smith - but for now, he just makes me very nervous. He didn't do anything to dispell this during the draft when he passed on Luke Schenn. It will be interesting to see in a couple of years how the picks acquired for Schenn pan out, but they traded a pillar to get them.

So now Garth gets the opportunity to select his man. Personally, I'm hoping for Paul Maurice but whoever it is has some big shoes to fill. Ted Nolan made the Islanders far more competitive than most people thought they'd be. He was the type of coach who turns lemons into lemonade by knowing how to push the right buttons. He gave the Isles some much needed credibility and I'm really sorry to see him go.

I hope it doesn't take so long for Ted to get another shot at coaching in the NHL. He deserves it.