After my freshman year of college my parents, just like everyone else’s, were on my case about getting a part-time summer job to get me out of the house. Of course I was looking around for jobs but I couldn’t find much, my sister on the other hand had been working for the Islanders in Game Ops and her boss at the time told her that he had an opening to be one of the Sparky the Dragons.
Say what you want about being a mascot, but it was so much fun and because I took that job that summer it enabled me to get the internship in Bridgeport and through these two experiences I have had to honor to meet many players, most who are great guys but some stand out more than others.
Here is my list of the top five players that were not only good hockey players but, they are guys that you want to root for.
You couldn't have been more wrong if you predicted the Islanders to take a forward in this year's draft. The Isles only selected defenseman out of all seven rounds of this year's draft. They also acquired the top four defenseman that GM Garth Snow has continuously talked about addressing in this off-season.
The first move came when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Islanders traded their 2013 second round pick to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky, a 35-year old defenseman (he turns 36 in August) in the final year of his contract. Visnovsky put up six goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 68 games last year with the Ducks. The year before was even better as the Ducks d-man scored 61 points in 81 games. 2012 was a tough year overall for the Ducks, so there's reason to believe that Visnovsky can be an offensive weapon, especially on the power play.
The New York Islanders rounded out their defensive core on Friday when they traded a second round pick from 2013 to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky will be entering the final year of his deal and will be possibly be a free agent when the 2013 off-season rolls around, but giving up a second rounder for a solid defenseman was worth the gamble for GM Garth Snow. (BridgetDS/Flickr)
Visnovsky provides the Isles with a veteran puck-moving defenseman and gives New York the top four d-man that they needed going into the 2012-2013 NHL season. Some might look at the trade with a furrowed eyebrow as the Islanders already had a puck moving defenseman in Mark Streit, but the move actually adds some depth to the defense and puts more accountability on a defensive group that isn't dominated by veterans such as Jurcina, Staios, Mottau, and Eaton. Much like Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky is no stranger to play in the offensive zone as he has tallied 450 points in his hockey career, and 221 of those points have come with the man-advantage.
The addition of Visnovsky can definitely help the Islanders with their defensive woes as the defenseman can block his fair share of shots and throw his body around a bit as well. While Mark Streit handled the bulk of the power-play quarterbacking duties, Lubomir Visnovsky will take some much needed pressure off of New York's blue-liners, especially Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. It is yet to be seen how the Islanders will deal with up and coming prospects such as Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, and Matt Donovan, but the player( that might be recalled this season could learn a thing or two from the veteran defenseman. Visnovsky has a +32 rating for his career and doesn't seem to take too many penalties, so the trade makes sense from a variety of standpoints.
What is going on with the Islanders and their prospects? Rhett Rakhshani has signed a one-year deal with HV71 in Sweden, Justin DiBenedetto is on his way to Austria and Mark Katic is going to Germany. Granted Trevor Gillies also signed to play in Russia but he was never going to see the NHL again and I think we can all agree on that. What does this mean for the players and the Islanders as an organization?
Milford, CT is a typical blue-collared New England town. Like many, it has its’ green (the second largest in New England), a rich Revolutionary War history (Liberty Rock) and the strip malls, auto dealerships and struggling franchises that dot the Rte. 1 landscape from Maine to Florida. Milford is also the home of Schick, BIC, Subway, PEZ (actually nearby Orange, CT) and a guy named Jonathan Quick. It is also the winter home of most of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In the photo (Wikipedia/Benutzer:makemake) you see an aerial view of the Milford harbor. The ubiquitous island, top center, is Charles Island, a bird sanctuary and well-known sight to most Sound Tigers players. The players often rent beach cottages along the stretch of beach facing the island during the winter months and for good reason. Many of these homes demand $1800 per week and more during the summer months, off-season these same homes are available for a small fraction of that amount. This is where they pool their resources and form what can best be described as ‘frat-houses’ where life long friendships are born. In April of 2010, after being abducted, I was given a personal tour of one.
My first hockey hero was the ‘Rocket’. Young and driven by numbers, it was always the most goals, most home runs, or the most of just about anything that would gain my interest. That all changed in the mid to late sixties, when a defenseman from Parry Sound, Ontario changed the game of hockey. While Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadians was responsible for adding the phrase ‘offensive defenseman’ to the hockey lexicon, it would be ten years later that a young Bobby Orr not only defined the phrase and gave it flesh, he also changed the way I watched the game. I became a fan of the men working the blue line.
A lot has been written recently about shot blocking in the NHL. This is nothing new to the game, as Rob McGowan points out in his latest offering, ‘The Value of Andrew MacDonald’, but I still have trouble understanding what would posses a person to do it. How can the brain that tells a body when to inhale and exhale to support life tell that same body to position itself in front of a shot and endanger it? Then I remember when I was fifteen years old, positioning myself in in the line of fire of skeet shooters to make a day of fishing more fun.
Andrew MacDonald might be considered a player that flew under the radar for many teams. After all, he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry draft primarily because Ted Nolan was currently the head coach and had worked with him previously with the Moncton Wild Cats of the QMJHL. Had MacDonald been without a connection to the New York Islanders organization, the team very well might not have drafted him.
Since joining the Islanders organization, A-Mac has become one of the top-four blue liners on this young team for a number of reasons. Although he would like to improve his offensive input from the back end, something he did very well while with the Wild Cats (he score 58 points in 2007), his shot blocking has been an invaluable asset.
When it rains, it pours; that has been the mantra of the New York Islanders this weekend. Yesterday the Isles let up six goals in a loss to the Boston Bruins that mathematically eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Today, they continued their struggling ways in a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, who were without both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
"It was pretty horrible on our part. They were missing two of their top players and we couldn't take advantage of it. The way we played, we didn't deserve to win, that's for sure," said Islanders captain Mark Streit after the game. He would be the only Islander to be credited with a goal tonight with a John Tavares pass going off of his skate and behind Senators net-minder Craig Anderson.
Another late game collapse brings heart break to many Islanders fan. The Islanders held a 3 goal lead with just over a period left in the game and still managed to lose in the game in a shoot out. (Photo Credit Flickr/ Clydeorama)
The Islanders gave up a late two goal lead and lose to the Capitals in overtime. The game was mostly back and forth but in the end the Islanders didn’t finish the game the way they needed to in order to win.
The new lines seemed to be working out as the Islanders were first to strike in the first period when Josh Bailey made a few great moves to get to the net and bury a shot. The goal was Bailey’s 7th of the season and was assisted by Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald. This gave the Islanders an early lead and the hope that they could take the Capitals off their game early. A sore spot of the Islanders coming into this game was their penalty kill, which was only 12-20 in their last six games. It was tested twice in the first period when Kyle Okposo took two-minutes for high sticking at 5:21 and not too much later at 10:23 Steve Staios got two-minutes for hooking. The Islanders were able to withstand the pressure from the Capitals and kill off both penalties. The first period was largely dominated by the Capitals as they outshot the Islanders 13-3.