There was likely a reason that Islanders RFA's Rhett Rakhshani, Mark Katic and Justin DiBenedetto opted for Europe before being tendered their qualifying offers by GM Garth Snow. A potential lockout is looming that could delay or even cancel the 2012-2013 season and these young prospects still need to play in order to continue their development.
There is only 24 days left for the NHLPA and the owners to reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement or the season will be locked out, likely forcing a later start date than October 11th.
Hockey fans can look back to the 2004-2005 season that was entirely scrapped from a lockout due to disagreements on a new CBA between the NHLPA and the owners.
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?
My friends and co-workers have been very concerned about me lately. None of them have come forward to ask if I was okay, but I can sense it. It is not that I had become quiet or withdrawn because I have always been quiet, preferring to listen rather than talk, ‘eavesdropping on silence’ is what my dad called it. But they were treating me with kid gloves as if I had suffered a loss.
The hockey season had come to an end and they were worried about what I would do without hockey. Let me assure all of my good friends, that this is just the quiet before the storm, a brief break before the immensely tense fortnight that precedes every season.
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.
It almost seems like it's been the same story heading into the off-season year after year now; the Isles lack a top-six forward and top-four defenseman that could help make them a competitive team that could be fighting for a playoff spot.
They've tried free agency and have been shot down by guys like Paul Martin. They tried the trade market with James Wisniewski, who ended up being a major disappointment while wearing orange and blue. They even tried that route once more, gaining the negotating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. He didn't want to sign, and I think after seeing how he played under his very luxurious contract, most Isles fans probably don't care.
Although both trades were under different circumstances, they shared one glaring similarity. Not one of them involved any actual players leaving the Island. Ehrhoff's rights were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, and Wisniewski came on board in exchange for a 2011 second round pick and conditional 2012 fifth round pick. Despite the early signs of GM Garth Snow developing a pattern, there is reason to believe that could change heading into this summer's off-season.
This was a season like no other. From its quick start to its abrupt ending it was unique. In season’s past, after mini-camp, the team would form early in September and begin getting ready for the upcoming year. Practice, photo-shoots, training, find lodging, practice, training, media day, practice, training, meet and greet, practice, training. After two weeks, a pre-season game or two and the season is at the doorstep. Not this year.
The team stayed on Long Island until the last minute, perhaps to give the new coaching staff the training and practice that they needed with the Islanders systems. Whatever the reason, the normal two plus weeks was compressed to a few days. The routine remained the same, but with little time on hand the players were getting up at six in the morning to look for housing before heading to practice, training, etc. Condos and houses rented, friendships that will last for years were made and the season began. And a great season it would be, a banner season by all standards.
Watching the Masters today, we all saw 5-foot putts missed that we could have made. Bubba Watson’s 10-inch winner, a ‘gimme’ on most public links, earned him his first major and the coveted ‘Green Jacket.’ I started to think of other sports where in my prime (forty plus years ago) I could have been a difference maker or game winner.
I have little doubt that I could kick the extra point to win a Super Bowl. I would imagine you feel the same. I am also certain that I could sink the game winning free-throw in an NCAA or NBA Championship game. We see evidence of this every year when somebody wins a scholarship or cash for tossing one in from half-court. Could I score the winning run in the 7th game of baseballs World Series? Most definitely. As the designated runner coming in to score from third base after a sacrifice fly, I could probably do that today. Could I score the ‘gamer’ in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Not on your life. Scoring a goal in hockey is the most difficult accomplishment in sports.
Luck is a cruel mistress who will leave you in the middle of the night to lay with another. Welcomed when this lady arrives the only thing you can count on is her infidelity. It won’t be luck that wins the Bridgeport Sound Tigers the Northeast Division championship. That will only come with work, effort and commitment. Sixty minutes of work every game, 100% effort on each shift and a total commitment to the teams systems and each other.
Tuesday night, in a surprising win against the Worcester Sharks, the team regained some of its’ swagger from earlier in the year. The Tigers did not show up for the first period. Back skating after missing six games due to a shoulder injury, forward Kael Mouillierat was quoted by Mike Fornabaio in his Connecticut Post game review as saying “We just sat there watching. We let them take it to us.” And take it to them they did.