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 It is not that I had become quiet or withdrawn because I have always been quiet, preferring to listen rather than talk, ‘eavesdropping on silence’ is what my dad called it.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.
To paraphrase an old adage; ‘An opinion is like a proctologists playground, everyone has one … and they all stink.’
With the NHL season ending and the draft just two weeks away, anyone who follows the sport of hockey will read or hear many opinions offered on what their favorite teams’ needs are, who to draft and which free agents should be pursued. It’s just fun to spend other peoples’ money.
So once Mr. Wang is done spending his folding money on NHL players’ contracts, let me offer my opinion on what should he should do with the change left in his pocket.
An opinion is only as good as the assumptions it is built on. So here are some of the things I will assume (with ‘ass-u-me’ being another obvious rectal reference), before I offer my opinions. This summers’ Islanders training camp will be a very competitive one at all positions. There will be a battle for back-up goalie between Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. The loser of this battle will become the Sound Tigers top tender for the 2012-13 season and prove himself a winner. (Kevin Poulin/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)
At the end of the season in 2006 or 07, Jeremy Colliton cleaned out his locker and headed home. He had a long drive ahead going from Bridgeport, CT to Blackie, AB. Twitter was not created until March of ’06 and didn’t launch until that July but Facebook was available and Jeremy used it to chronicle his long drive home. His periodic status updates about which George Strait song he was listening to, or how he could not wait for the taste of Canadian beef, eased the pain that I and other hockey fans experience when the season ends. Today it’s Twitter that provides that catharsis.
Several of this years’ Sound Tigers club use twitter and most posted something about their journey. It was obvious from reading each of them that, though sad to leave, they were happy to be home. Kevin Poulin said he was glad to have some ‘home cooking’ and wished teammates Rhett Rakhshani (driving solo to California) and David Ullstrom (flying home to Sweden) well. Ullstrom was in touch with both Casey Cizikas and Trevor Frischmon about having them come to visit him over the summer. John Persson (remember this kids’ name) also from Sweden did not return home. He instead returned to his Canadian billet family in Red Deer, Alberta where he has the most adorable five(?) year-old blonde alarm clock.
On Friday the 13th, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Providence Bruins 4 to 1 clinching the teams first Division Championship in ten years. Steve Oleksy posted a tweet minutes later that captures it all.
“Teammates come and go but banners last forever. @TheSoundTigers clinched the division tonight. It’s only a step!! #longwaytogo “.
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.
The first annual ‘Suite Seat Competition’, sponsored by The Checking Line – Isles Edition was a huge success at every level. Any time you can make a six-year old happy you had a good day and Justin Juliano (whose father Joseph was our Grand Prize Winner) never stopped smiling. An hour before game time and the Webster Bank Arena concourse was already getting crowded as our groups VIP tour began. Artfully led by my personal account rep. Maddie Gillan, we navigated through the crowds to the seldom seen areas of the arena as she explained how they each come together to produce a circus, concert or other of the many events held at the arena. We were there for the game between the Connecticut Whale and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and ended our tour in suite 417, our home for the afternoon.
There are just 12 hours left in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers regular season. Twelve hours where each twenty-minute period will be played with intensity. In my most recent post, I stated that I did not expect the team to return to the arena on Monday March 25th in first place, and they won’t. Did I expect them to lose each of the last five games? I did not, but it happened. Is the team out of the hunt for a divisional title? Not by a long shot.
In a late night tweet following Wednesday’s shut out loss to the Binghamton Senators, Rhett Rakhshani posted “Tough stretch for the tigers. Sometimes you learn and grow the most from the tough times. We will turn this ship around!”. While the ‘boat’ reference brings to mind Captain Ahab’s Peqoud sunk by a Connecticut Whale, the Titanic destroyed by the St. Johns Ice Caps or Captain Quint’s boat Orca devoured by a Worcester Shark in the movie ’Jaws’, I share his optimism.
The team is missing some weapons at the moment. Call-ups, injuries and a suspension will keep David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas, Jeremy Colliton and Michael Haley from lighting the goal light for a bit longer. Led by Rakhshani and a net crashing Justin DiBenedetto (pictured/Photo by Pope Steve XXLIV) there are plenty of weapons left in the arsenal and new ones arriving almost daily.