Monday, February 18, 2008

Watching Hockey -- With the Third Eye

Apologies for my absence. I spent most of last week in the throes of seasonal malaise, but came out of the dark this weekend to score five goals down the stretch of an exciting ball hockey game at my home rink, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and guided the NHL 08 Islanders to an eerily similar-to-life 4-1 victory over the eerily, equally despondent Atlanta Thrashers (video game shot totals: 42-16; real-life, 49-10).

The home of TC3 Panthers Ball Hockey

I didn't see the big Islanders' victory, but felt a kinship with the club after pasting the video Thrashers, and then downing a few Labatts at a Binghamton Senators game with Islanders fan and legendary Binghamton journalist/guitar picker Diamond Dave Edick. We took the Senators game as occasion to catch up on a year's worth of bullshit talk, and wound up taking in a decent game. As is usual with our catch-up sessions, we did an off-the-cuff rundown of most of the Isles' roster, and, as usual, we agreed on nearly every player's contributions and/or lack thereof.

A reasonably brief summary:

1. Chris Simon: Yeah yeah, we don't condone ... on and on ... but it's hard to argue that players on opposing squads aren't just a little frightened of this guy. Who did you fear more in your schoolyard days: The legitimate playground enforcer you knew you'd never fight, and who would probably laugh at your ass as it ran away from him were he ever to threaten you, or the greezy, poorly raised, wiry, pimpled metalhead (apologies to Dave, a great fan and purveyor of the Metal Ethic) who would kidney punch you during a game of Wallball and walk past your Math class flipping a switchblade in the window?

2. MAB and Berard: If only we were playing football, these two special-teams designees might be near-folk legends on the Isle. But alas, their weaknesses (especially for the wayward MAB) are too much to ignore for a team that needs scoring, but gets so little, the balance at this point must tilt toward the less-than-constantly mistake prone. Even during his Look at MAB! Look at MAB! trade showcase period last week, the little slapshot that could (miss 15 fucking defensive shifts in a row) was ghost. Oh well. Put them on the "chances we took that didn't pan out" list.

3. Richard Park: You need a guy like this to make the playoffs. You also need a few other things the Isles don't have (goals). But Park scores at the right times, does smart things with the puck, and makes Mr. Bad Example feel relaxed. That's worth something.

4. Ruslan Fedotenko/Josef Vasicek: Paging Oleg Kvasha. I put these guys together because I thought they'd be the same type of player. They are. But, I thought they might be the same type of good. They aren't. Honestly, I don't know what Joe Vasicek looks like, which means I have something in common with every goalie in the NHL. Fedotenko seems to "be around" once a month or so. I was a little startled to hear from him last week after he scored a goal (Deb was wearing a nice red, off-the-shoulder "mom's into the wine" sweater). He said, to some effect, that Coach Nolan told him to go to the net more to score goals. I've been yelling that at video game sprites since the early 90s. It works.

5. Bill Guerin: Was hoping for a Brendan Shanahan-sort of late-career makeover. I think Guerin is trying his godshonest best to do that, but, much like Shanahan, he needs other people around him doing the heavy lifting, so to speak. And, well, you know. I like Sean Bergenheim and Mike Comrie, but it ain't happenin'.

6. Mike Comrie: You can't complain. He's having one of his best seasons, and doesn't seem to be a prick, which is what the Canadians wanted you to think about him. He toasted Wade Redden a few times in Ottawa; he fights once in awhile, even though he looks like a freshman taking on the captain of the football team; and he at least tries to make things happen. If he stays cheap, I don't see why you can't keep him.

7. Miro Satan: Either he's hurt, out of gas completely, or, well, he seems like too nice a guy to write what I was going to write. Let's just say he's out of gas. He doesn't make me nearly as crazy as I thought he would when he was signed, but he's also never really become the finisher he was in Buffalo. I am not from Western Canada or Lou Lamoriello's family, so I can stomach a few defensive lapses, but the lack of scoring is disappointing. What else can you say? I don't think there's a magic line combo that's going to turn it around for Satan.

8. Sean Bergenheim: Yes yes. On track to be a reliable, cranky second-line crasher. He's got some oh!ffensive skill, too.

9. Trent Hunter: This makes me want to cry. Score a fucking goal. He looks enough like Dave Scatchard, and used to play enough like him, I thought we'd be getting Scatch without the one-punch knockouts and bum shoulder. Instead, we got 8 goals in 59 games (credit for the 31 points, sure, but he used to score ...). I don't have a solution here, either, that doesn't involve me screaming "go to the front of the fucking net" at my television. And I've got kids, so maybe you should try. All together now ... .

10. Brendan Witt: Considering the alternative used to be Dumbass Eric Cairns, and is now Andy "$3 million a year" Sutton, Witt comes out a winner. He's The Presence, and plays reasonably sound defence, although Dave and I agreed "he looks like he's always fighting the stupid."

11. Sillinger and DeePee: Nothing to say. They're both playing out of their minds (or will be when Silly is back), and the Isles would be in Grand Rapids without them. Huzzah.

12. The Rest of Them: We missed a few. Especially on defense. But, the Islanders are on my Internets radio right now, playing the rare afternoon game.

More later ... .

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