Wednesday, December 31, 2008

State of the Union(dale)

Well, at least things ended on an up note: a home victory with Jiggs McDonald doing the play-by-play (no--OK, some--offense to Howie Rose). And December is finally over.

The bad news is January might be just as bad. February and March aren't looking so hot either. April should at least be brief.

Yes, the season is not going well, even by rebuilding standards. But there are enough glimmers of hope around to at least keep me interested and marginally happy. And, as an Islanders fan, "marginally happy" is a beautiful thing. I'm not saying I'm rushing home to catch Islanders games just yet, but when I do get home and settle in, I don't get really angry. I haven't even had the urge to pick up anything close and throw it through the TV screen in the hopes that it hits either Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais since I don't know when. That's what we call progress.

So, yeah, anyway, let's take a look at the bright side (yeah, the bright side...why didn't those guys get their own show?):

First, Doug Weight is showing himself to be just the guy the Islanders need for rebuilding. He works hard every shift, leading by example, and seems to relish his role as an elder statesman on the roster. Plus, get this, he would like to stay in Long Island to play for the Islanders! Who knew God still made people like that? The cynic in me wants desperately to point out that all this means the Islanders will likely trade him at the deadline, but we're trying to kill the cynic in me and flush him out rectally. So here's hoping the Isles do the right thing and keep Weight around.

Second, the Okposo/Comrie/Comeau line's been looking good these last few games, and our Blessed Lord and Savior Okposo has looked particularly strong with the puck, which is encouraging. So that's nice.

Third, even the last two losses of the month--to Buffalo and the Rangers--showed the Isles playing with a little bit of spark, or at least about 450% more spark than they were showing throughout the month. So that's something.

Finally, well, I don't have a "finally" right now, so let's just dwell on those three things while we continue to think.

Anyway, 2008 (at least when it comes to hockey, lest you think we were moving toward some profound philosophical conclusion on global affairs...I assume that Jaroslav Falconerov and Sweet Fancy Moses are busy preparing that, explaining their absence here) was about as rough as I expected it would be. Sure, I thought there would be more than two wins in December, but sometimes my thoughts are wrong (so, so wrong). And if I wasn't OK with periods of deep despair, I would have denounced my Islanders fandom long ago. So I'm hunkered in for the long winter.

Every now and then, though, you can see that spark on the ice, see that the Isles haven't given up yet. And that makes it all--the constant mockery, the knowledge that it will be a slow turning--a little more palatable (which, for you Rangers fans having someone read this to you, is a big word that means "acceptable").

Keep hope alive. And your groins in playing shape.

Happy new year everybody. Happy birthday, Country Joe.

ADDENDUM: It seems that the Isles waived Mitch Fritz (Clap! Clap!) on Wednesday, which is, of course, sad news here on the Isle. With any luck, no one will pick him up and he and his quick-bleeding face can stay in the organization. But if this is good-bye, then, thanks for the memories, pal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heaven Must be Missing a Center

I’m going to take a page out of the Craig Carton playbook and start this drumbeat now if no one else has yet—John Tavares must be drafted if the Islanders get the opportunity. Sure, I just really found out about him because of that sweet goal in the World Junior Championships, but don’t act like you’ve been keeping a steady eye on his development with Oshawa. Besides, you can’t blame me for thinking about a juicy first overall pick at this point. So tell your Congressman, your friends, tell your ‘massage therapist’ that you want John Tavares in an Islander uni this time next year. Feel free to come up with a good, easy chant we can shout during Islander games… Oh, hell, it’s gonna be “We want Tavares! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!” no matter what clever thing we come up with. And if we friggin’ trade down again I have all of you to blame for not helping me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Canadian Double Standard

Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks honor one of the all-time good players in NHL history, Trevor Linden. And no, that’s not a typo. Trevor Linden was a good player. Nothing flashy. And yet, he’s treated like a god amongst the Canuck faithful and some of the Canadian media. And for what? He was a good ol’ Canadian boy playing for a Canadian team.

Look, I don’t want to take anything away from Trevor Linden. I really don’t have any issues with the Canucks retirement of his jersey. Here on Long Island I’m no stranger to a team reliving the past as a way to deflect attention from the present. But what does strike me about Linden was his ineffectiveness here on Long Island along with several other notable Canadian favorites.

And hell, who could blame them? There were more than a handful of reasons to be disappointed in playing for the Islanders. Things were a little different ten-plus years ago when these guys donned the fishsticks. ‘Financial crisis’ doesn’t quite capture the circus that was the time. One horrible year after another killed attendance in the Coliseum and after all, the bright lights of Nassau County aren’t exactly comparable to pretty much anywhere else.

Linden is not alone as far as former Islanders being honored in Canada. Wendel Clark was honored earlier this year by his Toronto Maple Leafs. And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone throws a party for Kirk Muller. These three have more in common than just playing for the Islanders but that they failed to live up to expectations. Each one was a little different, but they were part of a long chain of disappointments. What separates them from the pack, however, is the fact that these bleed-maple-syrup Canadian boys seemed to lack that same 110% they gave with their former Canadian teams.

But the fact remains that these players did not live up to their billing, regardless of what happened off the ice. Clark’s numbers dropped considerably when he was on the Island, Trevor Linden was prone to long slumps and the Kirk Muller incident finally torpedoed Don Maloney’s questionable GM tenure and launched Mike Milbury’s. But this was all glossed over by the hockey and Canadian media when covering these careers.

Now none of this would be a problem except for the insistence that men like these gave their all, night-in and night-out, unlike those without Canadian passports. And here in lies the Canadian double standard: Canadians highlight everyone else's problems and forgetting their own.

I have to disagree slightly with some of the Rev’s comments from earlier this year. Players from different countries are different. The truth is that Europeans grow up with a different view of the NHL than North Americans. They don't follow teams, they follow fellow countrymen. They do watch live broadcasts of the World Championship every year and come out en masse to see the finals in those tournaments. Their style is a little different because of the rules and rink size, etc. And when they play abroad, they may not have the same motivation--just like so many Canadians that have played on Long Island.

And then we see European players return home when they still have a few years left simply to play in front of their own people. So at the end of the day, Europeans come with some different values. It doesn’t make them soft but spending years living in a different country—check that a different continent—can’t be easy. Yet the NHL is full of Europeans leading in a variety of categories so they can’t be too much softer than their Canadian colleagues.

Look, the point is that the Canadian grizzled hockey machines are myths. Everyone’s human and has their hang-ups. So as our colder North American brethren salute their legends, remember that even they didn’t always have all that heart with which Don Cherry speaks so highly of. Or maybe I’m just a silly, na├»ve hockey fan from the US.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You know you're an Islanders fan when... have the thought "well, I just hope they don't give up 10" at least three times a year.

To be fair, when you play Pittsburgh, you know it's only a matter of time before Pascal Dupuis burns you.


On the bright side, um, well, hey, the Sound Tigers are doing pretty good!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Let the Adventure Begin

I am boring. Very boring. About a year and a half ago, I was being chased through the streets of a Transylvanian town by a Gypsy prostitute. Now I wear a tie and sit at a desk under florescent lights and make nice with the retired gentlemen at work. I’m not ready to go all “Frank’s Wild Years” but I could use a little spice. That’s where you, the many, many readers of this blog can help. I’m going to go somewhere and do something on the weekend of January tenth. I’d like people to think of a trip I can take somewhere in the name of hockey. Budget is very limited. After we get some (any) submissions, we’ll post some sort of poll. I’ll do whatever wins and document the trip. Feel free to add conditions or an itinerary. Hope this works.

And after thinking about it, this is a bit of a "Tinsel and Rot" rip off (check out Mr. Bad Example's blog on the left) but I don't care.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sign of the Times

Seems like everyone's getting laid off these days. I couldn't believe it when I saw that MSG Plus's power play clock lost it's job. I thought for sure it would have it's job locked up. I mean, power play clocks have been around forever, but apparently we're living in a new age where a simple clock is past it's usefulness. Not all is lost, however, because it was apparently important to flash the second period shot totals in the middle of the third when no one was talking about it. Anyway, I guess no one and nothing is safe in this economy.

At least MSG has kept things like this frequently updated Web site:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All is Dead

Completely, unforgivably off-topic, but if you have a few tens of millions of dollars you'd like to invest in a profitable business that might help your community and leave you with a clear conscience at night, buy your local Gannett newspaper and turn it into a vibrant, local, proud, snarling, pissy, exciting rag.

Those motherfuckers are finally pulling the guts out of the business they bled years ago, putting the ax to hundreds of reporters/editors/photogs across the country, most of whom had valiantly carried on despite being owned and manhandled by a company that hates news, can't get by on profits of 30-35 percent in some cases, and turned some decent newspapers into insufferably boring, stale, dry, gutted, cheap, soulless, lifeless, bloodless, gutless, lying! (life is exciting motherfuckers! but it certainly isn't presented that way by your local Gannett paper) sacks of fish wrap shit.

I know some really good people who have done excellent work at Gannett papers, despite the ridiculous over-management, shitty pay, shitty benefits, where's the union? hours, etc. Today I think of them, and I think of the business I entered at 19, smoking an unfiltered Lucky Strike, full of a lot of shit, but right there on the streets, reporting. And I've left that behind. Wisely, as I have a family to feed and clothe.

The Internet is not going to kill news. And I'm not even certain it killed Gannett. But they would like you to believe it.

If I were a millionaire, my ass would be buying a small paper today.