Islanders: Thoughts on the Cusp of a New Season
Some final thoughts as the Islanders get ready to open the season Friday night at New Jersey, a team they somehow dominated a year ago:
Good to hear that Chris Lee is OK after being boarded by Rostislav Olesz Monday night. Always scary to see that, and it's why boarding penalties need to be enforced even more strictly than they are now. The league will suspend a player a dozen games or more for swinging his stick, but slamming someone into the boards from behind -- which can do serious damage, including paralysis -- draws far less punishent. Never made sense to me.
It was a bit surprising to see Josh Bailey on the opening-night roster, but why not have him show the coaching staff and the fans what he's got? It will be fairly clear within a week or so if he's ready or not. If not, then within nine games he can go back and captain his junior team. If he lights it up, keep him around. This team can use some juice.
Michael Farber at SI.com has a column this week that calls out the NHL for thinking about expanding into Europe. It's ridiculous, he says, and I agree. What is the point? Why create more teams and water down the product in North America -- you know the top Euros would jump at the chance to play closer to home -- nevermind the obvious logistical problems of playing games across the pond.
I don't even like the idea of playing season-opening games overseas, regardless of the sport. But the NHL in particular should focus on the fans it has than worrying about picking up more fans across the globe. Forget globalization. Embrace hockey as the great niche sport that it is.
I hesitate to even mention the column by Newsday's Johnette Howard because it only serves to give it the attention it doesn't deserve. But I can't help myself (I won't link to it -- if you still want to read it after this, be my guest). It's the typical, poorly researched, kick-someone-while-he's-down, easy pot shot column that Wallace Matthews has mastered.
It hasn't been that long that the Isles haven't made the playoffs (and you could argue that injuries aside the team would have had a shot last season), but you wouldn't know it by reading this drivel. Columnists like Howard and Matthews only serve to assure me that I did the right thing when I canceled my Newsday subscription. You ain't missing much, at least if you're an Islanders fan.
Speaking of the low road, it was good to see that Ryan Hollweg was suspended for the first two games of the season for picking up his third boarding and game misconduct penalties in the last 41 games. The guy is a cheap shot artist and hopefully won't be in the league much longer.
It pained me to see Hollweg labeled the victim when Chris Simon hacked him in the face (Simon was wrong, no doubt), only because Hollweg has been one of the dirtiest players in the league for some time and in that case got a taste of his own medicine. Hollweg's specialty, it seems, is boarding, and we know how I feel about that.
And so the blog comes full circle. You're welcome!
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