They All Stink
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 he should do with the change left in his pocket to fill out the Sound Tigers roster.
(Kevin Poulin/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)
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.
At least two of the forwards that earned the Bridgeport Sound Tigers their first AHL Divisional Championship banner in ten years, will start next season on Long Island. My money is on David Ullstrom to be a lock for one of these openings. A pure sniper from anywhere on the ice, I have seen very few skaters his size (and growing) move the puck so well in traffic, this kid has game and unlimited potential. Beyond that the pool is extremely deep and rich with talent. The long years of rebuilding are paying off and paying off in spades. Casey Cizikas gets a lot of nods as one, who with two years left on his entry-level deal, has already shown that he is NHL ready and I don’t think that another year in the AHL is necessary for his development.
Free agent forwards that may be re-signed to compete for an opening include Rhett Rahkshani, a gifted skater and scorer that never takes a game or a shift off. Traded or re-signed, some club will be happy with his production. Another forward with a huge amount of talent is Justin DiBenedetto. I have never met a player who gets more true enjoyment out of playing hockey than ‘DiBo’. Willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice to work a puck out of the corner, Justin can often be found in front of the net taking the punishment that comes with being in position to force a rebound or deflection in the net. The free agent list also includes Micheal Haley, Trevor Frischmon, Trevor Gillies, Tomas Marcinko, Trevor McNeely, Yannick Riendeau and Long Islands own Tony Romano (pictured above with Rakhshani/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII). This will be a very interesting summer and training camp.
The Sound Tigers are apt to lose two blue-liners this summer as well, and you can color Matt Donovan gone. D-men have always been my favorite players to watch and I have never seen better than Matt. Defensemen usually take longer to develop than other skaters, that is not the case with Mr. Donovan. He will be a top-two, blue-liner from the day he first laces them up, until the day he retires, he’s just that good. Fellow TCL-Isles writer, Anatoliy Metter's recent offering The Deep Blue "D", gives a nice prospective on defensive prospects in the system, do yourself a favor and give it a read. Either, Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan or Mark Katic could also join Donovan on the island next season. Each would be a strong contender for a full time job on any team in the NHL and one of those three will probably make it out of camp. So much for my assumptions and some of my opinions on players who are already being paid for with CW's folding money. Time to invest the remaining change.
The recent signing of Blair Riley to a new pro- contract was en excellent step in the right direction as I noted in my post Life With Riley. That signing will help fill the void left at forward, and to fill the void at the blue-line with the loss of Donovan and a player-to-be-named after training camp, I would like to see Steve Oleksy return to the organization.
Defensemen are judged more by what they do on the ice than the numbers they put up on the board. The picture to the left, (Photo by Pope Steve XXVII) shows Steve scoring his only goal of the season against Whale net- minder Cam Talbot of the 'Whalepack'. His year end numbers were 1 goal, 14 assists and 98 penalty minutes playing to a plus 16 in fifty games. By comparison, first year pro and first round pick Calvin de Haan had 2 goals, 14 assists and 24 penalty minutes and a minus 1 in 56 games.
It is never just the numbers. Oleksy brings grit and leadership with him every night. His penalty minutes are inflated by the number of fighting majors he received. Rarely the instigator, Steve would fight when necessary and not back down when challenged. He was the heart of the team last season and what a team it was. The only suggestion I would make is that he and Blair Riley swap numbers. Riley, who wore #5 last year should be wearing a forwards number like the #15 on Oleksy's back. Oleksy would be better suited with the traditional defenders #5, the same number he wears during the summer in the Eastside Elite Hockey league he created and runs in the off-season. Just one mans opinion.
It is promising to be a memorable off-season and a very exciting and challenging summer camp. Keep up with all the opinions offered at The Checking Line - Isles edition this summer and get ready for Hoctober, which reminds me. In keeping with a promise I made last Movember in support of Matt Moulson's Moulstache campaign, I have a certain procedure to schedule.