Isles Files: Inching Closer To The Season

Last time I checked in the Islanders had announced Mark Streit as the teams’ 13th captain in NHL history while another arena proposal had been put forth and published in Newsday. It’s safe to say that plenty has changed since then.

As far as arena news, the task force formed by the Association for a Better Long Island decided not to submit their plans for renovating the Coliseum. Too many disagreements from within the group forced the task force to dismantle. However, individual members will be submitting their ideas to County Executive, Ed Mangano this week.

Mangano has also recently stated that he plans on asking for state funds to help provide financial support for a new Nassau Coliseum. Mangano isn’t looking for the state to fund the total project, but somewhere around $200 million with the other required money coming from a private investor. Governor Andrew Cuomo is not expected to make any decisions on funding projects until December. And even then, if the answer is yes, things turn back to Nassau County. These politicians better start working their tails off.

But back to hockey…

With training camp and pre-season dwindling towards the end, the Islanders have made five changes to the line-up by placing Trevor Frischmon, Tomas Marcinko, Tim Wallace, Dylan Reese and Ty Wishart on waivers on Wednesday. All five went unclaimed and will report to Bridgeport at the end of camp. They are currently still practicing with the Islanders.

Of the mentioned above, Wishart is the only true standout player that most fans will be hoping to see work his way up into the Islanders roster. Many will remember he is the defenseman that the Islanders acquired in the Roloson trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hopefully a solid start with the Sound Tigers will do him some good; all of these trades (from San Jose, to Tampa to the Islanders) and constant call-ups and demotions might have set him back in his development a bit, and Wishart has been considered as a top d-prospect. A lot of playing time with the Sound Tigers couldn’t hurt.

Now I must inform you all that this blog had initially been written yesterday, predicting Steve Staios to stick around with the Islanders. But then the computer crashes, I decide to wait until today to do a re-write, and BOOM! Staios has signed a one-year deal for $800K with bonuses going up to $1.2 mil (and $1.6 mil if they win the Cup).  The signing became a no-brainer. Staios brings another veteran presence to the roster that will prevent the Islanders from rushing rookie defenseman into the line-up and out of Bridgeport to early. Milan Jurcina is still day-to-day with a groin strain and although guys like Aaron Ness, Matt Donovan and Calvin de Haan have looked impressive in camp, having an extra set of experienced hands on the blue line is more assuring, especially for a team pushing for the playoffs. The younger guys are better off spending a year with the team’s AHL-affiliate at this stage of their development. de Haan will likely be the only defenseman to push his way into the line-up before the season is over (hopefully, barring another season with 25346246 man-games lost to injury).

The final changes will be made by the end of the weekend as head coach Jack Capuano will have to trim down his roster to only 23 players. The only spot really left up for grabs is one on the bottom six. With Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau as the team’s first line, Grabner-Nielsen-Okposo as the second, Comeau-Bailey-Niederreiter complete the third and Rolston-Reasoner-Gillies/Haley round out the fourth,  (all of these line predictions are based on last year’s roster and what’s been seen in camp thus far). That leaves Matt Martin as the odd-man out, but you have to assume he’ll be penciled in as a regular on the fourth line over Gillies before he gets his call to dress. But with 14 forwards, seven defenseman and three goaltenders, Capuano will have to decide who to send down to Bridgeport. Fortunately for Capuano, all three of Haley, Gillies and Martin give him that availability with two-way contracts.

The only player that is not mentioned so far is Jay Pandolfo, who is still with the team on a tryout basis. But with the current log jam at forward that is seen above and Staios beind added to the roster, there just does not seem to be a need for Pandolfo’s services at this time in a full-time role. We will see whether or not the Islanders feel the same way very soon.

The only last minute hopefuls are Ryan Strome and the aforementioned de Haan. Strome has been fun to watch out there, but he’s also a little hard to see – well, he’s rather small. Another year of Junior hockey will help him improve in all three zones while also giving him the chance to bulk up. He would be forced to play against bigger, faster opponents in the NHL and someone of his size would be better off playing against equal opposition when comparing stature.

In other news…

The members of the Blog Box had a conference call this afternoon in preparation of the upcoming season. I’m very much looking forward to heading back to the press-box and meeting back up with some other very talented bloggers and writers for what should be a very exciting season.

In fact, I got started with talking Islanders hockey today with Kevin Dexter and Anthony Barra of WRHU Hofstra Radio on 88.7 FM. Dee Karl of HockeyBuzz, Anthony Stabile of Hockey Independent, Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey and myself were all taped at different times for an upcoming show. I talked with the guys about potential line combinations, the goaltending situation, what changed for the team last year, and other topics that were fun to discuss. You will all be the first to know once I am told when the show will air.

-Rob McGowan

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