Be still my heart. As training camp opens, the first signs that Newsday is actually ramping up coverage have emerged. Sure, it's early, but it's nice to see them, over the past couple days, covering multiple angles before a regular veteran has even set skate to ice. Any guesses on how long it lasts?
To that point, although the Islanders roster was just about "set" with all the players they have signed and the seven D-men they have on one-way contracts, this camp will still be teeming with storylines. To wit:
(In honor of Radiohead's incredible summer tour, some lyrics to introduce each topic)A jigsaw falling into place / So there is nothing to explain ("Jigsaw Fallng into Place")New coach Scott Gordon is serious.
So serious, the team won't be repeating the time-honored tradition of intrasquad scrimmages
-- he wants the time to teach his system and hardwire it to the brains of each player. Players will soon learn what former P-Bruin Ben Walter already knows:
Gordon's is a system that emphasizes forechecking, defensive diligence, and the soon-to-be-legendary (or infamous) "overspeed." Gordon's proven young players hungry for a job can learn this; this season's success likely depends on whether the veterans get on board
.Trapped in this body and I can't get out ("Bodysnatchers")The Islanders' NHL roster is not totally young, and not all that healthy.
You're pardoned if you suspect the Isles fell prey to a package deal with a hip surgery salesman in Colorado. (I hope they didn't order the truecoat.) Turns out Mike Comrie was paparazzi'd on crutches this summer because he, too, had hip surgery
. Not as involved as Mike Sillinger's, not as pivotal as Rick DiPietro's, but hip surgery nonetheless, on a player whose game depends on agility. Captain Bill Guerin is also returning from (shoulder) surgery; half the defensive corps finished last season on the shelf. Who's nagging recovery becomes the cause for sub-par production all season before they are reshelved?Destiny, hold my hand, protect me from the world ("Anyone Can Play Guitar")
Kyle Okposo has nine games of NHL experience. But by all accounts, at 20, already a good head rests on his shoulders.
His entry-level deal kicks in now. The factors affecting the value of his next deal begin calculating in October. There will be ups and downs; I imagine his ceiling is a great second-line winger or a dependable first-line winger with scoring punch and physical presence. But that is TBD. I'm tempering my expectations here, hoping the Isles do the same and guide him carefully through inevitable streaks and slumps.Infrastructure will collapse, voltage spikes ("House of Cards")Speaking of injuries, D, and youth...
As mentioned, the Isles have seven D-men on NHL contracts. That does not include Jack Hillen, who went from completing four years of NCAA play to a home-and-home series versus the Rangers. Welcome, kid. Hillen, not big but very poised, has the type of vision and passing that would seem to fit Gordon's system well. He's already receiving praise for adapting to that system quickly
. If push comes to shove, does Hillen make the team? Would the Isles actually waive or demote one of last year's regulars? Magical injuries may intervene.I only stick with you because there are no others ("All I Need")What do we have in goal for the non-DP 25% of the season?
The Isles pledge to reduce Rick DiPietro's workload -- this time, before they're forced by injury to do so. Even though DP, true to form, insists he wants to play every game. We know that Joey MacDonald is Dubie's default replacement. But how will he do? His record
is ... incomplete. It's taken him a long while to get to this moment. But it's not his fault he was stuck in the system of the NHL's most successful club of the last 15 years. That could be a bad thing (Roman Turek?), or a good thing (Tim Thomas?).How come I end up where I started? ("15 Step")
Real camp starts Saturday. Let the stories and intrigue begin!