Splintered Blades, 9-26-08

Back to on-ice hockey now, with some assorted this and thats:

1. Mike of Islesblogger.com has a look at where the blueline offense will come from under Scott Gordon's system. Included is a note about offense from unexpected places, plus -- do we have an Islesblogger Guarantee?! -- a forecast for DOUBLE the goals from the Islander blueline. Given the way Gordon seems to be a guy with a suddenly much better toolbox to play with at the NHL level (as if he's thinking, "Wow, ALL of my guys can make and receive passes!"), I have hope that Islesblogger's projection comes true.

2. Greg Logan updates on Friday's light day in Islanders camp. Gordon says Yann Denis wasn't at fault in the 4-0 loss to Philadelphia. And Logan, if I've read it right, has narrowed the picture on Jeff Tambellini's injury from "below the neck" to now "lower body." Which I assume means below the waist (hey, HEY, keep it clean here). Grief. Should be a fun season, injury-wise. In other news, I'm a fan of a team who finished in the "lower half" of the 30 teams last year. I also root for a team "east of the Rockies." On the next Islanders fan survey I get, I'm telling them I see "between 1 and 80 games per year." (Sorry to belabor the point.)

3. Islanders360 hits on two points I fervently agree with: 1) We missed Jon Sim last year more than we -- and league-wide pundits -- realized; 2) If Gordon's scheme produces more shots, the Isles will still need to bump up their shooting/finishing percentage. We'll need some pure sniping; shots that truly "beat" an already-set goalie rather than just shots that get by based on positioning and traffic. I actually think Mike Sillinger is one of the guys who's capable of sniping shots past the goalie, but his hip rehab worries me terribly.

4. Finally, a nice feature on Kyle Okposo at NHL.com. Most huff-and-puff rec players -- except those who think someone, somewhere robbed them of their rightful spot in the NHL -- marvel at the steep upgrade in speed and skill that accompanies each ascending level of hockey. There are guys in my league/pick-up games who amaze me, and it's both humbling and awing to think that they couldn't hold a water bottle at the lowest semi-pro minor league. To that end, the feature on Kyle Okposo includes this quote, a nice bit of insight for any fan but particularly for the huff-and-puffers [italics are my emphasis]:
"It helped a lot (playing in the AHL first)," he said. "If I had come straight from college to the NHL it would have been a bit of a tougher adjustment. The guys are so much bigger and stronger up in the NHL, and the game is even more controlled, which is unbelievable. That's the most unbelievable thing I found, defensemen are just so much smarter up there, smarter with their sticks. They don't do as much but they feel like they're covering more ground, so playing in the AHL helped me a lot."
I like that italicized point. Economy of movement -- including maintaining a position that is psychologically threatening to the forward -- is one of those traits of grade-A defensemen that is harder to observe and impossible to capture in stats. It's not just about covering a forward; it's about making a forward think he's covered when you don't have him and, conversely, making him think he's free when you actually have him funneled right into your domain.

Okposo also says some good stuff about the difference between the college schedule and the pro schedule, something for us to keep in mind during his first mid-season slump.

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