Islanders Gameday: How I Learned to Stop Feeling the Fin

Well, let's try this again, at home, shall we? Last night was not an impressive statement about the state of things, but it was also a tough-to-evaluate evening when the goaltending never gave the Islanders a chance.

Remarkably, while the Sharks bring far more firepower than the Sabres, their start has been far less impressive than Buffalo's. So, you know: There's hope and all that. But not mammoth hope: Hold your shock, but the Isles' goal differential after five games (12-19) is worse than the Sharks' after seven (21-22). So it goes. Last year's meeting, incidentally, was a 42-save loss for Joey MacDonald.

Sj-stick_medium                  Nyi-4stick_medium
San Jose Sharks (3-3-1, 5th/Pac) at New York Islanders (0-2-3, 5th/Atl)
7 p.m. EDT | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum | MSG+2
Home of whoa, dude, it's just hockey: Fear the Fin

The Sharks are missing Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski, Evgeni Nabokov has started all seven games, and Dan(n)y Heatley is a noted tool. After the 4-1 loss in Washington, Sharks coach Todd McLellan may be shaking things up. Does that include dressing the backup goalie for last year's 30th-place team? That'd be fun.

At the other end of the ice, Martin Biron will be in after being awoken from ex-teammate harassment duty yesterday to mop up for Dwayne Roloson. I'd like to see Jack Hillen get another look, but do you sit Bruno Gervais again or do you take another guy out? Don't think so. Please sit a vet from this subpar blueline. And, dare I mention ... Jeff Tambellini? I doubt the Isles need to "put on the foil" for the Sharks, but yesterday it sounded like Joel Rechlicz would get his three minutes in both games this weekend. Does the undisciplined penalty last night change that? All good things to those who wait.

Neither team did a morning skate -- Chris Botta humorously depicts how inexact that science is (and oh look, Ice Girl tail) -- so there aren't a whole lot of updates flowing through the Interspheres. I don't have much to add beyond that, save for an explanation of why I can no longer feel anything for the Sharks. It has to do with something that rhymes with Fanny Beatley, except it only has one 'n.'

The Rant: How Dan(n)y Heatley Ruined My Shark Empathy

I used to empathize with the Sharks. More precisely, I empathized with their fans. Cool bunch. Expansion success story. Good-guy GM. Avid fans who have climbed near the mountain's peak, only to get repeatedly knocked back by misfortune and the fact only 1 in 16 teams finds the promised land. Islanders fans know the line between "choker" and OMG! Dynasty! can turn on an overtime goal. (Pat Quinn would say it turns on a blown offside call, too, but that's what losing coaches do. Ouch, see what I did there?)

Anyway, maybe my Shark empathy stemmed from the fact the '70s Islanders were "chokers" once, until one day suddenly they weren't. Then for five years they did everything right, in a way no team has done since, and no team will do ever again. Those Isles did things so right, they played so many playoff games (winning 19 consecutive series) and so many Canada Cup games -- that by the late '80s, every important player abruptly retired or met his last legs.

Whether that's the source or not, somehow I even felt for Sharks stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who as the team leaders draw the biggest "choke" charge for the team's playoff failings. If it's gotta be someone else, I didn't mind if the Sharks made it all the way in the NHL's more dramatic, condensed second season, which is only a third the length of the regular season the Sharks had just mastered. They'd paid their dues.

Then they got Dan(n)y Heatley.

Empathy over. Faustian deal sealed, spirit broken. It's funny, The Hockey News recently ran a cover story ostensibly about the Sharks going for it all with that trade -- a great hockey trade, I might add -- but the piece turned into a four-page defense of Heatley. Lots of talk of his "right" to ask for a trade and leverage his no-trade clause, etc.

All very true, yet all avoiding the point that this is a two-way street, and fans have a right to expect things of players, too. Dude gets a second chance after a massive, tragic mistake in Atlanta, then asks for an out and hardly seems appreciative about all the breaks he caught (how did that community service go, by the way?). Then he gets all the money and term he could ask for in Ottawa, but wants to bail once the going gets rough.

I'm a hockey fan. I help pay the way for these players to live out their dream. If I want to call one of them a tool based on a preponderance of evidence, I have that right and will use it. So: Heatley's a tool. The THN story was probably more directed at their fellow media members who aired the Heatley laundry they'd previously kept in the notebook (intra-profession opining is when the knives really come out), but it didn't read that way. It read like a PR piece to get all of us off his back. Even though he lost the benefit of the doubt long ago (Not that the piece mentioned why.)

Sorry THN, but no: Heatley's a tool. And his presence takes away all my incentive to wish the Sharks well.

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