[***NOTE: This post serves double-duty as tonight's game thread.***]
I'm a fan of cashing in Dwayne Roloson for Ty Wishart, but that doesn't mean I pretend things get any easier for the current roster. We knew and enjoyed what Roloson delivered, we just didn't know its expiration date. Now we have two intriguing unknowns to watch through the rest of the season: How well (and how much) Rick DiPietro can perform and stand up to wear and tear, and how well late-bloomer Nathan Lawson can do at the NHL level.
But that's the thing about those two questions: They need answering. And you can't answer them without a proper test drive.
Before tonight's Isles tilt in the Mountain time zone, there is the small matter of the USA-Canada semifinal at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. That's kind of a big deal for Isles fans, since first-round picks Calvin De Haan and Brock Nelson meet, with two-way center Casey Cizikas also on de Haan's Canadian side. Puck Daddy has a big round-up of views on that game, which Canadian fans can catch on tourney home TSN, with American fans seeing the TSN feed on the NHL Network at 7:30 EST.
Meanwhile, as the Islanders visit the Flames, who are stuck in their own management-led identity crisis, talk naturally turns to former Islander Tim Jackman, who has received 4th-line good guy press all season long. He's still fondly remembered by his former Islanders teammates and, I'd think, a lot of fans. His current teammates and coach have a lot to say, too.
To me, Jackman is a former 2nd-round pick who adapted to figure out how to stick in the NHL. When you consider that each level of hockey culls all but the top few percent in the world from the close-but-not-quite level below it, that achievement is almost impressive as the stars who have the kind of natural talent bestowed by the hockey gods. No one begins their hockey fantasies wanting to be a grinder, shot blocker and trench man. But some guys love hockey so much they'll do whatever it takes, endure any pain threshold, to keep getting shifts at the highest level.
The NHL's Name-Your-Successor GM Era?
Darryl Sutter is no longer GM in Calgary, replaced by Jay Feaster [good two-part M&G look at things there], who Sutter had a hand in bringing in as assistant (though that hand may have been forced). Pierre Gauthier is GM in Montreal, where Bob Gainey brought him in as assistant, then resigned (and stuck around) mid-season to put Gauthier in the role and improve his chances of inheriting it full-time. Don Waddell is no longer GM in Atlanta, where he brought Rick Dudley in as assistant before taking a promotion that allowed Dudley to step into his former role. Larry Pleau is no longer GM in St. Louis, where he and John Davidson brought current GM Doug Armstrong in as an assistant more than a year ahead of a planned transition for Pleau, whose wife has been in a battle with cancer.
Is this a new trend? NHL GMs already have impressive job security when compared to the coaches they hire and fire like seasonal yard help. But is bringing in their eventual successors a way of improving that security even more -- of keeping their influence and mark on the club even after their lengthy tenures at the helm end?
If so, of course I'm totally ready to assume an assistantship. Just don't tell Mrs. Lighthouse.
Not that you needed the tip, but the Isles say Rick DiPietro starts tonight, with Nathan Lawson arriving in Alberta to back him up. DiPietro's last game was one of his better ones, providing a nice partner to Roloson (R.I.TB.) for the team's two extra-time wins over the league's top two teams.
The Islanders' morning skate was optional, so there are few lineup hints -- not that the options are vast anyway. Jack Hillen was scheduled to rejoin the team after the birth of his child. And it will be interesting to see if Jack Capuano inserts Trevor Gillies for the more physical Flames (and his former running mate Jackman) [update: Isles say he was last off the ice from the morning skate, so doubt it], or if Zenon Konopka will be enough, with Jesse Joensuu improving the 4th-lines survival abilities.
Wishart Mic'd Up
The Isles passed along this YouTube video of new acquisition Wishart mic'd up while playing for Norfolk. Nothing shocking, but a quick look into his play, and voice. They also posted his interview during the Sound Tigers broadcast [mp3].
Since this gameday post is later in the day and we have several on-going discussions in the threads and FanPosts below, I think it's safe to consider this one our in-game thread for both the WJC semifinal and the Islanders-Flames game. We shouldn't be at risk of the thread filling up so much that it lags, but if it does, let me know.
[That means put your FIG picks in and get your in-game kicks here.]