[Updated by Keith @ 12:30 with Strang article and audio of Garth Snow's reaction to the Gillies suspension]
Stop me if you've heard this one before, you fans of an Islanders team that leads the league in man-games lost to injury, a team that lost two of its best players to IR before the first puck dropped on 2010-11: The Blues were going to be something this season, before critical injuries got in the way.
Blues (28-27-9, 13th/W) @ Islanders (24-32-9, 14th/E)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
1 p.m. EST | MSG+ | audio - WRHU 88.7
Fairly familiar with the Clutter-act: St. Louis Game Time
They started this season 9-1-2, their young talent taking another step forward, a long rebuild about to pay off. But on Oct. 23, their underrated shutdown defensman Roman Polak -- he's like the Frans Nielsen of their blueline, except a physical beast who can benchpress Škodas -- took a fluke Sidney Crosby skate blade to his forearm, slicing it and sending him to IR for two months. Three games later, Joe Thornton left the penalty box and blindsided bright young Blues forward David Perron (5 goals in 10 games) in the head. Perron returned to score a goal in the win, but hasn't played since thanks to the concussion. Thornton got two games.
A few nights later, in a scrum at the end of blowout loss in Columbus, top-line forward T.J. Oshie's ankle broke in a fluke similar to how Taylor Hall's season ended the other night. A month after that, at the beginning of December with both Oshie and Perron (Polak too) still out, the Blues forward corps took another hit when Andy McDonald blew a tire in OT, stumbled forward, and got a concussion falling into the skate of an Oiler. (Seriously, you can look it up.) The Oilers went the other way on the play, Hall scoring the OT winner. McDonald missed two months.
Just like the Islanders should have been a season-long bubble-chaser team this year, the Blues should have been a playoff team. Granted, even with Oshie, McDonald and Polak back, the Blues have still had their struggles -- losing six of seven -- which is why they really don't have a hope of climbing back in the hypercompetitive West. But if they don't take that unreal 1-2-3-4 hit beginning in October and lasting through February (or March, counting Perron), then it's a different equation today.
The point is, injuries "aren't an excuse" -- except really, honestly, they are. Sure, you need depth in this league to survive them (or in Philadelphia's case, depth and absolutely no fear of age/cap issues in a few years). Each of these teams is still building that depth so they don't have much margin of error. But even the deepest teams are going to have trouble doing anything better than tread water when multiple injuries hit their top players at each position. So it goes with the Islanders and Blues
For regular readers who know my father led me as a young'n to follow both teams, this is why I'd sometimes look at my dad and think: What the hell have you done to me?
It's been easy to let my fandom for each of these teams deepen without conflict of interest or cognitive dissonance: They rarely play each other to begin with, they have a bunch of shared players in their history, and they've never really fought for the same stakes except for 1980-81, when they finished 1-2 in the league standings and I was too young to know any better. One consequence of all that though: They've each spent the past 20-plus years trying to build up my hopes, only to bludgeon my soul by April. I may have Stockholm Syndrome.
- Hey, did you hear? Trevor Gillies got 10 games from the Campbell Wheel of Justice. That's been talked about plenty in the suspension thread here and the game recap here. But the perfect summation of why this is so messed up is in mikb's excellent Pride and Prejudice post here.
- On Gillies' hearing, I don't know if this from Katie Strang means anything or not: "Believed to be unprecedented for team to not send rep for hearing like this, but told SNow would've gone had it not been team photo day." As Chris Simon asked Chris Botta not once, but twice, "What's the point?"
- The Blues have called up Ian Cole, a fireplug defenseman who along with Perron and Lars Eller (their bait in the Jaroslav Halak trade) was one of the 2007 1st-round picks they picked up via firesales at the beginning of their rebuild. Pretty sure Travis Hamonic is and will be better, but Blues fans like Cole for the same reasons.
- A few of you have mentioned new Blues acquisition Chris Stewart and Kyle Okposo in the same sentence. That could be a fun comparison to watch. Personally, I think Stewart is more physical, but Okposo is more of a relentless three-zone player. Both are pretty fun to watch.
- The Blues are expected to start Ben Bishop, a tall 'n lanky goalie with nice potential but some things to work on. If the Isles shooters are in form, they can beat him.
- Prepare to hear lots of Andy McDonald and Andrew MacDonald. Good thing these teams don't face each other more.
- Today's coaches Capuano and Payne have some shared ECHL history.
- I saw some of Minnesota-Bemidji State last night and they had some nice things to say about Aaron Ness...before he left the game with an injury.
- Updated By Keith @ 12:30
- Katie Strang's Newsday piece with GM Garth Snow's reaction to the Gillies suspension.
- Video of Snow's press conference.
Audio from Snow's press conference from the team site.
Better Reading/Viewing through FanShots: Awesome quick TSN interview with Bob Bourne. Guess who he hated more than the Rangers? | NHL.com knows Frans | If you haven't read it yet -- or even if you have -- JPinVA's "10 Reasons to be an Islanders Fan Right NOW" FanPost is a cathartic release.
Speaking of which, after the last few days of Gillies exhaustion and trolls, I'm looking forward to some hockey again. Even if this matchup tends to tear my heart asunder. Let's go hockey.
Just like last game, enter your FIG (First Islanders Goal) pick in this FanShot, and not in this thread. We're trying this method out to see if that's how we want to do next season. (By the way, in terms of FanShots and FanPosts and such, you can set in your account preferences how many of either you see on your front page.)
P.S. Per matinee tradition, consider this your du
eal game preview and in-game thread.