Gordon was hired, supposedly because former head coach Ted Nolan wouldn't play the kids. But the truth is there are very few kids worth playing in the New York system and Gordon has been patching together what he has while leaning on his vets, much the same as Nolan did.
No, no, false, wrong, fail, nicht-nicht. Please repeat the course.
I don't know who Kelley's source is, but he's off. Kelley's guilty, I assume, of trying to cover the 30-team scene by cheating on some of them. Just like he did last summer in a silly column when Gordon was hired. This time, I suspect Kelley looked at the Isles roster, saw Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and Trent Hunter were the top three forwards in TOI, and said, "see, still just the vets." Too bad he's missing the point.
The reality is Gordon's spread out the ice time much more than Nolan ever did -- and he's included the young forwards who Garth Snow has wanted to test at the NHL level. "Few kids worth playing" -- that's up for debate, but that's why Snow wanted to play them to find out.
One reason it wasn't working between Garth Snow and Ted Nolan is that Nolan, in fact, did not give the young forwards much chance to show what they have.
Another issue, acknowledged by Point Blank, is that Nolan apparently kept very little contact with AHL Bridgeport. Gordon, in contrast, keeps regular contact and has ensured parent and affiliate clubs (the latter of which is in 1st place, incidentally) are on the same page. So this season, when a Sound Tiger comes up to fill an NHL injury -- which has been often -- he's not walking into foreign ground. Better yet, he's not playing only 6 minutes.
So let's turn to the evidence, which is delineated in last year's TOI vs. this year's TOI.
|Youngster||07-08 GP||TOI||PP||08-09 GP||TOI||PP|
The clearest contrast is how Frans Nielsen has been used in a similar number of games. But you can see each young forward is getting more than he got last year and/ore more than most forward callups got last year. Top prospect Kyle Okposo is an exception: Nolan loaded him with ice time for his nine games last year -- this after he went from college to World Juniors to AHL Bridgeport to Long Island in one winter -- but he's getting a more measured, Gordon-healthy dose this year.
This season, like last season, the Islanders have had several NHL injuries to fill. Of course last year, Nolan used these as opportunities to put a guy at the end of the bench to work the door save for a few minutes per game. With the exception of Mitchell Fritz -- whose spot-use enforcer role is clear in his 2:25 -- Gordon has done the opposite, inserting his AHL callups into the regular rotation.
Even unheralded fan favorite Blake Comeau -- one of the few callups Nolan gave time to, but who hasn't played this year -- got less ice time under Nolan than most forwards do under Gordon.
The "leaning on his vets" Kelley refers to? Not happening. Doug Weight is at over 19 minutes per game, essentially getting Mike Comrie's first-line-center minutes from last season. Other than that, every veteran forward -- Guerin, Hunter, Park, Hilbert -- is getting up to a minute less than under Nolan, while the hip-rehabbing Comrie is getting significantly less.
The directive wasn't "Don't let your veterans lead the charge" -- not sure how Guerin et al would have felt about that. No, the directive was: Stop burying the kids, and let us actually evaluate them already.
Now, part of this, one can say, is because Gordon's system demands more equitable TOI distribution. Fine. But the fact remains: however he's doing it, he's giving young forwards more of a chance. You could also note that the Islanders let three forward veterans go (Satan, Fedotenko, Vasicek) while only bringing one in (Weight). But Jon Sim is back after missing all of last season, so we're really only talking about one "extra" spot here. Sillinger is hurt now, just as he was hurt since February last season, opening up eval time for Sound TIgers.
In the end, other than the already mentioned Fritz, Tim Jackman is the only forward thus far not getting at least 11 minutes under Gordon. Whereas last year Nolan had plenty of forwards under 11 minutes, including a handful getting 8, 6, even 4 minutes in their callups.
To say that he's simply resorting to leaning on veterans just like Nolan, well, that just ain't right.