I hate to see injuries, but at this point in the Islanders rebuild cycle, I do love the opportunities they create. In Toronto, it gave Rob Schremp another chance to show what he could do -- and I thought he did quite well. Didn't look overmatched in limited minutes on the fourth line and, more importantly, he provided a different look to the Islanders' struggling powerplay.
But of course, I knew better than to expect that look would remain. As of this posting, we still don't know the extent of injuries to Sean Bergenheim and Tim Jackman, but Bergenheim is on IR. So Jesse "Yes Finns can be named Jesse too" Joensuu likely takes his role, minus Bergie's PK work.
Since Scott Gordon will only use Schremp as a center, his appearance in Toronto was by pure numbers necessity, bumping Nate Thompson to the wing. Could that situation continue? Before a few minutes ago I'd have said: Unlikely. (Blake Comeau's EV ice time last game: 12:34. Schremp's: 6:46.) So if I were guessing: A Finn Named Jesse fills a true wing spot, Thompson goes back to center, and Schremp goes back to watching.
However, get a load of the lines from today's practice, as reported by Chris Botta: Schremp centering Jesse and Hunter, Bailey on Frans's left wing with Okposo, and Matt Mo/JT with Blake Comeau. Jeff Tambellini an extra. Go figure. Maybe Gordon is ticked enough by this three-game losing streak to mix things up.
Joensuu, incidentally, according to Mike Fornabaio on the Sound Tigers beat, is: "A far sight from the tentative mess he was a month and change ago ... Joensuu is 4-5-9 in the past 11, including his 1-2-3 night Saturday."
A little more about Joensuu, who I've always hoped would make it simply because his name is fun to say albeit an outright terror to spell (Seriously. I know English is a language of bastardized words and random spelling, but why do the Finns always doouuble their voowels and conssonnannts, except when they don't feel liikke it?):
#58 / Right Wing / New York Islanders
Oct 05, 1987
Drafted: 2006, 60th overall
Bridgeport (AHL, 09-10): 28 GP, 5 G, 11 A, +1
NHL (08-09): 7 GP, 1 G, 2 A, -1
In his brief call-ups with the Islanders at the end of last season, he saw seven games (four from March 2 - 8, then three from April 4 - 9), averaging just under 12 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time per game. At 5-on-5, he was on for three goals for -- having a hand in each of them -- and for four goals against. In terms of shot directed at the other net versus shots directed at the Isles net while he was on the ice, he measured up pretty well, but that's a small sample size relative to the other guys in that Behind The Net link.
The Dream of a Would-Be NHLer
Joensuu was a 20-goal scorer last year in the AHL -- only one of those came on the powerplay. So combine that with his size and you have that big body with hands that gets people dreaming. Such candidacies are a dime a dozen in North American hockey circles: "There's this guy, hulking body from Finland, you don't know much about him, but man if he puts it together..."
That's not to devalue what he might become. It's just recognizing that at this level, where only the cream of the cream of the cream rises to the top to even sniff the NHL, there are a lot of suitors for a few jobs. And a lot of tough stories and near-misses.
Which is why two years ago the thought was we have to get Jesse out of Finland or he'll never develop. Then last year the thought was my god, what an AHL season he's having, get him on up here! Then after this year's camp and slow start in Bridgeport the thought was "Will he ever figure it out?" And now a turnaround in his play over the last month brings us back to that salivating part. So get well, Bergie -- but don't rush it, because we have tinkering to do.
Adding one more wrinkle: No idea how much ice time Jesse will get. You'd think they brought him up to give him more than a fourth-line shot, and him lining up with Schremp and Trent Hunter in practice reinforces that. But then you'd think a lot of things.
The fun is in watching how it all plays out.