It's Monday, which mean the weekly "Fan Confidence" poll [left margin on the home page] is open again. Most of the season we've been using that poll to ask, "How confident are you in the Islanders' playoff chances?" (we hit a new low of 24 last week). But in the spirit of Internet demockery you can use your vote for whatever you gosh-darn well please. For the first time in weeks, this poll's re-opening comes after an Islanders win.
This post is focused on reviewing the first quarter -- specifically, individual performances by the forwards. Through concise write-ups, a stat or two, and a completely subjective opinion (mine) on each player, it should serve as an excuse to step back and discuss any or all of the individuals mentioned after the jump. As with our off-season report cards and polls, these grades are almost necessarily on a curve, relative to expectations. (e.g., I can't give Trevor Gillies an F simply for being a weak 5-on-5 hockey player at the NHL level, when that isn't his primary job.)
So you could give a 30th-place team F's across the board, but the spirit of these report cards -- and the prompt for your thoughts -- is guided more by how well a player has met what was expected of him 22 games ago.
Josh Bailey: Not getting it done offensively (0 points in 13 games before the demotion), though not entirely his own fault: He's a passer on a team with several forwards who haven't been converting. While his role shifted back and forth from wing to center, his defensive reliability remains a strength. Now in Bridgeport (also in part for circumstances beyond his control), that demotion makes the Islanders temporarily even weaker, but it may prove beneficial to both him and the team in the long run. The team has historically had to beg him to shoot, and such is the case this year too. C-
|2010 - Blake Comeau||22||3||7||10||-7||12||1||0||1||20:03||62||4.8|
Blake Comeau: It's getting late, isn't it? The most alarming thing about Comeau's game is that he's had several nights where I see the Comeau I used to worry about, the one who had me doubting my original Nolan Era read on his game of, "He has hockey smarts," and got me to wondering, "What does it take to make him tick consistently?" Whether your name is Tavares or Hunter, you can't score every night; luck and slumps happen, I get that. But you do need to show up, to not coast, to not sit back and admire your checks, to not retreat to the perimeter. Comeau was given plenty of ice under Scott Gordon, which is why what he did with it this year was so disappointing. He may be rebounding yet again under Jack Caupano -- too soon to tell -- but regardless, it feels like the lessons Scott Gordon drilled home all last season need relearning. Again. D
|2010 - Michael Grabner||18||5||3||8||-2||2||0||0||0||13:01||31||16.1|
Michael Grabner: An interesting case and still classified as a rookie. Late arrival to camp via the waiver wire, he flashed speed instantly while not doing a whole lot else at first. Lately, his game has become more polished, with subtle improvements -- and he's even a welcome sight on the PK, where he can put his speed to use. If he continues scoring at this periodic rate and can prove an effective penalty killer, then Garth Snow will have won this move. Too early to tell, but an interesting project. Incomplete, but C+ or better is there to be earned.
Trevor Gillies: Has five minors, but three of them came during that absurd little triple-minor during the Flyers blowout, so his discipline has not hurt the team. He is there to fight when the opportunity or necessity is there, and he's done that, most recently delivering an immediate pounding to Jared Boll after Boll's ill-advised late hit on John Tavares. His 5-on-5 contributions are obviously quite limited -- and he's putting extra work in to improve that any way he can -- but these report cards do not punish enforcers for playing like enforcers. C
Trent Hunter: Typical. Like the Martinek of Islanders forwards, Hunter quietly provides defensive quality and then gets hurt during his best game of the season. Hunter appeared to battle his preseason foot injury much of the season, then had that best game -- and first goal -- the same night he suffered a severe MCL injury. Despite his lack of offensive punch these days, his defensive awareness may be missed on Frans Nielsen's wing. Incomplete, but working on a C at the time of the injury. Now on IR.
Jesse Joensuu: JJ's self-proclaimed and quite obviously make-or-break year. Disappointed by another failure to make the team out of camp, JJ went to work in Bridgeport and earned the callup when injuries to others knocked. He's only been up four games, played less than 10 minutes a game, and notched a goal on a nice one-timer from Nielsen against the Devils. With Hunter hurt and Bailey in Bridgeport, he may at last get his chance. Incomplete.
Zenon Konopka: Has arrived as billed: Very effective on faceoffs (60.2%), an (over?)willingness to drop the gloves, not effective 5-on-5, and bonus: the ring leader of yet another change -- but an original change, at least -- to the Islanders goal song. Gordon used him extensively for defensive zone and important faceoffs, then subbed him off. Capuano thus far has been much more selective, using him more as a traditional fourth-line guy and the occasional second center on important faceoffs. Has provided no offense -- 10 shots on goal total -- yet leads the team by far with 11 minors, which needs to stop. He'll always be a specialist whose effectiveness is in part in the hands of his coach and in part dependent on his own discipline. C-
Matt Martin: A preseason foot injury saw him start with Bridgeport while the Jon Sim Shuttle took his anticipated spot with the big club. Upon call-up he provided the instant energy and physical element that was desired, in about 10:16 per game of ice time over 14 games so far. Needs to provide that physical edge and agitation without putting his team short. Incomplete.
|2010 - Matt Moulson||22||8||5||13||-8||2||3||0||1||19:39||64||12.9|
Matt Moulson: That Moulson again shares the lead in goals and is again on pace for 30 raises questions both about what the Kings missed in him, and what the Islanders missed about the rest of the lineup around him. Moulson does nothing but his job, at both ends, while driving to the net and the boards where cookies are handed out to those who persevere. A true pleasure to watch. B+
|2010 - Frans Nielsen||22||2||10||12||-1||12||0||1||48.3||17:53||46||4.3|
Frans Nielsen: Continues to take the tough assignments like he was born to do it. Like everyone else, the goals have not been there but he leads the team in even-strength points with 9. For him, due to his role, gaudy numbers are less expected; but you'd still like more nights like the Columbus game where he is turning linemates like Hunter into opportunists by setting up frequent scoring chances. Still, tough-assignment center and among team scoring leaders? Win. B
Kyle Okposo: Oh my, how we miss you so. Incomplete.
|2010 - P.A. Parenteau||21||4||7||11||-6||6||3||0||0||16:39||46||8.7|
P.A. Parenteau: Can frustrate with a rather soft shot and some memorable failures to finish in close, but he's been a responsible 5-on-5 player. First-line role is asking a lot of a career minor-leaguer and Rangers castoff, but considering his pedigree he's done his part of the job. The powerplay's struggles fall in part on his shoulders, but so do its early-season successes. B
Rob Schremp: Thanks to his preseason back injury -- which came off of end-of-season knee surgery -- his season has really only just begun. Scored a typical Schremp goal the other night in the win over the Devils and has been good on faceoffs (57%) so far. Schremp knows he has to be a more complete player to stick, and Capuano does too. Bailey's demotion may provide the opportunity Schremp needs to answer that question. Incomplete.
Jon Sim: Will draw the usual fan ire for being a
scapegoat fourth-liner cast in a fourth-line role, but has accepted the role as constant shuttle from the NHL to Bridgeport and back. Not playing much, of course, and predictably not providing offense in a limited fourth-line role usually next to one or two similarly weak 5-on-5 players. His five minors in 16 games are alarming though and hurt his grade. C-
|2010 - John Tavares||19||8||4||12||-14||10||4||52.6||1||18:56||54||14.8|
John Tavares: He's serious, but that's what we like about him: If he's going to be special, that work ethic and dedication to self-improvement are a must. Again sharing the lead in goals, his two-way game still needs work, but he knows it and is working on it. He's only 20. Jack Capuano already has him being used in more "tough minute" situations than Gordon did, and while that may limit his offense and create some rough nights, it just might accelerate his learning curve about what is required to be a true #1 center in the NHL. His sharp improvement on faceoffs bears watching, and might just be a hint of his ability to learn and adjust at this level. B
Doug Weight: Having a late-career Doug Weight season: Moments of flash when healthy, mitigated by injuries to the old body. At 5-on-5, he's taken on a variety of roles from fourth-line wing to (briefly) second-line center to babysitting pivot for the very green Nino Niederreiter and then-new Grabner. All of those roles are what you expect of the "ol veteran" kind of captain, so to see this limited level of offense isn't surprising. However, as with Parenteau the powerplay's struggles and early successes are on his shoulders, so the PP's swoon hurts his grade. Problem is -- and this is symbolic of the whole roster -- it's not like the PP has looked any better in his absence. When he returns from this back injury, that needs to change. C
Thoughts? Disagreements? Tomorrow: Report cards arrive for the defense and goaltenders.