After a groin strain in the last game in Calgary, Frans Nielsen was listed as questionable for tonight, which regular readers know is cause for me to drop everything and maintain candlelight vigil until this long national nightmare concludes. I don't want to picture this team without Nielsen -- never ever, cross-my-heart, hope to die. But I suppose if there is an occasion when it might not be so bad, it's when the Isles are facing a fellow member of this season's underclass. [Update: As usual, keep an eye on Katie Strang's twitter for this stuff.]
Islanders of Yore (12-19-6) @ Oilers of Yesteryear (12-19-7)
9 p.m. EST | [not gloriously unsponsored] Coliseum | MSG+, audio - WRHU 88.7
Not as happy with the GM: Copper & Blue
The Oilers, winless in seven (two SOLs), are likewise in a rebuild of a once-proud
Copper Orange and Blue franchise that places much hope on the shoulders of very young players, but they're doing it while also committing around $46 million against the cap plus the cap-sanitized $5.4 million this year and next to the pariah named Sheldon Souray. Two summers ago, with the Islanders' hand forced by repeated injuries to their goalie on a long-term deal, a critical decision for both franchises left the Isles with a former Oiler playoff hero (who they cashed in for some blueline depth last weekend), while the Oilers elected to give four years and $3.75 million per to an injury-prone guy. I know, irony right?
The crazy parallels that seem to have these franchises in a Twilight Zone rise and fall since 1980 do not end there, of course, and many are familiar history. But there are several present-day parallels quite relevant to their hoped-for resurrections.
They both have former Islander players as GMs whose rebuild strategy is debated and questioned -- one for spending too much, one for spending too little. Yet each is hoping a bushel of young forwards will be key to bringing the good times back.
They both play in lovable-but-old "Coliseums" rather than "Arenas." (Or "Gardens," if that's your preferred parlance.) They both have wealthy owners who have tried various shifting routes to secure replacements for those coliseums -- although their guy is asking for public money to go toward a downtown arena, while our guy was asking for development rights in return for paying his own money to build the arena as part of a downtown or "hub" the County asked him to build.
Consequently and predictably, the relocation murmur song and dance touches both franchises, and for each it is unclear where, if their kids become NHL stars, those stars will shine.
When I think back to Wayne Gretzky being humbled as the Islanders completed their dynasty, then to Wayne Gretzky getting revenge (though not by sweep, thankfully) as the Oilers began their dynasty interruptus, I can't help but think of all the low-budget '90s and ownership issues that slowed both franchises ever since, as if fans are paying some sort of penance for those halcyon '80s. And then there's this: We're now at the point where a huge younger group of fans' memories of these teams are marked by much more modest achievements, whether it's Doug Weight's Upset Special Oilers or the David Volek 1993 or "Shawn Bates Penalty Shot" Islanders.
The '80s are gone, not forgotten, but not worth digging up every time I want to vent about how wonderfully simple and colorful and non-RBK'd (vowels not included) uniforms were in those days. Younger fans today, who populate sites like this and make this sport fun to talk about 24 hours a day -- they deserve new, better memories. There are 30 teams and a cap now and it's much harder to consolidate talent the way Torrey and Sather (ha! Yes, that Sather!) once did. But that should lead to moments of addictive joy every few years.
So maybe these rebuilds pay off some. Maybe Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and John Tavares, and Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall and Magnus Who Is No Longer Hyphened -- all fun to watch now -- grow as contenders together in new buildings that create those new memories.
And maybe the older ones among us don't have to keep recalling Bobby Nystrom or Glenn Anderson like we're in a barber shop bringing up Rocky Marciano [NSFW/language]. Maybe.
- Seriously, Nielsen's possible absence creates an issue with him serving as Selke guy, pivot on the fun Bailey-Grabner line, and recent powerplay point man. But if he's out you figure Josh Bailey slides back over to center and that's not half bad.
- Blake Comeau presumably returns either way, but with the Isles thin at forward that means Trevor Gillies re-enters for a handful of shifts? The Oilers, who supposedly bid on Derek Boogaard this summer, tend to (over)value guys who would be Gillies' dance partner.
- With Mark Eaton suffering from Islanders Hip and Radek Martinek still not back, that leaves the Isles with the more conventional six defensemen, putting new weight on the shoulders of Bruno Gervais and Jack Hillen, to say nothing of the recently re-signed Milan Jurcina and promising pups Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald.
Rick DiPietro didn't skate yesterday (but is skating this morning, Strang reports) and it's hard to imagine him returning so soon after a groin strain/tweak/discomfort that pulled him from the Calgary game. Plus, Nathan Lawson stopped 28 of 29 in relief. But if Kevin Poulin dresses for the first time, does he see action? Katie Strang predicts Devan Dubnyk at the other end.
- In happier injury news, look who's skating back at IceWorks. Expect an MSG interview with him.
- For the Oilers, smooth Jordan Eberle has an ankle injury, while Shawn Horcoff Contract and Ryan Whitney -- their leading scorer, if you can believe it -- are also out.
Put all that together and on both sides you have exciting young forwards still out, quality defensive forwards still out (Frans and Shawn Horcoff, who makes 10 times as much in salary), and thin bluelines made thinner by injury. Pay no mind to the standings, this could be an interesting game.
And that's without even considering Rob Schremp Hockey's return to Edmonton, which I was looking forward to almost as much as Roloson's...
FanPosts and FanShots
Front-paged a few right-margin contributions last night -- both for discussion's sake and news-relevance (or in one case, humor value). Thanks for doing those, and hopefully seeing some on the front page encourages people to look for others down the right margin of the home page or on the FanPosts and FanShots tabs up top. On that note, this FanPost from afrosupreme is evergreen and always fun: Your favorite Isles at each uni number.
How Long, This Recovery?
If you go to Copper & Blue, an excellent Oilers blog, proceed with caution: There is a lot of Milbury ink on the wall in today's preview. Seeing all those trades lined up is not good for one's health.
Leave them here or leave them tonight, but you know what to do: Leave them as a reply to the first FIG comment. Your LHH bookkeepers thank you.